French theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Agnieszka Holland|
|Produced by||Artur Brauner|
|Screenplay by||Agnieszka Holland|
|Based on||I Was Hitler Youth Salomon |
by Solomon Perel
|Music by||Zbigniew Preisner|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures (US)|
|November 14, 1990 (France)|
|Box office||$5,575,738 (domestic)|
Europa Europa (German: Hitlerjunge Salomon, lit. "Hitler Youth Salomon") is a 1990 historical war drama film directed by Agnieszka Holland. It is based on the 1989 autobiography of Solomon Perel, a German Jewish boy who escaped the Holocaust by masquerading as a "Nazi" German. The film stars Marco Hofschneider as Perel; who appears briefly as himself in the finale. The film is an international co-production between the German company CCC Film and companies in France and Poland. The film should not be confused with the 1991 Lars von Trier film Europa, which was initially released as Zentropa in the United States to avoid confusion.
Solek (a Polish nickname for Solomon) and his family live in Nazi Germany. On the eve of Solek's bar mitzvah, Kristallnacht occurs. He escapes, naked, and hides in a barrel. At night, he asks an acquaintance to bring him clothes from his house. She refuses but throws him a leather jacket with a swastika armband. He returns home to his family but his sister is dead, killed by Nazis. His father, who was born in Łódź, Poland, decides to move back there.
The Perel family (Solek, his parents, his two brothers, David and Isaak) decides to move to Łódź, central Poland, where the family believes it will be safe. Solly causes criminal damage and the police are called. Living in Łódź, Solly meets Basia, a cashier working in a cinema. Thanks to her, Solly can go to the cinema without paying for tickets. Later, they establish a romantic relationship. Less than a year later, World War II begins with the German Invasion of Poland. Solly is happy that the criminal case will be forgotten, since the police will have more important matters to attend to. Solek's family decides he and his brother should leave for Eastern Europe. Solek meets hysterically upset Kasia but his brother separates them. Isaak and Solek flee towards the eastern border of Poland, only to find the Soviet invasion of Poland. (In an ironic scene, as Solek and other Jewish refugees cross a river in a small boat, while a boat carrying Polish refugees fleeing the Soviets, passes in the opposite direction, Solomon explains in an internal monologue that the Jews, fearing Nazi persecution, fled toward the Soviets, while the Poles, who feared the Soviets more, fled toward the Germans.) The brothers are separated and Solek is placed in a Soviet orphanage in Grodno with other Polish refugee children.
Solek lives in the orphanage for two years, where he joins the Komsomol and receives Communist education. Being a teenager, he has a romantic interest in Inna, a young and attractive instructor who defends him when the authorities at school discover that his class origin is bourgeois. He even climbs outside the building to watch her in her bedroom. One scene features a Russian version of the German Communist song Dem Morgenrot Entgegen ("Towards The Dawn") before mail call, where Solek receives a letter from his parents who have been imprisoned in a ghetto.
Nazi-occupied Soviet Union
With the crash of a bomb, Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, begins. The orphanage is evacuated but Solek is left behind, to be found by German soldiers. Solek gets rid of his identity papers and tells the Germans he is "Josef Peters", a Volksdeutscher (ethnic German) from a Baltic German family in Latvia. Although he does not respond to his made-up name, the soldiers deduce that he was in the orphanage because his parents were killed by the Soviets and promise him vengeance. When the unit captures Yakov Dzhugashvili, the son of Joseph Stalin (with Solly's help translating Russian), they declare "Jupp" to be their good-luck charm and adopt him as an auxiliary. Thanks to his fluent German and Russian, he becomes their interpreter. He accompanies the unit for several weeks and sees all the horrors of war, including murdered civilians, as the Germans seek to crush Soviet resistance.
Solek remains in danger; he cannot let anyone see him bathing, because his circumcised penis would expose "Jupp" as a Jew. Robert, one of the soldiers and a homosexual, sneaks in on "Jupp" when he finally manages a private bath. Solek rejects Robert's advances but knowing that both of them have secrets the Nazis would kill them for, they become close friends. A bizarre combat incident occurs. Robert is killed and Solek, left alone, tries to get to the Soviet lines. As he crosses a bridge, the unit charges across behind him and the Soviet troops surrender; "Jupp" is hailed as a hero. The company commander decides that "such a fine young German" should be properly educated. He is childless, so he tells "Jupp" that he will adopt him and send him to the elite Hitler Youth Academy in Braunschweig to receive Nazi education, much to Solek's consternation. He is escorted for much of the trip by Rosemarie, a middle-aged female Nazi official. Rosemarie thinks "Jupp" resembles Hitler and observes that he even has the same birthday. On the train, they have sex, with her crying out "Mein Führer!" as she climaxes, without her noticing that he is circumcised.
At the school, "Peters" is introduced to the other boys as a heroic combat veteran. Solek tries to disguise his circumcision with string and rubber bands in various painful ways to simulate a foreskin. He evades a medical examination by pretending to have toothache and then must endure having the dentist pull it without anaesthetic.
Girls from the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth) serve meals at the Academy. Leni, one of these girls, becomes infatuated with "Jupp" but he dares not take advantage. Leni is a fervent Nazi and even speaks of wanting to kill Jews. Leni strongly hints that she would happily bear his child but after a particularly venomous anti-Jewish remark, he refuses any intimacy. She calls him a Schlappschwanz (limp-dick) and they break off.
A less serious threat is the visit to the Academy of a Nazi "expert" in "racial science", who claims particular skill in detecting Jews. The Nazi selects "Jupp" as his subject for a demonstration and carefully measures his head and face. He then calculates "Jupp"'s anthropometric indices and pronounces him mixed but "pure Aryan stock", to Jupp's relieved surprise. Soon after, while working in a factory for the war effort, Jupp and his classmates learn that the German 6th Army has been defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad.
After several months without seeing Leni, Solek visits Leni's mother, who does not sympathize with the Nazis. She tells him Leni is pregnant and intends to "give the child to the Führer", in the Lebensborn program. Solek realizes that the child's father is his best friend and classmate Gerd. When Leni's mother presses Josef on his identity, he breaks down and confesses that he is Jewish; she tells him that she suspected that and promises not to betray him. Leni never finds out.
Solek's pretense is nearly exposed when the Gestapo investigates "Jupp"'s supposed parentage. He is summoned to Gestapo offices but cannot show a Certificate of Racial Purity, which he claims is in Grodno. The Gestapo official says he will send for it and then rants about how the war will be won by Hitler's Wunderwaffen (wonder weapons). As Solek leaves, the building is destroyed by Allied bombs; Solek's relief is tempered by Gerd's death in the bombing.
Soviet-occupied Nazi Germany
As Soviet troops close in on Berlin, the Hitler Youth at the school are sent to the front and Solek manages to surrender. His captors refuse to believe that he is a Jew. "If you're a Jew, why don't you look like this? Look!" demands a Soviet officer as he shows Solek photos of murdered Jews from death camps they had liberated. Jupp had not been aware this was going on. They are about to have Solek shot by an elderly Communist political prisoner (wearing a red triangle on his camp uniform) when Solek's brother Isaak, just released from a concentration camp, recognises Solek and saves him. Before leaving the camp, Isaak tells Solek to never reveal his story to anyone, saying it would never be believed. He is released shortly thereafter and emigrates to the British Mandate of Palestine, the future state of Israel, where he embraces his Jewish heritage. The films ends with the real Solomon Perel, as an old man, singing a Jewish folk song taken from the Book of Psalms ("Hine Ma Tov," Psalm 133:1).
The film was released on June 28, 1991, and grossed $31,433 in its opening weekend in two theaters. Its final grossing in the US was $5,575,738.
The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost the award to The Silence of the Lambs. It had been expected to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, but Germany did not submit it.
|Marco Hofschneider||Solomon Perel|
|Halina Łabonarska||Leni's Mother|
|Klaus Abramowsky||Solomon's Dad|
|Michèle Gleizer||Solomon's Mum|
|Martin Maria Blau||Ulmayer|
- "Hitlerjunge Salomon". filmportal.de (in German). Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Europa Europa". British Film Institute. London: BFI Film & Television Database. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Europa Europa". Bifi.fr (in French). Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Europa Europa at Box Office Mojo
- "Monthly Polish Film Screening:Europa, Europa-a film by Agnieszka Holland – Austin Polish Society". Retrieved 2019-05-14.