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1 item from 1991

'The Restless Conscience'

18 October 1991 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

A quietly persuasive documentary, ''The Restless Conscience'' examines the German resistance to Adolf Hitler that arose during the early years of his regime and extended into World War II. While nearly everyone knows about the failed attempt by senior officers to kill Hitler with a bomb, and many also are aware of the White Rose resistance group of students, here the gallery of active opponents grows to include a much broader sample.

Aside from the specifics of who did what and when, the film also points out how difficult it is to take a stand, or even to know when to take a stand, in a society where criminal atrocity is fast becoming the norm.

Archival footage of the period, as well as family photos, are combined with interviews with survivors of the anti-Hitler groups. These last are mostly, though not exclusively, confined to talks with spouses, siblings, sons, daughters and friends, since nearly all of the people whose bravery is described ended up being executed in the wake of the famed failed assassination attempt made by senior German officers on Hitler.

Opposition to the Nazis apparently rose principally among four particular groups: dissident clergy, socialists and their compatriots in the labor movement, democratically oriented politicians, and the military's officer corps. These last have often been depicted as opposing Hitler on class grounds, but according to the film, the largely aristocratic officers shared a common faith in democracy as well as a revulsion at the Nazis' brutality.

One dissident officer, a young lieutenant at the time, describes how he and his superiors waited in vain to be called in to quell the Brown Shirts on Kristallnacht, only to discern to their horror that the anti-Semitic violence was government-planned. This same man's description of a mass execution of Jews on the Eastern Front -- in which he blames himself for not getting in line with the victims -- is one of the film's many shattering moments.

Much of the film is taken with descriptions of growing disillusionment. Many of the regime's opponents, especially some stubbornly brave socialists, were active from the start and were among the earliest and most frequent inmates of Nazi prisons.

But others came to their positions slowly, even reluctantly, given the risk to their and their families' positions. However, once committed, there was apparently no bounds to their actions, which went so far to include a clandestine escape organization for Jews run by the most senior officials in the Abwehr, German military intelligence, including its chief and his top lieutenant.

The film, part of the AFI USA Independent Showcase, is so crammed with information, with tales of heroism and incidents of tremendous tragedy, that it cannot help but be sensational. However, director Hava Kohav Beller never panders, and maintains a dry, even distant tone that is appropriate for the hot material.


Director-producer-writer Hava Kohav Beller

Consulting historian Prof. Peter Hoffmann

Editors Tonicka Janek, Juiette Weber, David Rogow

Cinematographers Volker Rodde, Martin Schaer, Gabor Bagyoni

Narrator: John Dildine


Running time -- 113 minutes

No MPAA rating

(c) The Hollywood Reporter


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1 item from 1991

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