24 November 2007 | RKBlumenau
A sensitive story set in today's Oswiecim
Sven, a young German (Alexander Fehling), electing to do civilian work for his national service and hoping to be sent to Amsterdam, is sent, without any preparation, to Oswiecim (Auschwitz), where he is to act as the helper of an octogenarian Polish former inmate (Ryszard Ronczewski), who has chosen to go on living on the camp site, repairing disintegrating suitcases for the exhibition there and occasionally speaking as a witness to tourists.
The young man is gradually sensitized to the situation; the old man, crusty and unfriendly towards the young German, hardly changes in his attitude. Both performances were quite magnificent.
The ordinary citizens of today's Oswiecim are reminded when they are asked where they come from that they live in a place whose name is associated with infamy; but otherwise they live very normal lives, and there seems to be no incongruity in the fact that the young people of Oswiecim dance the nights away in bars and pop venues just as young people do in other places. Some, like the young woman who becomes Sven's girl friend (Barbara Wysocka), who are good linguists, make a living out of conducting guided tours through the camp.
I think it is an ALMOST perfect film, sensitive, bringing out the relationship between the two main characters, with straightforward and ungimmicky filming. But, without forgetting that there were many non-Jewish Poles who also suffered in Auschwitz, it is all the same somewhat astonishing that Jews are nowhere mentioned in the film. The old man presumably was not Jewish; as a Polish inmate he had been given the job by the Nazis to collect the suitcases from the new arrivals. Repairing the suitcases for the exhibition is his mission in life. The only indication of the Holocaust is the fact that one can read the Jewish names on the suitcases.