East German GDR Films in Northeast USA

The Adventures of Werner Holt, A revealing story of young soldiers in Nazi Germany, directed by Joachim Kunert and co-written with Claus Küchenmeister (from the novel by Dieter Noll), was filmed in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Unlike Hollywood, which was much slower to portray Nazi horrors, this is a complex drama of the average German youth, torn between conscience and country.

The film begins at nearly the end of WWII, as the Russians and Americans are advancing closer to Berlin, with German soldiers deserting en masse. It finds Werner looking back on his school days and military service and at the events that have brought him and his comrades to the present disaster. The film concentrates on Werner and his closest male friends who are serving the Nazi state with various degrees of patriotic loyalty — even as the endgame is being played-out.

This and other East German anti-fascist films are in the archives of the DEFA (Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft), the state-run studios of the former German Democratic Republic and currently held at the Film Library at UMass Amherst. It is also available on DVD, distributed by First Run Features (FRF).

The DEFA library is rich in cold war and post-Nazi films, now on DVD, that serve as eye-opening tributes to the courage of filmmakers in a decidedly constricted Communist state.

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