A young German woman travels across Europe in a quest to find the grave of her grandfather - an anti-Nazi priest persecuted by the Gestapo in 30's Germany - and to discover how and why this...
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A young German woman travels across Europe in a quest to find the grave of her grandfather - an anti-Nazi priest persecuted by the Gestapo in 30's Germany - and to discover how and why this man ended up fighting and dying for Hitler on the Eastern Front. Written by
'Confessions of a German Soldier' is a rich film that succeeds in all important regards.
Firstly the question Lena Karsten asks about her grandfather - how could this God-loving and God-fearing man of the cloth willingly leave her mother and grandmother to go and fight for Hitler? - is real, and the film pulls no punches in exploring it. Karsten was brave in standing up to the Nazis, so cowardice cannot have been a factor. Lena Karsten is outraged over her grandfather's behaviour, far more than I am (at 72 years old), and she never really understands or forgives him. The answer to the question why he did what he did is contained in the film; Karsten liked soldiering, and went to war with his friends from friendship and for the adventure - which is why most men fight, including my God-fearing father in WW2 for the British. The film asks unanswered questions about Karsten's reaction to the murders and savagery he witnessed his own side committing, which diminishes Karsten's integrity since he continued to fight on and did not become a martyr for his faith.
Secondly, the film successfully describes the history of the Confessing Church, and Karsten's part in it, which opposed Hitler's DEK or New National Church. It is an interesting story how the defeated Jewish Christ on the Cross could be adopted by the Nazis.
Thirdly, the film-makers unexpectedly succeed in discovering the circumstances of Karsten's death, and incredibly include eyewitness accounts of the disinterment and reburial of the corpse by Russian peasants. The irony of these events, in which the untermenschen turn the tables on their attackers outside Moscow, cannot be lost on any viewer.
Fourthly, the film shows the Russian peasants of today as generous people past caring about the rights and wrongs of Stalin and Hitler, and who generously forgive the horrors perpetrated by Karsten's quasi-aristocratic friends. Lena and her companion agree that her grandfather in death is among friends alongside the old battered and abandoned church that incredibly survives.
Fifthly, the film evokes Jean-Pierre Melville's 1949 film, "Le Silence de la Mer" about a German officer, Werner von Ebrennac, who is billeted on a Frenchman and his niece in 1942, just as Karsten was billeted in a Château on the Atlantic coast. The film satisfactorily interviewed the French owner of the château who recalled Karsten, and identified the place which Karsten described in a letter home as where he walked among the trees.
I have bought at least five copies of this wonderful DVD, because my friends lend them on and forget to whom. I am happy doing this in order that in my small way this outstanding film should become better known, for I cannot praise it highly enough.
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