Americans only know about the horrors of World War II through the movies that depict those years. “Remembrance” is based on a true story, and is likely one of many similar stories that came out of that unfortunate time. It is a beautiful story of love and remembrance, which many of us can relate to, even though our stories did not begin in the concentration camp at Auschwitz in 1944.
During World War II, more than one million people lost their lives at Auschwitz. Some prisoners were also subjected to barbaric medical experiments performed by Dr. Josef Mengele. Hitler was convinced that his Jewish problem could only be solved by the elimination of every Jew in Germany. In 1945, the Nazis ordered that Auschwitz was to be abandoned and 60,000 prisoners were sent on a forced march to other locations.
Alice Dwyer - Wikimedia
Hannah Silberstein (Alice Dwyer) is one of many German Jews confined to Auschwitz for her only offense, being a Jew. There, she meets Tomasz Limanowski (Mateusz Damiecki) who is in Auschwitz because he was a member of the Polish resistance. Because he is a political prisoner, Tomasz has been given a clerical job which is easy compared to Hannah’s job of washing floors every day. Each evening, Tomasz is able to bribe his office mate into leaving for a while so that he and Hannah can be alone in the office. He is able to give Hannah some bread to keep up her strength. Hannah has not told Tomasz that she is pregnant.
Tomasz continues to work for the resistance while he is a prisoner by stealing photographs of the crimes taking place against the prisoners. He then smuggles the films out of the camp so that the rest of the world will become aware of what is happening in Auschwitz. For Hannah’s protection, he has never revealed to her what he is doing for the resistance.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp - Wikimedia
They Make Their Escape
Tomasz has an escape plan in mind for the two of them. He has been able to confiscate a SS trooper’s uniform, and he takes Hannah with him, supposedly as a prisoner, to go to a nearby brothel. The guards tease him, but are not able to detect his Polish accent. The couple make their way into the woods where they sleep for the night. The next day, they are able to steal some clothes from a clothes line to complete their disguise. They have the good fortune to steal a roadster to make a clean getaway far from the camp.
Tomasz is able to find their way to his home outside of Warsaw where his mother Stefania is happy to see him; that is, until she finds out that Hannah is a German Jew and rages at Tomasz for bringing this danger into their house. Tomasz has the job of bringing his films to his brother Czeslav in Warsaw, who is also a member of the resistance. He tells Hannah that he will be gone for just a few days, and in the meantime, he has arranged for her to go to Czeslav’s house, where his wife Magdalena will welcome Hannah and where she will be safe.
Mateusz Damiecki - Damiecki
Before she is able to leave for Magdalena’s house, Hannah comes down with a fever and has a miscarriage. She is confined to a bedroom. A German soldier stops by and Stefania invites him in for coffee. She steps outside for a few minutes in the hope that the soldier will find Hannah and take her away. Hannah suspected Stefania’s betrayal and protected herself by hiding in a closet. The soldier did, indeed, step into the bedroom, expecting to find someone there, and was disappointed. Stefania also was disappointed that her ruse did not work. Hannah was so offended by Stefania’s actions that she left immediately to go to Magdalena’s house, taking with her a photograph of Tomasz which was a keepsake of his mother’s. She was welcomed by Magdalena, and she was able to take lessons in Polish while she was there.
Hannah Leaves for Berlin
Soon, Stefania showed up at Magdalena’s house, stating that the Russians had taken over her house and she had nowhere to go. When Czeslav returned from Warsaw, he was surprised that Tomasz was not there because Tomasz left Warsaw before Czeslav did. He decided that Tomasz must have been killed, but Hannah refused to believe that. Soon after, the Russians came to their house and took Czeslav and Magdalena away to a work camp, but left Hannah and Stefania behind. Hannah was so uncomfortable being with Stefania, she decided that she would return to her hometown, Berlin, even though it was winter and the weather was extremely cold. If it had not happened that a Red Cross van came across her lying in the snow, she would have been left for dead.
Dagmar Manzel - Wikimedia
1976 - Hannah Lives in Brooklyn
Interwoven in the story of Hannah and Tomasz in 1944, is the story of both of them in the year 1976. Hannah Levine (Dagmar Manzel) is happily married to her husband Daniel (David Rasche) and they have a daughter Rebecca who is probably in her twenties. It is unclear how Hannah made her way to New York City, where she met Daniel. They live in Brooklyn actually, and Hannah and Daniel are planning to host a party for Daniel’s colleagues. Early that day, Hannah went to pick up her table linens at the cleaners. While waiting for her merchandise, she caught a film on television which showed a man being interviewed about the time he spent in Auschwitz and about the girl he fell in love with there, whom he has not seen in 30 years. Hannah did not catch the man’s name, but believed that it was Tomasz.
Hannah Tries to Track Down Tomasz Again
At the party that evening, Hannah was totally distracted from her guests, which disturbed Daniel. She left the party for a while, supposedly to get some cigarettes, but went down near the river to think and to remember. When the guests left, Daniel questioned her behavior, and she was not able to tell him what was bothering her. He was able to find a notebook of hers in which she kept Tomasz’ picture and some documents she used to try to track down Tomasz through the Red Cross. She was finally able to tell Daniel and Rebecca about the television show where she suspected Tomasz had been interviewed. I thought that Daniel’s behavior was admirable, as he showed remarkable understanding of his wife’s dilemma.
Hannah Phones Tomasz
Hannah called the Red Cross again and they reopened her case which they had not been able to conclude back in the 1940’s. After several tries, the Red Cross located a Tomasz Limanowski in Poland, and gave Hannah his phone number. When she called Tomasz (Lech Mackiewicz) to tell him that it was Hannah Silberstein, he hung up, thinking it was a prank call. She called him right back. They were both shocked that the other one was still alive. Tomasz said he was a teacher, and had a daughter who lived with him. He was divorced from his wife.
Lech Mackiewicz - Wikimedia
Hannah Meets Tomasz in Poland
Daniel agreed that Hannah should go to Poland to meet Tomasz. The last scene shows Hannah getting off the bus in front of Tomasz’ school, where he stood waiting for her. I expected that more would be shown of their meeting, but the movie ended abruptly right there. The rest was left to the imagination of the viewer.
This was a beautiful story. It is something everyone should see. Here in the United States, we take our freedom for granted, and have no idea what the rest of the world has had to suffer. I’m glad that the story had a positive ending for the real characters that it portrayed.
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