Imagine that you are Jew living in Berlin under the Nazis and that to avoid deportation and the death camps you must go into hiding. Where can you find refuge? Whom can you trust? Family members have already been arrested and sent away. Every day you can run into a trap.
The dire circumstances are depicted in a two-tier drama, “The Invisibles: We want to Live,” directed by Claus Räfle , who co-wrote it with Alejandra Lopez. They have hit on their own way to tell the story. The format is past narrations by survivors interspersed with the dramatization of their harrowing accounts by actors. Although the approach can interrupt the action flow, the method constantly reminds us that we are watching the lives of real people, not characters in fiction.
In the process we see bravery, fear, betrayal, gestures of humanity and the constant terror as the war progresses until Germany’s defeat in 1945 amid bombings and the arrival of the Russians. Kind people try to hide Jews at risk to their lives, and some of those living underground become involved in writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets and trying in various ways to save other lives.
The four key people who were interviewed about their activities and survival and who speak to us on camera are Cioma Schönhaus, Ruth Gumpel, Eugen Friede and Hanni Lévy. The actors playing them in the dramatization are Max Wauff (Shönhaus), Alice Dwyer (Lévy), Ruby O. Fee (Gumpel) and Aaron Altaras (Friede).
One of the most interesting characters is Schönhaus, whose survivor account is especially impressive. This is also true in the dramatization, in which we see him become an expert in forging passports and documents to help a host of others.
The film traces the steps of those in hiding and includes revealing a situation in which a notorious woman, who is a Jew, is known for betraying other Jews whom she identifies.
One moment that is especially emotional occurs when two men coming out of hiding are confronted by Russian soldiers bent on vengeance against the Germans point guns at them and are about to kill them. The Russians refuse to believe it when the men frantically say they are Jews because the Russians believe all Jews have been eliminated. If they are Jews, one demands, they should recite a Jewish prayer. The men recite in unison the “shma yisrael.” Totally surprised, one of the Russians, who it turns out is also Jewish, hugs the men in a passionate demonstration of brotherhood.
Films about aspects of the Holocaust keep turning up and “The Invisibles” is a creatively absorbing one that can make one think of what it would be like to hide throughout a war in an effort to save one’s life against all odds. Only 1700 Jews managed to survive in Berlin. A Greenwich Entertainment release. Reviewed January 28, 2019.