11 December 2006
I finally got to watch a film that I have being meaning to see for some time now. The film in question is Margarethe Von Trotta’s Rosenstrasse which deals with an incident in Berlin in 1943 which showed that non violent protest can sometimes win in the face of tyranny.
In early 1943 about 1700 Berlin Jews, mainly men married to non-Jewish women, were rounded up and taken to Rosenstrasse 2-4, a welfare office for the Jewish community in central Berlin, pending deportation to extermination camps. However, the wives and other relatives got wind of their spouses eventual destination and appeared at Rosenstrasse, first in ones and twos, and then in increasing numbers.
Joseph Goebbels, who was also Gauleiter of Berlin, was fully aware that shooting the women down in the streets would simply create antipathy to the regime and jeopardise the secrecy of the Final Solution. He therefore authorised the release of the Rosenstrasse prisoners and also ordered the return of 25 men who had already sent to Auschwitz.
The protesters and their elatives were not harmed, and most survived until the end of the war. By any standards it was an astonishing victory.
I had hoped the film would be of the stDownfallandard of or Sophie Scholl – the Final Days but it is not. It not bad but it is overlong and it does ad at least one fictional element to the protest (qv). That said, it did not deserve the panning it got from some critics including the New York Times
The film starts in New York with a Jewish widow Ruth Weinstein sitting Shiva. Ruth’s daughter learns that Ruth was taken in as a child by a woman called Lena after her own mother was deported to a concentration camp..
The daughter finds Lena in Berlin and interviews her pretending to be a researcher. Lena tells her the story of her own husband’s detention at Rosenstrasse and how the protest by the wives and family members secured their release
The film takes one irritating and fictional turn when Lena, who is from an aristocratic family, meets Goebbels himself. The film intimates that Lena was able to obtain the men’s freedom through sexual favour. This is utterly unnecessary.
One commenter on imdb states that von Trotta worked on the film for eight years and had to make compromises including adding the present day fictional element in order to have her film produced. This is a pity as I think this is unfortunate as it adds nothing to the film at all.
The website The Topography of Terror further information including personal accounts of those taking part and extracts from Goebbels own diary. The photograph above is a detail from "Block der Frauen" the memorial to the Rosenstrasse women. Click here for more pictures of the memorial
Rosenstrasse protest film WWII