A scene from HABERMANN, a film directed by Juraj Herz. Picture courtesy Corinth Films. All rights reserved.
- Ingrid Graber
- Zdenka Munzarova
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Opened: 08/05/2011 Limited
|Quad Cinema/NYC||08/05/2011 - 08/11/2011||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Czech/German Period Drama (German w/English subtitles)
German mill owner spends WWII trying to save his wife, daughter and Czech workers from Nazi terror, but faces his own tragic end in an unexpected way. Based on true events surrounding the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1945.
Based on true events HABERMANN is the Zirst major motion picture to dramatize the expulsion of 3 million Germans from Czechoslovakia. It was an action that also resulted in in the deaths of thousands of German civilians, and is still a controversial subject today.
The story begins in 1937 and follows the life of August Habermann, a German sawmill owner who lives in a small village near the northern border of Czechoslovakia. Well respected and rich he marries Jana, a young and beautiful Czech woman. Within a year they have a daughter.
Habermann's best friend is Jan Brezina, a Czech forester. He is married to Martha, a German, who is similarly a loyal friend to Jana. Their once comfortable lives undergo increased tension, however, when the region is annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. For Habermann, in particular, it signals the Zirst of many encounters with the ruthless SS ofZicer Major Koslowski.
Koslowski tolerates Habermann because he is German, but questions why he marries a Czech and hires mostly Czechs to work in his sawmill. His concern grows when some of Habermann's workers prove to have links to the Czech resistance movement.
But Koslowski is appeased by the fact that Habermann's younger brother, Hans, is a fervent Nazi supporter who joins the Hitler Youth and later the Wehrmacht to Zight at the Eastern Front. He also knows Habermann is reasonably wealthy and, before the war is over, knows he can use this knowledge for his own gain.
When two German soldiers are mysteriously found murdered, and Koslowski discovers Jana was actually born half--Jewish, he seizes the opportunity to extort the kind--hearted Habermann. He informs Habermann that he intends to execute 20 Czechs to avenge the deaths of his two soldiers. He also instructs him to select which ones should die. If he doesn't, he will deport Jana to a concentration camp. Habermann offers Koslowski his entire family fortune to buy the lives of the 20 Czechs, but Koslowski betrays him. He takes Habermann's fortune, executes ten locals, makes it appear Habermann is responsible, and deports Jana and his daughter to a concentration camp.
As the Soviets advance into the region, Koslowski arranges his escape via the Ratlines and his troops retreat -- but the German population stay. This has been their home for generations. But after years of Nazi occupation, the Czech population yearns for vengeance. They blame all Germans for the terror of the last 7 years and set out to expel them all from the region. Those who chose to remain could face deadly consequences.
Habermann's life is especially in danger since many think he is responsible for the 10 Czechs executed by Koslowski. They are convinced he was actually a willing participant in the crime. Habermann is aware of this but refuses to leave. Having lost his family and many others he cared about, he resigns himself to whatever awaits him.
Unbeknownst to Habermann his wife and daughter were liberated by the Soviet army and survived the Holocaust. They return home to learn the truth of his tragic end. They also uncover a startling family secret that had been buried for years.
The events happened more than sixty years ago, but their effects can be felt even today. If we want to understand the present, we have to know what happened in the past. The film starts with the expulsion: we know from the start how this story will end -- there is no escape. Then we are shown the events that led up to it. The story of HABERMANN ends after the "expulsion" of the Germans from the Sudetenland area bordering Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1945, and remains today one of the darkest chapters in the relationship between Germans and Czechs. The atrocities perpetrated in the course of the expulsion are a taboo to his date. Many Czechs do not want to be reminded of it, many Germans insist that they have been wronged bitterly at the time and that nobody has ever had to pay for this. There is now a new young generation that wants information about the past.
--Juraj Herz, Director