A boy in Nazi Germany, trying to conceal that he is Jewish, joins the Hitler Youth.
Release Year: 1990
Rating: 7.7/10 (7,421 voted)
Stars: Solomon Perel, Marco Hofschneider, René Hofschneider
A Jewish boy separated from his family in the early days of WWII poses as a German orphan and is taken into the heart of the Nazi world as a 'war hero' and eventually becomes a Hitler Youth. Although improbabilities and happenstance are cornerstones of the film, it is based upon a true story.
Writers: Agnieszka Holland, Paul Hengge
Salomon 'Solly' 'Salek' Perel
Josef 'Jupp' Peters
Isaak Perel – Salomons brother
David Perel – Salomons brother
Soldier Robert Kellerman
Bertha Perel – Salomons sister
Basia – Cinema cashier
Martin Maria Blau
Release Date: 14 November 1990
Filming Locations: Jewish Cemetary, Lódz, Lódzkie, Poland
Opening Weekend: $31,433
(30 June 1991)
Did You Know?
The film met with a lukewarm reception in its native Germany, with the local media being less than complementary about it. The German Oscar selection committee did not even include it as a submission for that year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Much embarrassment ensued when it went on to become one of the most successful German films ever released in the US, winning a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
At one point Salomon narrowly misses being killed in an air-raid, which kills his room mate. Rather than show a World War II aircraft, or even a bomber, however, stock footage shows a single C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which was not even designed until many years after the war.
You're not really German, are you?
Salomon 'Solly' 'Salek' Perel:
No… I am Jewish.
I knew… somehow I always knew… don't tell Leni I promise, I'll never betray you.
A Different Kind of Kulturkampf
One has to be annoyed with comments that question either the historical
verisimilitude or the integrity of this film, whether from the shaky ground
of some rigid, illiberal ideological or religious prejudice or from some
one-sided version of history. Furthermore, negative ad hominem attacks on
someone other than political leaders or other persons who willingly seek out
the public eye are reprehensible.
Does this story ring true? It does to me, and if there is even one-tenth as
much basis in fact in the life of Salomon Perel as is represented in the
film, I am satisfied. Having been to all the places and delved into the
culture and history of all the nationalities that comprise its background, I
am also convinced that much if not all of the story is correct at a level
that goes well beyond whether this or that small factual detail is rooted in
what actually happened to the real Perel.
Moreover, "Hitlerjunge Salomon" (better known in English-speaking countries
as "Europa, Europa") is a masterful piece of cinema, beautifully produced
and directed, and bearing a cachet of authenticity that few cross-cultural
films achieve. I can attest to the utterly convincing script and
characterization within the German language portion, and the bits in Polish
and Russian seem equally strong.
Why is it so difficult to believe that a malleable teenager raised in a
cross-cultural environment would be any less rooted in one part of his life
than another? Marco Hofschneider captures precisely the right tone as he
demonstrates how "Solly" and "Jupp" are two complementary aspects of the
same person. Indeed, there are even good Germans and bad Germans, good
Poles and bad Poles, etc., etc. throughout the film.
None of this compromises the truth that millions of other Jews did not
survive the Holocaust. Nor does it demean their memory to cast a glance or
two at this singular exception. The survivors have their stories as do the
victims, and to explore the wider spectrum of life that goes on is surely to
find hope in the ruins of an otherwise depraved episode in world