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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Multi-Generational Tale Of Pain, Loss,Courage & Redemption,
Three women, from different generations are still trying to heal from the horrors of the Third Reich and WWII more than fifty years after Germany surrendered to the Allied forces on May 7, 1945. The film's primary focus, however, is on a little girl who lost two mothers in a three year period - 1943 to 1946. She never received explanations for the horrors she lived through, nor did she have the opportunity to understand or express her pain. "Rosenstrasse" is set in 21st century New York City and Berlin, with flashbacks to Nazi Germany and Berlin in 1943.
When Ruth Weinstein's, (Jutta Lampe), husband dies, she insists that the family observe a strictly Orthodox mourning period, even though they had never been observant Jews. Her son and daughter are both bewildered, and then angry, when Ruth forbids daughter Hannah, (Maria Schrader) to marry her Nicaraguan fiance Luis, ((Fedja van Huet). Luis is not Jewish, and although he was mentored by Hannah's now deceased father, and religion had never been a problem before, their plans for a life together are now up in the air. A distant cousin alludes that the source of Ruth's problems lies in the past, in Nazi Germany. She reveals to Hannah that her mother was cared for, in fact saved from certain death, by an Aryan woman during WWII. After the war Ruth immigrated to America to live with this cousin and her family, virtual strangers. Ruth had never discussed her childhood or her war experiences with her children. She always kept silent. And when Hannah probes once more she receives no answers, as always. She decides to fly to Germany to uncover the secrets of her mother's past.
In Berlin, Hannah tracks down 90 year-old Lena Fischer, (Doris Schade), the Christian woman who brought seven year-old Ruth home to live with her, when the child's mother was imprisoned with other Berlin Jews in March, 1943. Hannah does not reveal her identity, but says she is conducting a study about Aryans and their Jewish spouses during the war. She listens intently, over a period of days, as the charming elderly woman finally reveals the facts about her own life and Ruth's, both so closely intertwined.
Thousands of Berlin's Jews were swept up from their forced labor jobs and taken to Rosenstrasse 2-4, in central Berlin in March 1943. This was meant to be the capital's final round-up for the Final Solution, and the Jews were to be deported to concentration camps from Rosenstrasse. Ruth's mother was one of these unfortunate people. Left alone without a ration card, the child would not have survived without Lena's assistance. (The younger Lena is played by Katja Riemann, who gives a powerful performance). Her husband, Fabian Fischer (Martin Feifel), a brilliant violinist, was also taken to Rosenstrasse. Lena was a concert pianist and met Fabian through their mutual love for music. She married against her aristocratic parents wishes and was disowned by all, except her brother Arthur. As with most marriages between Aryans and Jews, the Aryans were pressured heavily by the Nazi State, their employers, and usually friends and family to divorce their Jewish spouses. Most who refused were marginalized, but they still maintained their status as Aryans and German citizens, and as such their Jewish mates were supposedly protected from deportation.
Lena joins a group of women waiting for word of their husbands, keeping vigil, outside the building on Rosenstrasse. It is here that Lena meets the frightened and bewildered Ruth, who knows her mother is in the building, but never is actually told that she has been deported already. Svea Lohde plays Ruth, as a young girl, with great sensitivity. She has nowhere to go and no one to turn to, so Lena steps in, in spite of her fear of discovery for hiding a Jewish child. Lena and Ruth form a strong bond, a surrogate mother-daughter relationship which will last for three years. Director Margarethe von Trotta emphasizes throughout Ruth's heartbreaking ignorance of her mother's fate. The number of women on Rosenstrasse increases. Unarmed, unorganized, and leaderless, these courageous women, some with their children, stood up to the Nazis and demanded the return of their loved ones.
The acting and the Rosenstrasse storyline are excellent, however Director von Trotta combines so many intense plots, involving so many people, that the points she most wants to make occasionally become lost in the confusion. We never hear Ruth speak of closure, if in fact she does ever come to grips with her past. The film's conclusion only hints at this. Almost all of her dramatic story is revealed by Lena, who has only second-hand knowledge of the events and no real idea of the child's feelings at the time. Von Trotta's handling of the character study is far too abstract. She is much more successful when portraying the women of Rosenstrasse and their protests and resistance. I must credit her with navigating an intensely emotional story effectively, without falling into sensationalism or melodrama.
This is a little known true story of women, who in spite of loss, separation and fear for their loved ones, found the courage to fight back against a brutal Nazi state. I am glad it has finally been brought to the screen.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A piece of hidden history,
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This review is from: Rosenstrasse (DVD)
This film focuses on a very interesting and important aspect of the history of Germany during WW2, which has largely been hidden from view. Margarethe von Trotta looks at the situation of women who were married to Jewish men, whose men and children were arrested and confined in a prison in Rosenstrasse towards the end of the war.
These women formed a protest against the Nazi regime, demanding that the authorities give back their men. Eventually, some of the men and children were released.
It shows how women defied the Nazi orthodoxy concerning women's role, and even more bravely, risked their lives to protest against the treatment of Jews. This aspect of Berlin history rarely features in mainstream accounts of Nazi Germany.
Essential viewing for anyone interested in hidden histories.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Von Trotte film,
Just a few words to add to the positive reviews of this excellent film. I cannot rate high enough the wide-ranging in-depth characters who add to the suspense and excitement - who will survive, who will be broken hearted? There are many fascinating individual portrayals in the film which show ordinary Germans in the Nazi regime who sympathised with Jews. However it is made clear that knowledge of the Final Solution was widespread. And all the while in the background hangs the shadow of Auschwitz. One man describes the Jewish situation as a nightmare like the dark stories of the brothers Grimm and hopes that like Hansel and Gretel they will escape the oven . . .
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The History Behind this Film,
Nazism had trouble knowing what to do with two categories of Jews:
* Those who had `Aryan' blood as well as Jewish (Mischlings)
* Those who were married to non-Jews with numerous family ties to ordinary Germans.
This film dramatizes actual events that began at the end of February, 1943, when Jews with German spouses were rounded up and imprisoned in a Jewish community center at Rosenstrasse 2-4 in Berlin. A crowd organized by their spouses (mostly wives of Jewish men) gathered to protest and prevent their transport to death camps in the East. It is likely that their protests were the reason Gobbels, the German propaganda minister, released the men.
Some groups championing non-violent action use these events to prove, to their satisfaction, that non-violence would work even in Nazi Germany. But success in the unique circumstances of late-February and early March of 1943 no more proves the universal truth of non-violent action than Gandhi's success with the British in India proves that those same techniques would have worked against Stalin or in today's Tibet. Often brutal force is the only way to end violence.
These protests came at the precise moment when Gobbels did not dare permit anything that would damage German morale. Stalingrad had fallen to the Soviets in early February, indicating to many Germans that the war was lost. In addition, on the 18th of February, Gobbels had given a speech calling on the German people to sacrifice themselves in a "total war." And finally, in Munich that same week, several students involved in a group called the White Rose were arrested for criticizing the Nazi regime. If these Rosenstrasse protests had taken place two months earlier or later they might have met with Gestapo arrests rather than success.
Two criticisms have been directed at this film. One is that it isn't done as a documentary, that it confuses viewers by flashing back and forth between today and the events of 1943. That criticism isn't persuasive. It may mean that viewers have to work harder, asking themselves, "Am I in 1943 or 2003?" But that technique also humanizes the characters, making them into people who could be our neighbors or friends.
The other criticism is far more telling. This film suggests that Gobbels released the men because a wife of one of the men seduced him. There's absolutely no evidence that took place. Most likely, Gobbels acted as he did for precisely the reasons described above. Finding out the morning after that he had slept with the wife of a Jew would have probably led Gobbels to kill both the husband and wife in revenge. Gobbels wasn't the sort of man to charm or blackmail.
If you ignore that grotesque blunder, you'll find this film excellent.
-Michael W. Perry, Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements That Led to Nazism and World War II
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Rosenstrasse by Margarethe Von Trotta (DVD)