Documentary about a Jewish teenager and a soldier who joined a doomed plot to kill Hitler but survived to outwit Nazi terror and become the first couple married in post-war Berlin.
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If you're young, you do all sorts of things...
that you might not do ten years later.
Helmuth I met when I was 14 - and he was 15 - at a dancing school.
Mother got this - I'll never forget it - dress which was French,
had long sleeves and was short to the knee.
I must have looked very nice in it.
I wasn't sure how I looked at all. I was very unsure of myself.
He was a very good dancer and I liked to dance very much.
And we danced all night long
until one very pretty girl came up to him and said,
"If you don't stop dancing with this girl,
"I will never kiss you again."
I was thrilled to see that he continued to dance with me.
And we danced the entire evening.
Helmuth was very good looking,
which made me very suspicious of him.
And he declared that he fell in love with my then,
but I didn't know what that was and I didn't take it seriously.
We then did not see each other again for years.
I was 13 when Hitler took office.
The first change that I noticed happened at school.
My classroom teacher handed out a stack of envelopes and said,
"Have your parents fill this out and bring it back tomorrow."
It was a note that instructed my parents
to let the school know if I was Aryan or Jewish.
Being 5'10", having the blonde hair
and looking like the prototype of Hitler's Germanic vision,
I didn't think there was anything Jewish about me at that time.
At dinner, I handed my parents the envelope
and they grew silent.
My father explained it to me.
My mother's parents had been Jewish,
but then had converted to Christianity.
My immediate response was, "So what's the big deal?"
According to the Nuremberg Race Laws, my mother was Jewish...
..and therefore I was a half-Jew.
That meant I could not marry or go to university.
It made me very angry,
because everything was made impossible for me.
You know, the two things that girls of that age think about,
at least in my generation,
was either to get married or go to college.
And I couldn't do either.
My story is really not a Holocaust story,
because my father was not Jewish.
Yet Hitler labelled me
and I was determined to do whatever I could to get back at him.
The high school teachers were very good teachers.
But in the Nazi time, we got this terrible man.
He was a top SS Nazi.
One day when I didn't do my homework the SS man pulled me aside.
He said, "As of tomorrow, you will come to my office for a week
"and you will stand in front of my door
"and raise you arm in the Hitler salute for half an hour."
My father was furious.
He called up a doctor friend and we wrapped my right arm in a cast.
I arrived the next day in a sling and said,
"Sorry, it seems I can't raise my arm.
"Would you like me to salute with my left arm?"
The SS man was furious, but there was nothing he could do.
I was very naughty.
My parents suggested that I get out of the country,
so that I could I perhaps go to university
or do something out there as long as they could still give me money.
I was 18 going on 19 when I left.
My mother called.
I could hear fear in her voice.
She was choking up and she told me not to come home to Berlin.
That "Auntie" is crazy.
She's impossible to live with.
And that we don't know what to do with "Auntie".
Telephones were already tapped and we always spoke in code.
In our family, "Auntie" was our code name for Hitler.
It was 1939, September.
And it was then that the war began.
-'Adolf Hitler's all-out attack on Poland
'makes the long dreaded European war a certainty.'
Sitting in Switzerland, where I could read all of it,
hear all of it -
it was even worse because we knew everything.
I knew that the persecution of the Jews was getting worse each month
and that my mother was in danger.
And I knew that my father could no longer get out of Germany.
My parents were already older - my mother was 38 when she had me.
I was the one to help them.
So I took the train and returned home without anybody's permission.
I entered a war zone.
Life in Berlin had changed during my time away.
THE SOLDIERS CHANT
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The SS would round up Jews on occasion.
And when they did, an Aryan friend,
who worked at the Propaganda Ministry, tipped us off.
And we would leave town for a few days.
It was during one such pogrom
that my parents and I left to go skiing for Christmas.
Around four in the afternoon, I quit skiing
and joined my parents for hot chocolate at a lovely hotel.
There was dancing and music and, to my amazement, even American jazz.
Amongst the young officers on furlough,
I saw my friend, Helmuth, standing.
He seemed very happy to see me and, of course, we danced.
The next day, I skied with Helmuth
but realised almost immediately that he was not a good skier.
He spent most of his time falling,
yet remained unbelievably good-natured.
The next morning, I called to invite him to our house.
And his mum picked up the phone and screamed,
"Jutta, what have you done?!"
She told me that Helmuth was covered in black and blues
and in no condition to speak to me.
Just then, Helmuth grabbed the phone
and said that he would love to see me.
I guess his mother was just being protective.
We spent the day walking through town.
And we talked about old times, mutual friends,
and not much about politics.
He told me that he had seen me all my life and always wanted me.
I think you could call it a crush.
He was very good looking and a really good person,
and a bright one, which is a nice combination.
Sometimes, you have one or the other
but I feel I had absolutely everything.
TRAIN HORN BLARES
After the holidays, Helmuth joined a unit at the front
and we agreed to stay in touch.
It was honourable to fight for one's country
and he assumed it was the proper thing to do.
'Isn't it fabulous that I'm writing to you again today?
'Yet since I dreamed of you again last night,
'I consider it a necessity.
'I will make it my custom to write whenever I dream of you.
'Who knows how much longer I will be able to dream?
-'The leaders of Nazi Germany
'shifted their war machine into high gear.'
'Nazis are marching ahead at the fastest speed
'a conquering army has moved in all history.'
'Nazi Stuka dive bombers
'are strafing and bombing thousands of helpless women and children.'
'The first great phase of the war in the west
'has been won by Germany.'
Each night, my parents and I pulled the shades in the house.
We huddled around the radio and kept the volume low.
-'This effort of the Germans...'
We listened to the BBC. It was considered a treasonous act.
There were quite a few Germans who were against Hitler,
which is one of the reasons that I talk about it.
Because so often people think that everybody was a Nazi.
There were a lot of very good Germans who were very sad
about what was happening to their country.
We met in small groups called tea circles,
where we openly discussed the situation in German
and felt that nothing would ever change
unless one did something about it.
I had good friends.
I had wonderful friends.
Helmuth saw first-hand the cruelty of Hitler's orders.
He and his artillery unit were told to bomb soft targets
such as Russian towns filled with women and children.
He and those in his unit refused
and gave the order to everybody to shoot away from where people lived
so that they had a chance to go and hide.
But after that warning shot,
they were forced to adjust their aim and aim for the town centre.
More and more injured soldiers spilled back into Berlin.
For me, it meant that my friends returned home.
Werner von Haeften was sent back from the war in Africa,
having suffered a terrible wound.
At the time when the Jewish question was so important,
he was one of my biggest helpers.
And he was certainly against Hitler.
KNOCK ON DOOR
One evening, Werner von Haeften came to our house to ask a favour.
A dangerous favour.
He asked us whether or not we would be willing to hide a man
who was looked for by the Gestapo.
And my father said, "This is entirely dependent on my wife.
"I can't expect her to say yes to that."
Werner felt badly, in a way, that he was asking us.
He said, "We are desperate.
"This man knows all of our names,
"all of the names of people who are actively against Hitler.
"And if he is caught, it will be dreadful."
And so we harboured a fugitive.
Gehre was a nervous wreck and he was worn down.
We'd find him smoking cigarettes in our garden,
right under the windows of our neighbours, who were ardent Nazis.
His behaviour was erratic and dangerous.
But it was very difficult to smuggle someone out of the country.
So he stayed with us much longer than anticipated.
-'My dear Jutta. You won't believe it, I am still alive.
'The last two months were absolute shit.'
'No-one would have guessed that we would still be fighting in Russia at this late date.
'Our chances for an end are diminishing,
'while our hopes for an end increase.
'To be so alone, knowing that you are so far away,
'is really insufferable.
'I kiss your mouth, your face and I believe in you.
As the Germans withdrew, a shell burst right next to him
and cut through his lower arm but didn't kill him.
Helmuth made the long journey back to Germany,
where he began his slow recovery.
Now I saw a side of him that I'd never seen before.
His blind optimism turned more serious.
The war had changed him.
'I am, for once, lying on my bed on my tummy to write to you.
'I hope you can read my still-awful writing -
'I am trying to use my left hand.
'In such days, everything seems to come together -
'fever, horrid pain with medication
'that does not do a thing to make me feel better.
'I have to get 100% well to be my old self once more.
'I hope you can come visit me soon.
'Please. Do it soon.'
Each time we saw each other,
Helmuth urged me to tell him more about the political situation.
Details that had been kept from the soldiers.
I just felt that he needed to know.
He had no clue.
'..in order to hold one nation together,
'as we have seen under Hitler,'
There had already been multiple attempts on Hitler's life.
But time and time again, it was a military oath that prevented mutiny.
Und sind trotzdem Soldaten...
THEY PLAY A FANFARE
# Wir sind die Manner vom Bauernstand... #
Many officers felt that regardless of how much they disapproved of Hitler,
they had sworn their allegiance to him
and once they had given their word, that was final.
There is something, which is very Germanic, of that generation
of honour to the point of destruction.
-'Mein Liebling, meine Seele.
'There is a lot of defiance in that that we have to muster.
'We can do it, despite everything.'
He begged me to find a job where he might do something against Hitler.
There was one person I knew
who was deeply involved in a military plot to kill Hitler.
I didn't know the details, of course.
I broached the subject with Werner von Haeften over dinner.
He had never met Helmuth before and his first reaction was to say,
"How do I know he's not a spy and can be trusted?"
Werner had always been easy-going.
But on that night, I saw him deadly serious.
He was wearing a uniform and a revolver.
And that's something he never did.
Who wears a gun to dinner?
Even in Berlin, no-one did that.
So I teased him and said, "Do you plan on shooting someone tonight?"
He looked me straight in the eyes and said,
"These are dangerous times."
And that was enough for me not to ask any more questions.
I knew something was up.
Werner met Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg in 1943.
They shared their profound hatred for Hitler
and decided that the only way to stop Hitler was to kill him.
'The plot itself was under the name "Walkure"
'and, of course, top secret.
'Hitler himself had authorised Walkure,
'yet he had no idea that it was a cover-up for his own assassination.
'Stauffenberg and other anti-Hitler military officers
'expanded upon Valkyrie to make it the secret plan
'for the Resistance to take control of the armed forces
'and install a government that would end the war
'and undo Nazi policies.'
'So often, I am terribly frightened that I could lose you.
'You have to try and protect yourself,
'so not to destroy our happiness.
'It no longer is only your life or that of your parents.
'You have to think about our future, the beauty of our love.
'Promise me to be careful.
'Even difficult times pass to make room for better and happier ones,
'those full of joy and without constant fear.'
In 1944, Helmuth left the hospital in Frankfurt
and moved into our house in Berlin.
We had very nice evenings at my parents' house
and sometimes we would go out, but there wasn't a lot of that
because he didn't come back until the terrible bombing.
You had bombing during the day and bombing at night,
you know, and nowhere to go, really,
other than to be glad that your house was still standing.
So this was not a time for dates.
'Haeften came to my office and told me
'that, sometime in the near future, he might call on me.
'He made a remark to the effect that, well, maybe sometime
'Hitler will be dead or will be killed or something like that.
'That was about the only indication which clicked with me immediately
'that something was very close, something was going to happen.'
He would not speak to me about what he was doing
or about what was going on.
And he sent me and my mother away so we would be out of the way.
So we went into the mountains.
And then this happened.
PLANE ENGINE DRONES
And everything fell apart.
By then, they realised that the plot was doomed.
Van Haeften pulled Helmuth aside.
He knew that Helmuth and I were in love.
And he told Helmuth to save himself, to leave the building.
Haeften and Stauffenberg were shot that same evening.
They were the heroes who said, "Yes, we did it.
"We wanted to have a better country. And you have ruined it."
That was their goodbye.
He didn't want to endanger me, so he spent the entire night
burning all of our photographs and love letters.
Anything which might show that he and I were a couple.
It's ironic that he had to erase our past...
..in order for us to have a future.
-'July 21st, 1944, 4am.
'Dearest, I cannot write a lot tonight.
'There is much to think about to put things in order.
'Who knows whether we will see each other again and when.
'In the next few hours, we will have to say goodbye to each other,
'to everything, and maybe forever.
'There will never be a greater love than ours, or one more tragic.
'Goodbye. I love you more than ever, H.'
So the next day he reported to work at the Bendlerblock as usual
and played innocent,
but was promptly arrested.
Those who conspired against Hitler now faced his wrath.
Every day, somebody you knew was arrested.
Gehre, the man we had hidden,
buckled under the additional pressure.
He lost his nerve and left his hiding place
and shot himself, and missed.
He only shot himself blind.
For him to be caught was a disaster.
He knew everything - our names, our address.
On October 4th, the Gestapo had arrested my parents.
I arrived home, no light.
Nobody was there and on the floor, there was no message.
I was, naturally, a wreck. I kept thinking what to do next.
I ran out of the house for fear that the Gestapo would return and arrest me.
And then I hid for two weeks.
And it's terribly scary...
..because you have no idea what's going to happen to you.
It was fall of 1944.
Germany was losing the war on both fronts,
yet Hitler focused a great deal on the swift justice against the conspirators.
He created the so-called People's Court.
The court was presided by Mr Freisler, an absolute devil.
And blood was flowing in that court.
HE SHOUTS IN GERMAN:
On the 15th October,
Helmuth was going to be called before the People's Court.
And all of those people were damned to death.
I was sure that my mother would be gassed
and my father would be dead.
I didn't think I would see anybody ever again.
In a war, you become sort of, um...
You either become terribly afraid
or you say, "To hell with it" and continue.
And I'm afraid I'm the number two.
I was not going to cave in.
And if it weren't for the love affair,
I probably would have been a chicken.
I knew that the Gestapo was looking for me
and so I stayed one step ahead.
I'd go from friend to friend's house in the middle of the night,
the whole time I thought about
how I could help my parents and Helmuth survive.
I had really only two options.
One was for me to run away from Germany and go to Switzerland.
The other option was to turn myself in.
On October 14th, 1944,
I walked down to the Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albert-Strasse.
Once inside the building, I lost all fear.
I was in a strange mood, almost excited.
I was put into a small and miserable interview chamber and in came...
Stawitzky was his name.
"Why do you come to us?"
And I said, "I'm looking for my parents."
He stared me straight in the eyes
and wouldn't break eye contact even for a second.
I suddenly realised how much danger I was in.
"I can tell you where your parents are. They are arrested."
I said, "Why?"
Warum halten nicht Ihre Fragen?
He said, "You don't ask the questions, shut up."
He said, "Where have you been? We've been looking for you."
And he pulled out a mugshot.
He would say to you things like,
"Just you wait what we do to your mother
"and your father is already blabbing," kind of things,
trying to break me down.
And he was a simple, nasty piece of work.
One of the most awful fellows of the Gestapo,
who wanted to trip you up with the first thing you said
and then turn everything around.
And it became sort of a fight to keep my wits about me.
And with that, I was locked up in solitary confinement.
I knew I wanted to live.
But did my parents want the same? Did Helmuth?
As every prisoner did, I etched a calendar in the stucco wall
and I watched time pass.
I was in a single cell for one person,
which was, probably...
The width was probably from here to there.
And there was a wooden bed that would fall down
and it had all sorts of nice creatures living in it.
There seemed to be so little hope.
It was either in November or December when I was taken back
to the Gestapo headquarters for a second interrogation.
And he was sitting there, grinning at me
and said, "We have a surprise for you."
And somebody came in, crawling on all fours
and I realised it was Gehre, the man we had hidden.
He could no longer walk and he could hardly speak,
so he must have been tortured beyond the pale as many of them were.
He was no longer a human being.
It was just like an animal.
His first question was, "I'm sure he had a very nice time in your house."
And I just managed to say, "What are you talking about? Who is this?"
"I know you are a traitor of the German Reich," he screamed.
To which I remained silent.
And after an hour and a half of this interrogation,
Gehre was rolled back
and I was led out without having admitted to anything at all.
I decided to act sick.
That would give me regular medical visits from a doctor
and maybe the doctor would help me send and receive
information from the outside.
He agreed to help me communicate with the outside world.
So there was a band of information.
And that was wonderful for me, I had an idea where everybody was.
'I had joined a work squad in my prison
'in order to move some of the rubble against the basement windows.
'People who were in this work squad
'were considered less dangerous by our young guards.
'And that made at least my life more bearable.'
I didn't get details, but I heard that Helmuth was alive.
I heard that my father was alive.
But it was news of my mother that made my heart stop.
I heard that my mother had been brought to a concentration camp.
Ravensbruck was its name.
By then, we knew what happened to Jews in concentration camps.
-'Over the White House at Washington,
'the flag flies at half-staff as a grief-stricken nation
'mourns the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
'President of the United States.'
On April 12th, 1945, President Roosevelt died.
There was great excitement among the SS prison guards,
because they believed Hitler's propaganda
that America would bow out of the war and Germany would be victorious.
But it was the following day that the prison medic
injected me with the last placebo injection.
And his face was beaming.
He claimed to have the most extraordinary news.
My mother had been released.
I was stunned.
I just couldn't stop asking.
He said he didn't know very much,
but two SS people had delivered her in Berlin.
From that moment on, I was sure that we somehow would make it.
The two of us, at least, would make it.
-'The last flaming hours for a doomed city.
'Berlin, once mighty metropolis of a proud nation,
'now crumbles under the merciless pounding of Russian artillery.'
First, you bomb everything out as much as you can.
And then comes silence.
It's this eerie silence - nothing, no sound.
And then, suddenly, you hear sounds of the big boots.
And then you know they're coming.
The Battle of Berlin was one of the bloodiest battles in history.
People were dying everywhere.
Even Hitler himself had committed suicide and lay dead in a bunker.
We could hear the explosions get closer and closer to our prison.
There were very few of us left and we were all political prisoners.
So we kicked and kicked against the door and we said to them,
"If you don't let us out,
"we will make sure that you get killed by the Russians.
"You can hear them already, you know they are coming."
And, finally, they opened the door.
Finally I made it to the Hedyekampf house and there I found my mother.
My mother looked pitiful.
She was just skin and bones.
She only weighed 75 pounds, but it was a wonderful get-together.
We were in each other's arms for a long time.
And she felt like a bird.
DISTANT GUNFIRE AND EXPLOSIONS
The Russian soldiers were roaring drunk for an entire evening.
Totally out of control of their officers,
those who were not also drunk.
It was a disaster.
We didn't know what the Russians would do
other than they would come in and leave with women on hand.
And during that time, it was from one rape to another,
whether you were a grandmother, a young girl, or a child.
One evening, a young Russian officer found us in the basement.
He saw me and said, "Frau, komm mit."
So I did something, the only thing I could think of.
I was wonderful at being cross-eyed,
and made terrible gurgling and howling noise.
Moaning and, "Urrgh," and was as revolting as I could be,
like, throwing up, and all sorts of dreadful sounds.
He thought I was sick and moved away immediately,
because the Russians were terribly afraid of diseases.
The majority of the women in Berlin were not so lucky.
I had heard that my father had the last hearing
of the People's Court on April 23rd.
I was told that he had been condemned to death
for listening to the radio.
As far as Helmuth was concerned,
I loved him, and I thought of him constantly.
And I talked to him in my mind,
but I didn't think I would ever see him again.
My mother and I were depressed in many ways.
We had lost the men of our lives.
The door opened.
As we looked around, it wasn't a Russian soldier.
It was my father.
He walked in, looking as if he had just come from the golf course,
in somebody else's coat, well-fed.
It was an unbelievable, wonderful sight.
He had awaited execution when the Russians stormed the prison,
killed all the guards,
and let my father and all the prisoners go free.
Of course, you can imagine how happy everybody was.
We were standing there, completely overwhelmed, talking,
when - five minutes later - the door opens again.
And in walks Helmuth.
-'War in Europe has ended.
'The hour for which the world has been six years waiting has come.
'Unconditionally and finally, our German enemy has surrendered
'to Russia, to Britain and her Commonwealth,
'to America, to the people of all free nations.'
It was the first wedding in Berlin, as it turned out.
We looked like lovers, I'm sure,
but we didn't look like the usual bridal pair,
because we were so funnily dressed -
he had borrowed a suit that belonged to one of my other friends,
who was much bigger in all directions.
And I didn't have anything bridal.
I had found an old piece of lace
that I wrapped somehow around my head.
And he had cut a wonderful bouquet for me
of flowers that he found in a bombed-out garden.
It was just a great moment.
I think what makes our story unique is that there are four people
and all in different places under these circumstances.
None of us were injured. All four of use came together in one piece.
That is extraordinary, isn't it?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A Jewish teenager and an injured soldier join a doomed plot to kill Hitler. They face almost certain death, yet luck and love shine upon them as they outwit Nazi terror and become the first couple married in post-war Berlin. Narrated by the former teenager herself and featuring the original footage shot by her sweetheart, their story would sound like a pitch for a Hollywood blockbuster were it not all true. A harrowing tale of war, resistance, love and survival - and, miraculously, a happy ending.