Der Letzte Zug (The Last Train) is a 2006 German Holocaust drama directed by husband and wife team Joseph Vilsmaier and Dana Vávrová (best known for their film Stalingrad (1993)), and produced by Artur Brauner, himself a Holocaust survivor.
In April 1943, as a "birthday present" to Adolf Hitler, the last Jews of Berlin are loaded onto a train bound for Auschwitz and the city is declared Judenrein ("cleared of Jews"). The film follows the attempts of the inhabitants of one of the cars to endure the six-day journey in horrific conditions. Among them are Henry and Lea Naumann and their two small children, young lovers Alfred Rosen and Ruth Zilbermann, elderly couple and former cabaret duo Jakob Nuschik and Gabrielle Hellmann, and Erika Freidlich, a new mother accompanied by her father Dr Friedlich.
This film contains examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Nina Naumann.
- Angst Coma
- Death of a Child: The children are among the first to succumb to dehydration and illness, while their imprisoned parents can do little more than watch helplessly and rely on the capricious mercy of the guards. To say nothing of the question constantly haunting them - if the Jews are being sent to "work camps", what will happen to the children, who cannot work?
- False Reassurance: Oh so very much, with Lea Naumann being a particularly bad offender, typified by this early exchange between little Nina Naumann and her mother.Nina: Why do the men have guns?Lea: (beat) To protect us.
- Mercy Kill: In a particularly disturbing rendition of this trope, Erika, unable to produce any more breast milk, smothers her own baby rather than allow him to slowly starve.
- Pet the Dog: SS-Obersturmführer Crewes gives Nina a sweet and speaks kindly to her, but given the context, it comes off more creepy than anything else. The comment he makes about what a pretty little girl she is doesn't help... And in any case, his very next act is to shoot an old man for daring to request water.
- La Résistance: The characters witness a group of suspected partisans being hanged. And at the end of the film, the Polish resistance show up to rescue Nina and Ruth.
- Screaming Train Baby
- Talk to the Fist: Crewes himself gets this from a beautifully dismissive Wehrmacht Lieutenant. And it's awesome.
- Villainous Breakdown: The normally calm Crewes throws a tantrum and mindlessly brandishes his gun despite being hopelessly outnumbered when he is confronted by the utterly unexpected defiance of a Wehrmacht unit.