Alone in Berlin is the true story of middle-aged couple Anna (Emma Thompson) and Otto (Brendan Gleeson) who tried to oppose Adolf Hitler. In was an incredible act of bravery in Nazi Germany, but Anna and Otto felt they had nothing left to lose, since their only son had already been killed in combat.
It is hard for us in the modern era to understand how difficult it was to oppose Hitler within Germany. There was no free press, no cellphones and no internet on which to post anonymous comments against the government. The couple hand-wrote postcards critical of Hitler and the government and secretly left them in public buildings where people could find and read them.
When the postcards began to show up, Germans who found them were petrified. They knew it was dangerous even to read something like this. People who found the cards were afraid that the police had placed the cards as a trap to test German’s loyalty. Distributing anything critical of Hitler was considered treason and was a death penalty offense.
However, Otto and Anna were relentless and soon had placed more than 100 cards throughout Berlin. When people began turning the cards into the police, the SS Officers and high ranking Police officials were furious. They needed to catch the anti-Hitler writers and punish them as an example to other dissenters.
Police Inspector Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) thinks it will be easy to catch these traitors, but they are far cleverer than he imagines. There are no fingerprints on the postcards, no witnesses, and no clear pattern of where they are distributed. What he does not know is that Anna and Otto are hiding in plain sight. No one really pays attention to an ordinary looking middle-aged couple. The Police and SS did not have that profile in mind when they think of a resistance fighter.
Anna and Otto know their small gesture cannot stop Hitler. However, Otto is a master machinist and he likens their post cards to putting sand in the German war machine. He says that a little sand will not destroy the gears of a machine. However, if the movement catches on, more and more people will throw sand in the gears, and perhaps the terror of the Nazis will grind to a halt.
The Film Alone in Berlin is from the novel by Hans Fallada. The real people were named Otto and Elise Hampel, and they actually did place cards around Berlin just as in the movie.
Of course, we all know that Hitler was not stopped by resistance from within. However, the bravery of the Hampels can still be admired all these decades later. We also know from history that there were many thousands of Germans who hated Hitler but who were simply too afraid to say anything, much less take any action. Alone in Berlin is the story of two old people who showed true bravery in the face of absolute evil.
- We give Alone in Berlin our highest rating of Five Stars *****
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- Read our review of the book A Woman in Berlin the true of what it was like to be in Berlin for the final Russian attack