Directed by: Ludi Boeken | 95 minutes | drama, history | Actors: Veronica Ferres, Armin Rohde, Lia Hoensbroech, Martin Horn, Margarita Broich, Luisa Mix, Tjard Krusius, Kilian Schüler, Marlon Kittel, Veit Stübner, Daniel Flieger, Nicole Unger, Anna Ehrichlandwehr, Marga Spiegel, Anni Aschoff
“I had the privilege of having personally known a number of heroes who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II: ordinary men and women who, at the risk of their lives and their families, did what they thought was necessary, only driven by their own morals, ”says Dutch director Ludi Boeken. He published ‘Unter Bauern’ (2009), the first German film in which the phenomenon of ‘going into hiding’ is discussed. The film, based on the memoirs of Marga Spiegel (now 98), focuses on farmers in Westphalia who take Jewish people into hiding. “The big difference between the heroes I met during my childhood, the rescuers of my family, and the peasants of Westphalia in this film is that they were Germans. Germans in Nazi Germany during the war, and not residents of a land occupied by a foreign enemy. ” The families that Boeken focuses on, the people who took care of Marga Spiegel and her family, were only connected to the outside world via state radio, but could still muster the courage to help someone in need. Their actions were barely recognized after the war and Boeken wants to change that with his feature film.
Menne Spiegel (Armin Rohde) is a Jewish horse dealer who is famous in Westphalia. He was wonderfully out of harm’s way for the first few years of the Second World War, but in 1943 – when the Nazis wanted to deport the last remaining Jews – he was no longer certain of his life. It is time for him to go into hiding with his wife Marga (Veronica Ferres) and daughter Karin. He approaches Heinrich Aschoff (Martin Horn), a farmer with whom he fought side by side in World War I. He thinks it is good that Marga and Karin come to live on the farm, supposedly as homeless evacuees. Menne himself can hide on another farm nearby. Helping Jews is punishable by death. Only the farmer and his wife (Margarita Broich) know the true background of the new guests, who adapt quickly and participate in farm work. A deep friendship even develops between Marga and Anni (Lia Hoensbroech), the daughter of the house, even though the latter is in love with the leader of the local Hitler youth. The Nazis are very vigilant and keep a close eye on everything …
The Germans are increasingly trying to come to terms with their past. The series of war films, including ‘Der Untergang’ (2004) and ‘Sophie Scholl’ (2005), made by our eastern neighbors in recent years, continues to expand. With ‘Unter Bauern’ another new taboo has been broken. Because the fact that there were also people in Germany who protected and submerged others, was still denied by many – especially of the older generations. At least, they refused to believe it was possible in Nazi Germany. They believed that the act of resistance was impossible and therefore meaningless, and so justify those who did nothing, who were guilty of nothing. To illustrate, only a few institutions and brave individuals in Germany ultimately supported the film. Just because the film serves a general good to Germans – and others – who want to lick their wounds from World War II, ‘Unter Bauern’ is worth it. The film itself is also well put together and is especially praised for its realism. There is no spectacle – and unfortunately also a bit of tension. Perhaps because we know that Marga will at least end well…?
The lead roles are played by Veronica Ferres and Armin Rohde, two popular German actors who put their best foot forward. The supporting roles are also excellently filled, with a special mention for Margarita Broich and the young Lia Hoensbroech. Another nice thing about this film is that the exploits of the Aschoff family (and others) are not dramatized. They are ordinary people, for whom everyday life runs smoothly. They don’t shout their acts of resistance from the rooftops. In fact: Heinrich is even a member of the Nazi party and Anni is a member of the Hitler Youth and is also in love with one of the leaders of that club. Although that all sounds very wrong, these are still ‘good’ Germans. They have a lot to spare to save a friend. In the end, when salvation is near, ‘Unter Bauern’ has its most tense moment, when the Allies cannot distinguish between good and bad Germans. Ludi Boeken made a fascinating, sometimes moving but above all necessary film with ‘Unter Bauern’.