One man's foresight and opposition to the Nazis destructive forces and years later the trials and tribulations of his Grandson who would rise above his tragic childhood to share his Grandfather's courageous story.
My Opposition - The Diaries of Friedrich Kellner tells the story of two courageous and determined men. The first, Friedrich Kellner, a political activist who did all he could to stop the Nazis from obtaining power. The second, his grandson, Robert Scott Kellner who to this day uses his grandfather's diaries to alert people to the dangers of totalitarian ideologies. As a justice inspector during the Third Reich Friedrich Kellner did the only thing he could do, continue to refuse to join the Nazi Party, even at personal risk to himself, and to his wife, while secretly recording the horrific atrocities of the Nazi regime. Decades later and after a series of unfortunate events, Friedrich's grandson, Robert Scott Kellner, a petty officer in the American navy and an orphan from a very young age, nervously seeks out his Nazi grandfather only to discover a courageous opponent of the Nazis. Upon their life-changing encounter Scott makes a series of promises to his grandfather that he continues...Written by
There are sequences of events so improbable that a fiction writer could never get away with building a story around them. He would be ridiculed for insulting his audience by stretching the bounds of credibility.
Reality has no such limits. This film documents three generations; starting with a man, Friedrich Kellner, born in Germany late in the 19th century. A good Lutheran, injured while fighting for his country in the first world war, who developed a hatred for Nazis that was so powerful that he risked his life to chronicle the truth from inside the hideous regime.
Skip a generation to a four year old boy, Robert Scott Kellner, whose earliest memory was being left in a large building with every expectation that his mother would soon return to take him and his older brother and sister home. Only she never came, having abandoned her children at an orphanage to seek a more exciting life as a vaudeville chorus girl.
The child, who had never met his grandfather, was abandoned at about the time Friedrich was being liberated from his secret resistance to the Nazi yoke, a resistance manifested by a diary of life in Germany during the second world war.
The link between the two men is Fred William Kellner, Robert's father and Friedrich's son, whom if this were fiction would have been described more plausibly. But truth will not be denied. In spite of his father's hatred towards Nazism, Fred wanted to join the Hitler Youth. Trying to save his son from absorbing the pathological hatreds that had permeated Germany, the young man was sent to live with family in the United States.
There he met and married a beautiful young woman who happened to be Jewish, reviled as "untermenchen" by those now in power in the land of his birth. Shortly after Robert was born he abandoned the family; and tragically several years later, after a single visit to the orphanage, took his own life.
Robert now had no one. His stay at the orphanage coincided with a dark era when control was vested in a couple whose vision of child rearing was Dickensian in it's cruelty. With no appeals possible he endured physical pain, and worse, separation from his brother and sister.
In one scene he describes looking through the fence at the children outside the orphanage with an envy of their freedom. It reminded me of the words of a friend long ago as he described his feelings seeing the children outside of his labor camp in Nazi occupied Poland:
"I saw that the kids were walking, just walking where they wanted.... free. We were only marched--in a group...from place to place"
Robert, by the accident of his life in an oppressive cruel orphanage, may have been given just a glimpse of what those of his mother's people had faced under the regime that his grandfather so hated.
Robert left the orphanage as soon he as was of age, and in his own words became a "juvenile delinquent" a lost uneducated kid of the streets, grabbing at the opportunity for something to hang on to by joining the Navy.
Added to the implausibility of Friedrich surviving his overt opposition to the Nazi regime, is how Robert finally connected with his grandparents, the effect on each others lives, and then, how this uneducated street kid managed to obtain a doctorate in English Literature and dedicate his life to publishing his grandfather's historic diary.
This film, like all important works of art, does more than entertain. It evokes questions with no answers. It illustrates the common thread of humanity, of family, that provide continuity even as it crosses historical epochs.
History never repeats itself in detail, but only in underlying themes, disguised enough that they are usually not recognized by those living through them. Friedrich Kellner was one of the few who saw the inevitable consequences of Hitler's plan, while many of his desperate compatriots welcomed him as their savior.
Robert Scott Kellner has chosen a worthy task in trying to keep his grandfather's work alive, for the history of life under the Nazi regime, but more importantly for exalting an example of personal courage that transcends individual self preservation.
This is the story of a era, given vitality by a single family. From a man born in Germany in 1885 who decided chronicling his country's debasement was more important than life itself, to his grandson, born in America in 1941, without whom the goal of his grandfather's sacrifice would never have reached fruition, as his diary would have been lost to history.
This film is actually part of the essential element of this story---as it advances the preservation and promulgation of Friedrich's life work. When we watch it, when we describe it to others, we are fulfilling his goal, and validating personal courage, which is is all we ever have to counter evil such as he chronicled.
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