Divided We Fall: A Rare Humanitarian Holocaust Movie

Divided We Fall is a Czech movie by Jan Hřebejk which depicts how war and politics affected the normal life of Czechs during Nazi occupation in 1939 and their predicament when faced with crisis. It sensitively portrays dilemma of Czechs when they had to report their old Jew neighbors and friends to Nazis. It is a story of a simple couple who decide to hide a old Jew acquaintance in their attic and how their lives change dramatically along with the changing history and politics of the times.

Mary and Josef are amiable simple couple who watch Jews being driven away from neighborhoods with great unease. One day Josef encounters David, a Jew he knows and learns that David had been taken away to Poland and he had managed escape from concentration camps there to return stealthily to his homeland. Josef impulsively decides to take David in spite of his wife’s worst fears.

David is made to hide in the attic and this where the dilemma of the couple begins. Josef must pretend along with his Nazi sympathizing coworkers to avoid all suspicions for if David is discovered they would also be caught and tried as Jew supporters. They must handle Josef’s annoying co-worker Horst who drops in often make passes at Marie. When Marie rejects and ignores him, Horst tries to take revenge by asking them to give shelter to their Nazi boss. Marie impulsively lies that she is pregnant to tackle the situation. But later comes to know the bitter truth that Josef is impotent and their next predicament is to get Marie pregnant to turn her impulsive lie to truth once again because they simply cannot risk spilling the bean and risking David’s as well as their own lives.

To save the situation Josef decides to ask David to sleep with Marie so that she truly conceives and gets pregnant. Marie and David meanwhile have developed tender friendship but are unwilling to share the bed.  But they have no other choice and eventually Marie does get pregnant.  But by the time she is ready to deliver the child, Germans lose ground and once again all equations change and hell breaks loose. Josef, who had pretended to be Nazi sympathizer must now prove that he is not pro Nazi and he must produce David to show that he has been giving shelter to a Jew. So it is now David who saves life of Josef and Marie. They also manage to save their co-worker Horst who pretends to be Marie’s doctor and actually helps her to deliver the baby.

Divided We Fall is an amazing illuminating tale set in darkest of times. It reveals both, extreme human weakness in the face of adversity and also the human strength to rise above mundane existence to save a life and ability to cope with it all. The bottom line remains that wars, occupations and tyrannical rules can take whole society hostage but not the rare humane instinct to save life amid destruction. The last scene of the movie shows Josef strolling with child in the destroyed city. It is extremely symbolic – humanitarian spirit always survives and finds way through rubbles.

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  • Nakul Heble

    This story is somewhat similar to the Novel “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak.