Monday 22nd January 2018

171-alone-in-berlin

Alone In Berlin

In 1940, a working-class couple in World War II-era Berlin, Otto and Anna Quangel, decide to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, after receiving the news of the death of their only son. An additional impetus for their growing resistance to the regime is the fate of an old Jewish woman living in their building. Though the official deportation of Jews to death camps had not yet started, Jews have no recourse to any legal protection. Ruthless Nazis — and “non-ideological” common criminals — use the opportunity to loot the old woman’s apartment with impunity. Despite the efforts of the Quangels and other kind neighbors to help her, the persecution ends with the old woman jumping to her death from a high floor window.

imageAlone-in-Berlin-MAIN

Impelled by all this, the couple starts writing postcards to urge people to stand against Hitler and the Nazis and protest against them, and furtively placing the cards in public places – a capital crime. Their first card reads: “”Mothers, Hitler Will Kill Your Son Too”. At first, Otto wants to do it all by himself, warning Anna, “They hang women, too!” She, however, insists on taking part in this dangerous activity. While in the beginning of the film the couple’s marriage seems to have dried up, being unable to console each other for the loss of their son, their shared risk and commitment brings them back closer, in effect falling in love with each other all over again.

lettere_da_berlino-17992058004

Escherich is the police inspector charged with finding the source of the postcards. He is a professional police detective, acting out of professional pride rather than Nazi ideology. During three years of painstakingly gathering clues about the “Hobgoblin” (as he calls the mysterious writer of the postcards) he develops an increasing respect for this elusive unknown opponent. With the lack of progress in his investigation, Escherich is beaten up by the obviously impatient S.S. senior officer, and is further forced thereby, to execute extrajudicially, a man whom he is certain has no connection with these subversive postcards.

3bae551d08814d549ec05c8fd3abb1cf_compressedone-of-the-postcards-the-hampels-wrote-credit-aufbau-verlag

Finally, Otto Quangel is arrested due to the accidental fall of postcards out of his pocket, while at work. He remains, though, stoic about the certain death sentence awaiting him, and only tries in vain to take all the blame on himself and save Anna. After the couple has been executed, Escherich is alone in his office. He gathers up all of the couple’s hundreds of subversive postcards, scatters them out of the open window of the police headquarters, and shoots himself. The film ends with the image of the postcards swirling in the wind, falling down on the Berlin streets and picked up by passersby — giving the film’s protagonists a posthumous moral victory.

25046574707952433

Otto and Elise Hampel were a working-class couple who created a simple method of protest while living in Berlin during the early years of World War II. They composed postcards denouncing Hitler’s government and left them in public places around the city. They were eventually caught, tried, and beheaded in Berlin’s Plötzensee Prison in April 1943.

Otto Hampel was born in Mühlbock, a suburb of Wehrau, now in Poland, but then part of Germany.  He served in World War I and was later a factory worker.
Elise Lemme was born in the Bismark area of Stendal. Her education lasted only through elementary school. She worked as a domestic and was a member of the National Socialist Women’s League.

alone-in-berlin-postcard572586462e4d5b08c06fcdd2b737e1bf--elise-vintage-images
The couple married in 1935. After learning that Elise’s brother had been killed in action, the Hampels undertook efforts to encourage resistance against the Third Reich. From September 1940 until their arrest in autumn 1942, they hand-wrote over 200 postcards, dropping them into mailboxes and leaving them in stairwells in Berlin, often near Wedding, where they lived.

The postcards urged people to refuse to cooperate with the Nazis, to refrain from donating money, to refuse military service, and to overthrow Hitler. Although nearly all the postcards were immediately brought to the Gestapo, it took two years for the Gestapo to find the couple. The Hampels were denounced in autumn 1942 and were arrested. Otto declared to the police that he was happy to be able to protest against Hitler and the Third Reich. At trial at the Volksgerichtshof, the Nazi “People’s Court”, the Hampels were convicted of Wehrkraftzersetzung and of “preparing for high treason”. They were both decapitated on 8 April 1943 in the Plötzensee Prison, Berlin.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: