Bye Bye Germany

(Es war einmal in Deutschland...)

At the end of the Third Reich, most surviving Jews from the Holocaust understandably left Germany as fast as possible. But former Sachsenhausen inmate David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu), among about 4,000 other real-life survivors who remained, sees his blasted homeland as the land of opportunity.

Poster for the post-war dramedy Bye Bye GermanyHe dreams of reopening his family’s seized linen business in Frankfurt, but American forces deny him a licence; with his haughty demeanour and fancy suit, David is suspected to be a Nazi collaborator and is subject to questioning by Special Agent Sara Simon (Antje Traue). Undaunted, he gathers a group of Jewish salesmen to help him peddle imported linens door-to-door, stressing that they never resort to stoking German guilt to seal the deal –they are to be legitimate businessmen, not victims.

Director Sam Garbarski maintains the upbeat tone for most of the film, wringing sly humour from the absurdities encountered by the salesmen, but memories of the horrors they lived through lie just under the surface; David’s flashbacks to the camps reveal his survivor’s guilt, as his smooth-talking of the guards helped save him from the ovens while the rest of his family perished. Garbarski’s adaptation of German-Swiss novelist Michel Bergmann’s ‘Teilacher’ trilogy is a tale of re-assimilation and rebirth, how maintaining a sense of humour is a vital step towards redemption.

– Seattle International Film Festival

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