During World War II, Switzerland severely limited refugees: "Our boat is full." A train from Germany halts briefly in an isolated corner of Switzerland. Six people jump off seeking asylum: ... See full summary »
During World War II, Switzerland severely limited refugees: "Our boat is full." A train from Germany halts briefly in an isolated corner of Switzerland. Six people jump off seeking asylum: four Jews, a French child, and a German soldier. They seek temporary refuge with a couple who run a village inn. They pose as a family: the deserter as husband, Judith as his wife, an old man from Vienna as her father, his granddaughter and the French lad, whom they beg to keep silent, as their children. Judith's teenage brother poses as a soldier. The fabrication unravels through chance and the local constable's exact investigation. Whom will the Swiss allow to stay? Who gets deported? Written by
The anxiety of an attack from Hitler-Germany was real in Switzerland during WW II. Why should Hilter not integrate German-speaking Switzerland into his "Reich" to which already belonged Germany and Austria? After all, the "Grossdeutsches Reich" was based on the common language spoken, so Northern Switzerland was considered once lost from the "Grossreich" like Mussolini considered the Italian speaking parts of Southern Switzerland as "terre irridente". Why Hitler did not conquer Switzerland stays one of the big enigmas of history up to today.
The Swiss population that lived close to the German border - in "Das Boot ist voll" it is Siblingen, Canton of Scaffusia - realized much more of what is going on on the other side of the river Rhein. Everyday immigrants crossed the Swiss border illegally. However, what did "illegal" mean in regard of immigrant-laws that had become criminal themselves? That the population must have reacted confused when it was confronted actually with a group of immigrants like the six persons in the movie, is clear. The wish to help them hide and feed them went along with the fear to be detected and to go to prison. The boat was not full, of course, and the title of the movie is cynically meant, but Switzerland did not want to provoke Germany by giving their Jewish population asylum.
I think, films like "The Boat is Full" are necessary, but not because Switzerland had loaded more guilt upon herself than other states during WW II did. The opposite is true. But Switzerland had started to construct a very strange self-image of alleged neutrality and interwoven it with her history back to Wilhelm Tell which consists exclusively of fairy-tales. Middle-aged people like me still had to learn in school that a handful of Swiss soldiers defeated "the Habsburgian army" in "battles" whose names do not even occur in Austrian history and are not even to find in Swiss geographic maps.
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