Film & Television

‘The Invisibles’

There have been many heartbreaking movies that depict the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps. And we are all familiar with the story of Anne Frank. The Invisibles offers a different view into life under the Third Reich. The four stories, which overlap once in a while, have similarities, but each is also unique. Historic figures add a feeling of veracity, although there is never a doubt that what we are hearing and seeing is absolutely true. Werner Scharff, the man Eugen met who had escaped Theresienstadt, was arrested and executed in 1944. Another recurring real-life figure, the striking Stella Goldschlag, was a young Jewish girl who led the Nazis to other Jews who were hiding, in exchange for their promise not to transport her parents. She attempts to ensnare Ruth’s friend Ellen, and would have succeeded in trapping Cioma had she not experienced a moment of conscience. “Do you want to see where I’m living?” he eagerly asks her after they’ve had coffee together. “I think that would be a mistake,” she tells him.

The Invisibles is thrilling to watch. Even though we know that the four protagonists survive, there are many others, Jews and Aryans alike, whose lives are in constant jeopardy. And, while the Nazis have discounted life to the point that they treat Jews as subhuman, the value of life is celebrated by each survivor. “I don’t know if I was scared or not,” Lévy remembers, “I just know I had the will to live.”

When the Russians enter Berlin, the world is turned upside down. “We’re not German, we’re Jewish!” each group of survivors announces to the soldiers. The hidden truth that would have been their death sentence for the past three years becomes their key to freedom and life.

At the end of the film, we learn where each of the survivors went after the war, and how many children and grandchildren they had. Two have passed away since their interviews (which took place in 2009). Two are still alive today. What an incredible legacy they’ve left — it’s particularly valuable in a time when nationalism, along with its uglier relative, xenophobia, is becoming strong in so many countries, including the U.S.

The Invisibles is a movie filled with compassion and bravery. We are left admiring the wherewithal of four brave young people who defied the odds and lived. We are also left in awe of those that Israel has declared to be Righteous Among the Nations, the Christians and Communists who risked their lives and the lives of their families to do what was right in the face of unimaginable evil.

Our goal, of course, is to never be faced with such impossible choices. But our hope is that if we ever are, we will act as those selfless heroes and heroines did.

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  • Barbara Lovenheim March 13, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    You might want to read my book Survival in the Shadows : Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler’s Berlin that was published several years ago in the US, England and Germany. It is the detailed story of the Lewinsky and Gumpel families who hid in a small factory for several years, protected by Max and Anne Gehre and some 50 other Germans who were trying to protect Jews. I met and interviewed the Arndt/Gumpel family in my hometown, Rochester, New York, and interviewed them over a period of two years. The book—Survival in the Shadows: Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler’s Berlin— is still selling well — you may want to read it. I thought the film was difficult to follow and muddy, altho’ I liked Ruth’s narrative and thought she did a good job.

    Barbara Lovenheim