I saw a special preview of “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” a German language contender for the Oscar in the foreign language category. It only makes one small reference to the Holocaust, but what struck me as unusual is how it inadvertently revealed how lenient the Nazi regime was toward dissidents it considered its own (“racially”).
The Nazis executed Sophie Scholl and her brother, but the Gestapo interrogator tried to get her off, the prison officials were considerate and even nice to her, most of the “White Rose” conspirators survived the war, and their families were investigated but neither prosecuted nor persecuted. If you were regarded as “non-Aryan,” especially a Jew, there was zero consideration toward a fellow human being; if you were one of their own — particularly an earnest school girl like Sophie Scholl — human compassion entered in.
As the regime became increasingly desperate and irrational toward the end of the war, particularly after the nearly successful plot to kill Hitler in July 1944, any manifestations of humanity — even toward their own — completely disappeared. (See film’s Web site.)
Another nominee for best foreign language film, “Paradise Now,” is of more direct Jewish interest. The Palestinian-Israeli filmmaker is accused by feminist writer Phyllis Chesler (who has veered sharply right recently) as rendering Israelis invisible or demonizing them, basically seeing them only as oppressive soldiers. Yet that, of course (along with nasty settler types), is precisely the Palestinian experience of Israeli Jews.
And the scene at a bus stop humanizes Israelis. Even the second bus, which a character probably blows up as the screen fades, shows young attractive Israeli conscripts happily chatting with each other in a very human way — not hard soldiers in battle dress.
The female lead argues against suicide bombing basically on tactical or strategic rather than moral grounds, but she clearly argues for non-violent human-rights oriented resistance. Still, it disturbed me that the argument for terrorism, made by one of the would-be bombers, was at least as powerful in its presentation as the woman activist’s case against it.