Amen. (2002) Poster


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Underestimated masterpiece by Costa-Gavras
Travis_Bickle0131 May 2005
I was very surprised by reading so many bad comments about 'Amen.'. This is a breathtaking movie about a German officer who realises what they are actually doing to the Jews and who afterwards tries everything to prevent this murdering. Ulrich Tukur gives one hell of a performance. You really see this man suffering under the killings he cannot prevent.

Another perfect performance is given by the priest who tries to help the German officer. Mathieu Kassovitz (who also played the male leading role in 'Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain')is very convincing in his role.

I think this movie is highly underrated. Costa-Gavras has made an important movie with 'Amen.' which looks at the holocaust-tragedy from another point of view which is seldom showed. The movie gives a true although unbelievable answer at one of the most important questions concerning the holocaust: didn't anyone saw this coming? Couldn't anyone prevent this from happening?

If you really want to know the answers to this questions, you certainly have to watch 'Amen.'. This movie should at least have an 8 and I'll give you two reasons why: one because the story is unique and magnificently told; and two because the two leading actors are giving the performance of a lifetime. Highly recommendable!

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Gavras film is an excellent depiction from a unique point of view
rd350c14 November 2002
I think I am the first person from the USA to comment on this film. We saw it as part of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers festival. There were only maybe 50 people at the screening we attended, and there were only two screenings. This is so unfortunate.

This is an excellent film, and exemplifies, I think, the role of the arts in raising society's level of conscience and effecting social change. It galls me that a mind set is growing, (sixty years later) that refutes the occurrence of the holocaust. All the pictures, names and movie footage in the world will never change these people's minds; convincing them is not the issue. But when you take on the large institutions of society, when you make them accountable and demand that they fess up to their inadequacies, and that they not allow it to happen again, then you get the kind of permanent, positive change that is not eroded by a capricious shift in the political winds.

The amazing thing about this film was the powerful effect it achieved with very little, if any, shocking footage. We are conditioned to look away from all the "standard" holocaust images - the drawn faces, the gaunt skeletons, the bones in the ovens, the piles of shoes and personal effects. Instead, Gavras uses Gerstein's involvement with the engineering side of the issue, and paints a chilling picture of the magnitude of the killings. The project management meetings where they discuss the efficiency improvement strategies for gassing people and cleaning out the chambers are eerily similar to meetings I and many other Dilbert-types attend on a regular basis. The final scene at the camp where all the SS facilities officers chorus their concerns over decreased KILLING efficiency is ridiculously chilling. These guys could be whining about their bottom line numbers at a board meeting for any major corporation.

Gavras hammers home the numbers with the repeated scenes of empty trains going and full trains coming - and you never see a person in the full ones, only closed doors. Think about the numbers. A million people a year is nearly three thousand a day. Instead of making his point with stark images, the way so many other films have, Gavras keeps hammering the shear logistics, the size of the camps, the amounts of the gas needed, the HUGE numbers of people that had to be transported. Think of how big a train with a thousand people is - that's over three times the capacity of the biggest airliners. Gerstein's confrontation with his old friend, the transportation officer, points out how people could vilify certain nazis (SS and Gestapo), and yet remain conveniently ignorant of their own complicity.

The Vatican issued a watered down apology in 1998, admitting partial culpability and asking forgiveness. There are still many who believe that the diplomatic tightrope the Vatican walked was the best course. The conversation between Cardinal Maglione and the German ambassador is accurately taken directly from the Vatican archives. But Gavras makes a valid case that the arguments against outing the German killing machine were weak. That other protests had yielded positive results (look up the 1943 Rosenstrasse uprising) and that the motivations for not acting more decisively were based in part on anti-Semitism, along with diplomatic prudence.

Gavras trys to show that many people who could have acted knew all the facts and chose not to act. I remember, around the time Gavras' released "Z", how the protesters at the 1968 democratic national convention chanted "THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!" It didn't matter then, and Gavras makes the case that it didn't matter during the holocaust; the political powers of the world move at their own pace.

Now, sixty years later, we have the last of the actual participants dying off. WWII veterans here in the USA are dying at a rate of 1500 a day, and their ranks are dwindling. There are fewer and fewer left to tell the story or be held accountable. It is incumbent on us, however, to uncover the cover-ups, identify the systems or methods that allowed such atrocities to happen, and make the changes in our society's structure to ensure they don't happen again. Gavras' film effectively does this. Like the principals in the film, we now know the real story. Like the principals in the film, how we act with this knowledge will be judged by future generations.
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Painful, Questioned, Controversial History as Art
Ralph Michael Stein31 January 2003
"Amen," a film based on the largely accurate account of German SS officer Kurt Gerstein's multiple attempts to alert the Vatican to the ongoing highly efficient mass slaughter of Jews and others - for which he bore no small responsibility as a technician facilitating efficient genocide - is well done with excellent acting. Yet in the end Costa-Gravas's film is somewhat unsatisfying and not sufficiently responsive to the viewer's need to know what Gerstein was all about. Why?

"Amen" begins with the Nazi euthanasia program aimed at murdering retarded and mentally ill Germans. A campaign, spearheaded by both Protestant and Catholic clerics and their flocks, forced the regime to end the killings. Some have argued that this sole widespread public rejection of Nazi homicidal machinations might well have been repeated if Germans were alerted - internally or through specific denunciations by the pope and foreign leaders - of the fate of deported Jews and those rounded up in conquered territories. "Amen's" Kurt Gerstein and his priest friend both believe that would have happened.

That argument is at best questionable and, more likely, reflects the human need for the wish to spawn the thought. Whether one accepts the Goldenhagen thesis of mass complicity by Germans in the Holocaust, the fact remains that when the slaughter began Germany was at war and, as a character in "Amen" notes, defending the Reich and winning the war, to say nothing of staying clear of what would be seen as treasonous ideas, was the only realistic option.

Kurt Gerstein is a mystery. As Hannah Arendt wrote of Eichmann as an example of evil's often banal incarnation, historian Saul Friedlander described Gerstein years ago in terms of the ambiguity of good. Gerstein sincerely and at risk to his life tried to warn the Vatican of the Nazi death camps. But he also worked efficiently to make those camps operationally efficient. "Amen's" Gerstein is tortured but also highly compartmentalized. He gives quick and accurate advice to improve destruction of the "units," as the Jews were referred to, and then tries to prevent use of the Zyklon B gas he helped develop with almost unbelievable declarations that shipments are defective and must be buried.

This film owes its origin not so much to Friedlander's compelling account but to Rolf Hochhuth's controversial (still so after many years) "The Deputy," presented as a play to the outrage of many. Hochhuth portrayed Pope Pius XII as insensitive and unwilling to use his moral authority to challenge an extermination program he knew to be in progress.

In the film Gerstein is aided by a young Jesuit priest whose remarkable moral and physical courage was demonstrated by a few, or perhaps too few, clerics who knew what was happening. The pope is shown as a remote, unemotional figure. The now standard explanations for the Vatican's unwillingness to take on the Nazis are included in catalogue format. Allied unwillingness to bomb the death camps or take in refugee Jews are recited almost for the record. Complex questions still debated are reduced to the equivalent of sound bites. They need no repeating here.

Hochhuth's thesis which outraged many decades ago and which still brings angry denunciations has been partially rehabilitated by scholarly works such as John Cornwell's provocatively titled study, "Hitler's Pope," an exaggeration which belies the serious research and analysis within the book's covers.

Cornwell's pope is personally unpleasant, haughtily autocratic, rabidly fearful of Communism, at least mildly anti-Semitic and certainly emotionally and politically pro-German if not pro-Hitler (he wasn't that). The Pope Pius of "Amen" lacks the depth a more accurate and compelling portrayal would have provided.

The strongest moments in the film are those briefly showing the efficiency of the death camps focusing less on the victims, most of whom aren't shown, but rather on the chillingly competent technicians and logisticians without whose efforts millions could not have been murdered.

Director Costa-Gravas deserves much credit for bringing a difficult to tell complex story to the screen. Ultimately, however, we know less about Kurt Gerstein than we need to and the Vatican, from pope to bureaucrat, is too colorless. Was Gerstein a victim or a collaborator with a schizophrenic sense of morality? Even scholar Friedlander couldn't answer that question. Did the Vicar of Christ shame his church's vision of Jesus by putting political expediency ahead of moral imperative? That is a very alive issue today but "Amen" gives us a largely one-dimensional Supreme Pontiff.

The cast is unknown to American viewers but all act with varying but generally strong ability. Gerstein and the Jesuit priest are especially well portrayed as men of deep conviction.

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Could the Final Solution have been stopped and millions of lives have been saved?
max-vernon11 February 2006
The film offers an open-ended answer to this popular question. It begins with a graphic portrayal of the Nazi euthanasia programme which killed 50,000 'mental defectives'. This links us to the main protagonist, Kurt Gerstein, an SS scientific officer who develops the Zyklon B gas which allows mass-murder of Jews and Gypsies to proceed on an industrial scale. Gerstein's niece is a euthanasia victim. Gerstein is a committed evangelical Christian with an anti-Nazi past who normally would not be allowed into the SS. Gerstein's father is an enthusiastic Nazi who pulls strings to get his son into the SS, presumably seen as a safer option than the army and also as the elite corps of the Nazi state. Entirely plausible, as many evangelical Christians became enthusiastic Nazis. Gerstein's expertise in developing water purification and anti-typhus procedures for the German army allows him to prosper within the SS, despite his multiple treason.

The murder of his niece and the Jews appalls his Christian conscience. His wincing reaction whilst looking through the gas chamber spy-hole is well-acted. He alerts the Swedes and the Catholic Church, hoping that international pressure will awaken the German conscience. Catholic opposition has stopped the euthanasia programme and this can be mobilised to help the Jews.

In reality, Gerstein's options are limited. His own church leaders react mutely to his news of mass-murder. They caution restraint. Nazi indoctrination is trying to turn everyone into a rabid anti-Semite - as shown comically with Gerstein's youngest son giving annoying Hitler salutes. Most Protestants agree to join the new Nazi-sponsored 'Reich Church', happily reconciling faith with Nazism. Similarly, the 1933 Concordat with Hitler gave the Catholic Church a precarious protection as long as it stayed out of politics.

Carpet-bombing of German cities is killing women, children and babies. German forces are engaged in a titanic struggle against the 'forces of international Jewry ' - Russian Communism and American Capitalism. Facing this kind of mind-set and mass paranoia, the Jews needed a miracle. Saving mentally-handicapped members of German families is one thing. Saving a long-despised race thought to be the root cause of every world problem is very much another.

Gerstein's attempts to alert the Vatican are channelled through an invented character, a young Catholic priest who symbolises the conscience of thousands of individual Catholics who risked their lives to help Jews. He eventually sacrifices himself at Auschwitz, a Christ-like figure who 'redeems' his religion in the face of a terrible evil.

The controversial Pope Pius XII is portrayed in a curiously anodyne way - to the distaste of those who regard him as a Nazi sympathiser. The Vatican's fear of Communism, its efforts to hide Italian Jews and its self-preservation instinct in facing the Nazis are all clearly demonstrated. As is the help it gave to individual SS men on the run after the war. One is left to make up one's own mind about the Pope.

In truth, neither the Church nor the SS were monolithic organisations. Both were composed of individuals, good and bad. One reason for death factories was to save SS men from the horrors of mass-shootings. They offered a 'sanitised' method of killing, just as the 1933 Concordat offered a sanitised way for Nazism and Catholicism to relate to each other. Problems arose for individuals who had to make moral choices in carrying out these policies.

The controversial Roman lunch scene depicts the American ambassador discussing the fate of the Jews with Vatican big-wigs. Against a wonderful panoramic backdrop of the eternal city, they enjoy an excellent sea food meal. The American points out that finding an alternative home for millions of Jews would cause great problems. Nazi retaliation would only make things worse, counters a Vatican big-wig. A far cry from the cattle trucks rolling to and fro, emptying Europe of its Jews. This is a 'cheap shot' - decision-makers usually enjoy better material conditions than the rest of us. One can imagine Churchill discussing sensitive topics in a cold-blooded way over many a fine meal. It makes for good cinema, though!

This is an excellent film which covers a vast topic in 2 hours. It does not make judgements about Gerstein or the Christian churches. The Gerstein character is a complex one as is the Christian response to the Holocaust. It shows how difficult it is to 'buck the system' during wartime. Gerstein arrives at Auschwitz with the comforting knowledge that the allies 'never bomb the camps' - they know they are full of 'POW's'. Would prolonged bombing of the railways to the death camps have made a difference? Many Jews believe that this could and should have happened.

Should the allies have re-directed their military efforts to save Jews rather than merely fight the Nazis? Unfortunately, the 1930's and World War 2 had de-sensitised people to civilian suffering - newsreels from China, Abyssinia, Guernica; the Nazi bombing of Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Coventry, the V1 and V2 attacks of 1944. World War I blurred the line between soldiers and civilians. World War 2 completely obliterated this distinction - on both sides of the conflict. Axis forces brought death to millions of Chinese and Russian civilians. The Allied bombing of Germany, Japan and northern France all produced heavy civilian casualties. Is there an essential difference between mass-bombing and the Holocaust?

European anti-Semitism aided the Holocaust. The miracle is that so many individual Gentiles did so much to aid Jews. Nazism put new ideas about human rights to the test. Governments and organisations may have been found wanting – especially Vichy France. Individuals - including many brave Germans – responded magnificently. This is the 'positive' side of the Holocaust which we should remember and treasure. Gerstein did his best to sabotage and stop the killing machine he became part of. The film allows us to make up our own minds about whether he and the Catholic Church did enough.
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The Eyes of God
hamlet2b24 June 2002
The challenge for Kurt Gerstein after the war, in the hands of the allies, and for Costa-Gavras in this film, is to convince us that he, Kurt Gerstein S.S. officer, was bravely acting as the "eyes of God" in watching the holocaust unfold before his eyes. It is hard to believe that a man of conscience could actively participate in something he found so entirely heinous. But the amazing work of Gavras and Ulrich Tukur who plays Gerstein succeeds. It is very difficult to play a noble and virtuous man and not become a saintly characature. Tukur succeeds in rounding out a believable character who inspires us to believe in man's innate goodness. Indeed Tukur pretty much has to carry this film and he does. Kudos. Mathieu Kassovitz as the young Jesuit priest is not as strong but his character is less central to the story.

This film is very powerful. In it's veiled presentation of the holocaust it manages to convey the horror with as much emotional impact as any previous film dealing with this dark history. The real sorrow, for me, is to watch our protagonists struggle believing that "if only the world knew" there would be an outpouring of outrage that would put a stop to the atrocities. Unfortunately these good men don't seem to grasp the darker side of human nature that can turn a blind eye. In the final chapter a brilliant plot twist brings home the horror in the most personal of ways to all of those Vatican "diplomats".

A powerful, horrible and beautiful film.
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In Europe as in Argentina.
hkesselm17 November 2002
The new movie from Costa-Gavras is as believable as his former ones: Z, The Confession, State of Siege, Missing. Perhaps his tale about the role of the Catholic Church can offer some doubts to Europeans and North-Americans subscribers of IMDB, but people who lived in Argentina during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) can agree that there are coherency. In my country we had a lot of missing or killed Catholic priests and nuns. Riccardo Fontana represents them. Some bishops (De Nevares, Hesayne, Novak, perhaps another one) fought for human rights. But the official Church, including the papal nuncio, the rest of the bishops, and specially the "military vicars" (who gave "spiritual comfort" to torturers and pilots who threw human bodies to the River Plate) where in the same role that Pio XII and the Vatican staff. It is not an attack to Roman Catholics. Usually, the religious hierarchies are always in the side of the political power. You can see muslim priests giving spiritual comfort to terrorists, as rabbies in the Israel Army do to soldiers who killed a Palestinian family. "Our" soldiers are always dispensed from the observance of the Commandments.
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Not moved but forced to think
patrickgilday22 July 2002
'Amen' is a recent release examining the relationship between the Vatican and Nazi Germany. We follow Kurt Gerheim (an admirable performance by Ulrich Tukur), a perfectly Aryan, protestant SS-Officer who tries to speak out against Nazi attrocities, and Ricardo Fontana, a young catholic cleric (played to the utmost by the marvellous Matthieu Kassovitz) who joins him in his fight. Ricardo's dissolusionment in the Church (which acts more as an institution for self-preservation than for good in this film) leads him to irrational and useless acts which do not conflict with his morality, rather than to more useful acts which do. The interest lies with the deterioration of Ricardo's faith in the Church's moral station and that of Gerheim's faith in his fatherland. Both find solace in the hope that they will put an end to the holocaust.

This is noticeably a continental European film, with brilliant direction and dazzlingly good acting, more Gosford Park than Schindler's List in terms of pace. Indeed, this slow pace only highlights the frustration felt by the two main characters as they are continually beaten down by the well-meaning leaders of their Churches.

Frustration, interestingly, is the only lasting emotion inspired in the viewer. Dr Germaine Greer attributed this, wrongly, I believe, to the fact that the film "doesn't seem to go anywhere", highlighting the leitmotiv frame of a so-called 'goods' train on its way to an unseen destination as a representation of this lack of direction. I would venture to suggest, though, that a conclusion is precisely what the director, the justly renowned Costa Garvas, was trying to avoid - he does not straightjacket his characters plainly as either heroes or villains and the film closes with the issues of morality it has raised left open-ended. It is meant to be thought provoking, not moving; the viewer is meant to conclude for himself what was morally correct and what was not.

At the end of the film, I found myself wondering which of the characters was most right - for none, it would seem, have a sole handle on the moral high-ground and there are arguments that promote each character's actions over another's. Whatever way you see this film and whatever conclusion you draw, it is a production which will not let you sleep easy until you have been challenged on many issues of morality.
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A must watch film
john-broadway15 April 2003
This is a must watch film. It's a complex and controversial story, well written, well acted, and the direction is superb.

The one dimensional nature of the main characters works very well - we see but a snapshot of the complexity of human nature and this begs you to ask the question of what would you do if you found yourself placed in such circumstances.

This is perhaps a trademark of Costa-Gavras's work (Mad City, Missing and Z in particular)

It is not just a cold view of the history of the time nor is it seeking to provide an answer to the big question - just shed light on the circumstances and on human nature.
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Powerful and Striking
Claudio Carvalho14 October 2007
In World War II, the sanitation engineer and family man Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur) is assigned by SS to be the Head of the Institute for Hygiene to purify the water for the German Army in the front. Later, he is invited to participate in termination of plagues in the concentration camps and he develops the lethal gas Zyklon-B. When he witnesses that the SS is killing Jews instead, he decides to denounce the genocide to the Pope to expose to the world and save the Jewish families. The idealist Jesuit priest Riccardo Fontana (Mathieu Kassovitz) from an influent Italian family gives his best efforts being the liaison of Gerstein and the leaders of the Vatican.

I do not have the knowledge of history to know whether this story is accurate or manipulative, but as a movie it is powerful and striking. Costa-Gavras directs this film about Holocaust based on the history of the German Kurt Gerstein, who unsuccessfully tried to tell the world about the mass murderers in the concentration camps. The performance of Ulrich Tukur is magnificent, giving total credibility to his character. With regard to the role of the Catholic Church, I believe the exposition is simplistic and does not show the big picture of the political environment that the Vatican was living in that historical moment, focusing only in the attempt of the SS officer in having an audience with the Pope. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Amém." ("Amen.")
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tributarystu2 November 2002
Very interesting...I do not know how true the facts are, that were presented, but I think the movie is really worth a look. Especially, if we consider that it isn't a typical American movie...of course, that's because it isn't American! A movie that has, more or less, a very significant meaning and moral...we all know about the Holocaust...the terror, unleashed by the German nazi's. The madness of men. And here we have a movie, filmed in Romania, with this theme. A German SS officer, Kurt Gerstein(Ulrich Tukur), finds out about the crimes against millions of Jews. He decides to kind of sabotage the killings, and ultimately ends up, wanting to tell Pope Pie XII(Marcel Iures) about these crimes. He gets help from Riccardo Fontana(Mathieu Kassovitz), a Jesuit priest, in this matter. Riccardo's father is an important person at the Vatican(count) and so, he tries to help them. The story will be sad enough, and it will show the ignorance of the Catholic Church. If this is true, or it is not I can't say. But the movie is special, and touching. The trains have a very important role. Every time I saw them, I felt a shiver through my body, just because of the idea that they might be filled with people. The special effects could've been better. For example, when Riccardo goes to eat with his father and other personalities, you can see what seems to be the Vatican. But it is more than obvious that it isn't true. Of course, this is not very bothering... The music is absolutely perfect! I really enjoyed it, and I don't see who didn't! The actors were good, but there were some flaws, here and there. Costa Gavras, the director, did a very good job here, in creating an interesting movie. Despite the lack of much action, the film is pleasant, but shocking...well, how could it be if we consider the events? I think all should see this movie, especially because it's a good change from the American stereotype.
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Manipulative, filled with plot holes
Ge0ffrey1 February 2003
Even a Nazi SS agent has a better-formed conscience than a Pope. And the single practicing Catholic "becomes" a Jew by attaching the Star of David to his cassock. Good grief.

I guess it helps to know that Costa-Gravas looks at the world through a Marxist lens, and that Catholicism is the great enemy of Marxism. That scene with the insouciant fat-and-happy Cardinals and politicians gorging themselves on seafood on a Vatican City balcony overlooking St. Peters probably ranks as anti-Catholic propaganda right up there with the most exaggerated anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda.

Of all the concentration camps in Germany and Poland, how did that priest wind up at Kurt's? How did Kurt find out the priest was there? Why was Kurt released at the end by the SS after being arrested for forging Himmler's name?


Blaming the wartime pope for failing to stop the Holocaust from the Vatican is a neat bit of revisionist history. Newsweek, March 30, 1998: By Kenneth L. Woodward

"The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas.... He is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all." --Editorial, The New York Times, Dec. 25, 1941

"A full exploration of Pope Pius's conduct is needed.... It now falls to John Paul and his successors to take the next step toward full acceptance of the Vatican's failure to stand squarely against the evil that swept across Europe." Editorial, The New York Times, March 18, 1998

How the times--and the Times--do change. During the second world war, Pope Pius XII was lauded for his singular efforts to halt the carnage. And for years after, he was praised for the church's efforts in saving an estimated 700,000 Jews from the Nazi death camps--mainly by issuing false baptismal certificates to Jews, disguising some in cassocks and hiding others in cloistered monasteries and convents. But last week, after the Vatican issued its long-awaited mea culpa for failing to do more, critics of the church greeted the Vatican's statement with the sound of one hand clapping. As the Times's editorial suggests, they are demanding nothing less than a moral outing by the Vatican of Pius XII.

Something shameful is going on. That Pius XII was silent in the face of the Holocaust; that he did little to help the Jews; that he was in fact pro-German if not pro-Nazi; that underneath it all he was anti-Semitic--all are monstrous calumnies that now seem to pass for accepted wisdom. Most of these accusations can be traced to a single originating source: "The Deputy," Rolf Hochhuth's 1963 play that created an image of Pius as moral coward. That Golda Meir, later a prime minister of Israel, and leaders of Jewish communities in Hungary, Turkey, Italy, Romania and the United States thanked the pope for saving hundreds of thousands of Jews is now considered irrelevant. That he never specifically condemned the Shoah is all that seems to matter.

In fact, Pius XII was neither silent nor inactive. As the Vatican's secretary of State in 1937, he drafted an encyclical for Pope Pius XI condemning Nazism as un-Christian. The document was then smuggled into Germany, secretly printed there in German and read from Roman Catholic pulpits. The Nazis responded by confiscating the presses and imprisoning many Catholics. In his 1942 Christmas message, which The New York Times among others extolled, the pope became the first figure of international stature to condemn what was turning into the Holocaust. Among other sins of the Nazis' New Order, he denounced the persecution "of hundreds of thousands who, without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or progressive extinction."

The Nazis understood the pope only too well. "His speech is one long attack on everything we stand for," declared the Gestapo. "Here he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews. He is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals."

In February 1942, Protestant and Catholic leaders of Nazi-occupied Holland prepared a letter condemning the deportation of Jews to death camps in "the East." But only the Catholic bishops, "following the path indicated by our Holy Father," read the letter aloud from the pulpit despite threats from the Nazis. As a result, occupation forces swept Holland's Catholic convents, monasteries and schools, deporting all Jews who had converted to Christianity--something they had not done before. When word of this reached Rome, the pope withdrew a four-page protest he had written for the Vatican newspaper and burned it. As the 11 volumes on the war years published by the Vatican archives make clear, Jewish as well as Christian groups pleaded with the pope not to make a public protest because it would only intensify the Nazi persecution.

The pope's crime--if that is what it is--is that he chose the role of diplomatic peacemaker rather than martyr for the cause. Both the Allies and the Axis powers pressured him to take their side. It was clear, as the Times reported and the Nazis complained, that Pius XII stood for Western freedoms. But the pope refused to sign an Allied condemnation of Nazi atrocities against the Jews (and Christians) if he could not also condemn the slaughter of Jews and other religious believers by Stalin, then an ally of the United States. As it happened, about 5 million of the 6 million Jews who died came from Russia and Poland, where the pope had no power to command anyone. Historian Christopher Browning is right in concluding that "the Holocaust is a story with many victims and not too many heroes. I think we are naive if we think one more hero could have stopped it."

It is also naive to complain--as The New York Times did last week--that Pius XII "did not encourage Catholics to defy Nazi orders." He could hardly direct others to court certain death and remain politically neutral himself. Moreover, in the Roman Catholic Church that kind of pastoral leadership rests with the local bishops. Rightly, the hierarchies of Germany and France have recently confessed the failure of wartime Catholics to oppose the Holocaust. That is where resistance was called for but sorely wanting. Those "righteous Gentiles" who did risk their lives to save Jews are rightly honored: they put themselves to the test, an ordeal the pope could not demand from Rome.

No one person, Hitler excepted, was responsible for the Holocaust. And no one person, Pius XII included, could have prevented it. In choosing diplomacy over protest Pius XII had his priorities straight. It's time to lay off this pope.
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This movie is a falsification of history.
silverauk13 March 2002
The provocative poster of Oliviero Toscani is an insult as well to Catholics as to Jews and does not show what the movie is about. This movie is not a correct historic account of events. When I watched it, it was so hard for me to discover all the lies in it that I simply could not enjoy watching it. The French historian Pierre Blet has sufficiently demonstrated in his book: "Pie XII et la seconde guerre mondiale d'après les archives du Vatican" (Librairie Académique Perrin, 1998) that the pope Pius XII is innocent in the matter. Sorry, but I cannot watch a movie which is claiming things that are simply not true. Than I prefer to look at fiction which I cannot believe and of which I know that everything is impossible in real life.
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9 out of 10 for propaganda
Columbasta18 March 2007
According to the December 23, 1940 issue of Time magazine on page 38, Albert Einstein said:

"Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks...

Only the (Catholic) Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly."

I rest my case.

This movie should be viewed as an interesting example of one 100% pure and plain propaganda from a stereotypical French (European) socialist. It will only be effective insofar as the public at large remains unaware of the true facts, stated by (only a few) other commentators, i.e. that the Vatican was the only organization that amounted to anything substantial concerning the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the National-SOCIALISTS. The list of Jewish organizations who praised Pius XII for his brave and effective efforts (in stark contrast to the Red Cross, or governments of GB and the VS who closed their borders for Jewish refugees) on behalf of the Jews is endless. So is today's list of people who -for different reasons, apparently chose to remain misinformed. 9 out of 10 for propaganda.

A big zero for intent and truth-value.
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Amen, and Goodbye
MikeF-616 May 2005
In the mid 1960s, Ralph Hochhuth's play "The Deputy" hit Europe like lightning. Its story, about the attempt of two people to inform the early 1940s world about the Nazi death camps, accused Pope Pius XII of failing to speak out against the removal of Jews from Rome when his doing so might have saved thousands of lives. The drama sparked controversy and debate. When "The Deputy" arrived in the United States about 1965, the five act, four hour play had been cut to a more manageable two hour length, but didn't lose any of its punch. For this film, Costa-Gavras has based his screenplay on the full version. It follows two major characters. The first is Kurt Gerstein (a real life individual), an SS Officer, scientist, and Christian, who risks everything to get the word out about the camps. The second is a fictional character, Father Ricardo Fontana, whose aristocratic family has connections with the Vatican. He meets Gerstein and begins a personal crusade to get the Pope to denounce the killing of Jews. I can attest to the power this material has. It was my privilege to play Pope Pius in a college production (U.S. version) in 1966. The two final scenes – Fontana's confrontation with the Pope and his encounter with the Auswitz doctor in the harrowing finale – are enough to shake even the most complacent person to the core. Somehow, Costa-Gavras has managed to drain off every volt and watt of energy and left us with a lethargic, draggy melodrama that goes for the easy irony (rich diplomats feast on fancy foods while "regretting" the bad things that are happening in the world). This should be dynamite and the legendary director seems like the person who could light the fuse. Unfortunately, the explosion never comes.
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"AMEN" is a historical fiction, not a historical documentary
swimdilb9 August 2004
"Amen" is a moving and disturbing account of the attempt of an SS officer and a young Jesuit priest to inform the Vatican of the atrocities committed by the NAZIS against the Jews and to persuade the Vatican to speak out. Despite its disturbing theme, the film is long and tedious. Those looking for a similar film with more action should rent Gregory Peck's superb performance in "The Scarlet and the Black." "Amen" is a historical fiction meaning the film is based on some actual historical events but is meant to be interpreted as a fictitious account of those historical events. The film is based on Rolf Huchhuth's 1963 play translated as "The Representative" or "The Deputy" which was indeed highly critical of the Vatican's response to the Holocaust. However, this is an incredibly controversial topic, one on which historians still do not agree. Pius XII and the Vatican made a number of extraordinary efforts to resist the NAZI persecutions during the Holocaust, including converting Castel Gondolfo (the pope's summer residence) into a refugee home, signing approximately 850,000 false baptismal records for Jews, and providing food and money for Jews in Rome during NAZI occupation. Additionally, Pius XII wrote an encyclical entitled "Mit brennender Sorge" (With Burning Anxiety) which he had distributed all over Germany informing German Catholics of their duty to resist atrocities and perform their Christian duties. Furthermore, his first papal encyclical Summi Pontifutus written in response to the NAZI invasion of Poland condemned dictators, treaty violators, and racism. Following the war, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra came to play at the Vatican for the pope that did so much for them, Gertrude Stein praised him as a voice against evil, and Israel planted 850,000 trees in his honor. Additionally, the current pope initiated an effort to canonize Pius XII, and thus criticism of his actions during the Holocaust should be critically examined for their root in historical fact. "Amen" speaks to the power of one voice against a sea of opposition but it should not be viewed as a documentary of the Vatican's response to the Holocaust. If you are interested in this topic, I have read a number of books on the topic and will be happy to discuss Pius XII and the Vatican's response to the Holocaust via email .
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Very Dramatic and VERY Misleading....
irishman174521 October 2006
Pope Pius XII knowingly signed 850,000 false baptismal records. The rather large church underground movement hid HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Jews in convents and monasteries. Pope Pius XII had Jews hiding at his summer villa in Castel Gandolfo. Read Rabbi David Dalin's 'The Myth of Hitler's Pope: Pope Pius XII and His Secret War Against Nazi Germany' or 'Hitler, the War, and the Pope' by Professor Ronald Rychlak if you're looking for history. Good history and good drama are not the same.

Fine drama, but extremely misleading and anti-Catholic. It is along the lines of The Deputy, it does not dig deeply into what the Pope was doing, rather if focuses on a fictional main story between these other two characters (though yes Kurt Gerstein was a real person).

The main purpose of this story is very clearly promoting the idea that the Church was too silent and let Hitler have his way. This myth which has unfortunately floated around began not with a historical piece but with the release of Rolf Hochhuth's stage drama, The Deputy in 1963.

This movie is not on the same level as Der Untergang which is a blow-by-blow accurate, unlike really most any WWII movie ever made. Even that film however, I would not refer to as a historical source.
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Splendid film dealing with SS lieutenant Kurt Gerstein attempts to inform Pope Pius XII about Jews being sent to concentration camps and massacred
ma-cortes27 May 2014
Thoughtful and brooding film with excellent interpretations and horrible events . The picture talks an officer Gestapo named Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur) in charge of Zyklon B , a deadly chemical gas used for killing Jews in the death's showers from concentration camps as Treblinka , Sorbibor , Auschwitz , Majanek , Manthausen ,.... , Gerstein contacts a Jesuit priest (Mathieu Kassovitz) who's related to a Vatican Cardenal (Michael Duchaussoy) and his father results to be Pope's assistant . He denounces and explains Pope Pio XII (Marcel Iures) the situation of the Jews's genocide .

The pic is correctly based on historic deeds and famous personages as Pio XII and Nazi chiefs who don't appear in the film but they're continuously named as Goering , Goebbles , Himmler , Eichmann ,thus as notorious events as Stalingrado (1943) where Nazis have the first important defeat and the bombing strikes over the Germany cities (Berlin , Dresde) . The movie is based on a play by German playwright Rolf Hochhuth which started a lot of heated discussions and arguments after its first release in 1963. The film blends drama , tension , historical events and in spite of the runtime is two hours and some isn't boring , nor dreary but happens enough interesting deeds . The Vatican did not give a permission to shoot the film in their buildings. After searching a scenery of adequate size for the scenes taking place in the Vatican, Costa-Gavras finally chose Europe's largest building, the House of the People in Bucharest . Some of the outdoor scenes were shot in Mogosoaia Palace, some fourteen kilometers northwest of Bucharest. The movie attained quite polemic but there's an accusation to Catholic Church for passivity on the crimes and mass slaughter . I really think that didn't have but lack of forecast . The motion picture was well directed by Constantine Costa Gravas who at all his films always gets controversy and dispute . Rating : Above average . Well worth seeing .
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Costa-Gavras' powerful"Amen" is a dramatic historical thriller.
adrianarm9 March 2004
Costa-Gavras' powerful "Amen" is a dramatic historical thriller. The movie's subject is the neglect of the Catholic Church and Allied powers to acknowledge the annihilation of European Jews, and their collective failure to offer any moral or strategic response to the Holocaust.

Adapted from Rolf Hochhuth's six-hour 1963 play "The Deputy," "Amen" is shaped as moral inquiry, a meditation on the consequences of protest and complicity. Kurt Gerstein, a historical figure, was a chemical engineer and SS lieutenant assigned the task of developing safe drinking water for German soldiers on the Eastern front. In the summer of 1942, he becomes unhinged at learning about the existence of the extermination camps in Poland. The image of his face gripped in a mask of pain and horror as he sees Jewish prisoners being gassed is devastating.

Horrified by what he witnesses, the brave, naive Gerstein establishes a collaboration with Riccardo Fontana, a Jesuit priest and politically connected member of the papal nuncio in Berlin. Their private torments preface larger issues of guilt, complicity and insignificance.

The movie's recurring image -- a freight train, having just deposited its human cargo at the death camps, hurtling impassively through a terrifyingly quiet landscape -- is measured and reserved. And cinematographer Patrick Blossier displays his superb grasp of scale and weight.

"Amen" leaves a distinct impression. The film arouses anger and sadness, and it levels its emotional fury at the moral cowardice of the authorities who were either reluctant or unwilling to intercede. It offers a sharp critique of the historical role played by the Church without veering into anti-Catholicism, and it is equally critical of the German Protestant community.

On its own terms, "Amen" is a memorably film.
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Right on so many levels
brandon-martin12 October 2004
Not only did this movie reinforce and create a visual for the horror the whole world will never forget, it also mirrored some very important themes in modern day life that need serious public attention. The fact that the Catholic church is mostly political and allows atrocities to exist around it and within it to this day needs to be adressed both in America and on a worldwide basis. It also reflects the reckless nature of science and the fact that it is both regulated and fueled by governments whose sole purpose is warfare and domination is a truly self evident fact that has been in the public view yet ignored for far too long. We need to awaken ourselves to the facts and turn a critical eye upon the people and entities thatwe entrust with our safety, and this movie shows a time in history where people did not and the worst case scenario took place.
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Excellent Film
demian rabilero30 January 2006
A history lesson given to us by Costa Gavras. The fact that some voices in Church disclaim it proves you'll have just rewards watching it. The relationship between church and Nazis is a lesson about what happens between power centers no matters ideology, race or political differences. This movie is telling us: Warning, don't trust in politicians, they always are lying to you. And in the other side a priest who is a symbol of human dignity, a man who is a real hero, because he is a hero even when he doesn't want to be one. Brilliant in all ways , a real improve from Gavras's later films, he is back with his proved militancy and compromise with real themes of our time.
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Wonderful film with Christian morals.
Shannon9 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm glad I rented this film. I've been wanting to see it since I saw it on the shelves of my local Hollywood Video.

It's based on a true story about an SS officer who objected to the systematic killing of Jews, saying that they were just as much God's children as Christians were. The actor who played Kurt Gerstein was quite excellent; likewise for the guy who played Riccardo, the priest (I think he was in that movie, Amelie).

I believe that this film ranks up there with Schindler's List, The Pianist, Night and Fog, and Escape from Sobibor. It should be used in history classes in high schools and colleges. Those who doubt the Holocaust should ALSO see this movie.
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A brilliant film
Sonia3 January 2003
I have recently seen 'Amen' which I really enjoyed very much. It is an excellent movie that shows us the brutality and cruelty of the Nazis and the silence of the Vatican and some Protestant churches in the Holocaust. As a Catholic, it shocked me how the Vatican, lots of priests and nuns helped the Nazis in their madness of killing Jews (mostly) and other people such as gipsies, homosexual persons etc. It is not an offense to the Catholic church to say the truth about what was going on during those terrible years, this is why I do not agree with the reaction of the Vatican towards this film. Everybody must know that the Pope Pie XII and lots of priests, cardinals and nuns kept silent, althoug I must admit that other Catholics really helped the Jews. Finally the perfomance of the German actor Ulrich Tukur was wonderful. He should have won the prize of best actor in the European movie festival celebrated in Rome because he expressed very well the feeling of horror when he found the killings of the Jews. The rest of the actors are good too, but Ulrich's perfomance was the best one without the slightest doubt. Moreover he is very attractive in uniform!!
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NAZI Germany
M-hiroo29 February 2008
CAN they be another holocaust?YOU know how Nazis were,can it happen again doesn't it worry you? ALSO This can be dangerous for America there are only interested in winning the war on TERROR And nuclear Iran.ALthough I can't do anything don't mess with a country that has nuclear weapons.WHAT ABOUT THE NEO Nazis? LISTEN I know you will become angry or make fun of me,but this warning can't be ignored.It is dangerous BUT US.MILITARY is more interested in the taliban then NEO Nazis.WHAT about Germans in the past,they caused trouble for people before,to completely trust is dangerous,remember what they did in world war 1 and 2? I have the right to write this this is a free country isn't it night but laws of the united states after aug 21,2004 made it different you say?YES it is true who's fault is that?I am awaiting your answer Please don't erase this,it might be important why would I lie?never it must be watched.
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Very good, better than Der Untergang
bastiaandv-112 October 2005
I think this is one of the best movies ever. The story is good and very well told. I just don't understand why this movie isn't very well known. It has everything to be a Hollywood top war movie, alongside; Saving Private Ryan, Der Untergang (downfall) and some other. The time the director takes to explain everything is perfect. You hear a story that isn't about soldiers at the front line or about Hitler, Churchil or Rosevelt. This story tells you about another side of the war you don't see to often. The film is pretty intense so watch closely and try to follow the story. If you don't like the movies where people are being shot all the time and blood sprays all the way you will probably not like this movie. The great directing, the fascinating story and the good acting combined, creates a movie that should go into movie history like it is going right now. A great movie.
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A difficult story, plagued by a low budget
Ersbel Oraph20 September 2014
This is a hard to tell story. I don't feel the church should feel threaten, the script shows there are both good guys and bad guys there. And the leaders stick to politics rather then their holy books.

The sad part is the small budget. Which meant having to run the story in Romania. Check out the page with mistakes. Quite a lot of anachronisms. A World War II like car made in 1948. And another. And more.

Than the actors. The actors are doing well their parts. Till you get to the Romanian cast. Ion Caramitru does look like an overweight prince. This is his life story. No acting there. But elegance? His story is of a poor boy who made it to become a favorite for the Ceaușescu family. An Italian prince? Not really. Maybe if the role was about a peasant prince. Than there is the Pope. Walking around like a drug dealer with important business Marcel Iureș looks like anything, but a pope. Sure, he is the one who worked the most abroad so he does not have that awful Eastern Europe accent.

The funny part is to see how anybody who was somebody in Romanian theater at the time of the shooting fought for a small part to add it to C.V. So you don't have extras in the common sense, but local stars. Who talk with a strong accent. And show out of place. Welcome to the Balkan corruption.

For me it spoiled quite a good movie. If you are not familiar with that crowd you might not even notice.

And I have to mention the image of the moving trains. Haunting.

Contact me with Questions, Comments or Suggestions ryitfork @
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