People are crushed into a freight wagon, the train starts moving, a German soldier is seen running after the train as it disappears into the night. A voice off-stage asks “Why are we digging up the past again?” The answer lies in this story, told in the form of a flashback. It is set in a small Bulgarian town in 1943.
Walter, a young German officer, spends a few quiet weeks in this occupied country far from the front lines. He has even learned a few morsels of this foreign language. He is not a fanatical soldier by any means, gets on well with the local people and pursues his hobby while on duty as well as off, although his captain has already admonished him about his drawings on one occasion. A convoy of Jewish prisoners arrives. One of the prisoners is Ruth, a young woman who asks him to help a pregnant woman. “All Germans are the same, they are all wolves,” says Ruth when Walter appears unwilling to help at first. Initially unaware of the prisoners’ fate, he asks his friend Kurt: “What is Auschwitz?” He is better informed and replies: “A place of no return!” Walter is shaken by Ruth’s accusation and her probable fate which he begins to suspect with a fair degree of certainty. Walter wants to help her escape. However, his friend Kurt has not told him the truth about the prisoners’ departure and his preparations are too late. All he sees is the departing train. —German Film Archive
Konrad Wolf was born in Hechingen in 1925 and died in Berlin in 1982. In 1933, his family emigrated to the Soviet Union. At the age of 18, he joined the Red Army and came to Germany as a lieutenant in 1945. He studied Directing at the Moscow Film School in 1949 and worked as an assistant director to Kurt Maetzig at the DEFA Studios in 1953. His first feature film was Einmal ist keinmal (1955). From 1965, Wolf was president of the East German Academy of Arts. His major films include: Genesung (1956), Lissy (1957), Sun Seekers (Sonnensucher, 1958), Stars (Sterne, 1959), The Divided Sky (Der geteilte Himmel, 1964), I Was Nineteen (Ich war 19, 1967), The Naked Man in the Stadium (Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz, 1974), and Mama, I’m Alive (Mama, ich lebe, 1976). —german films