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Film / Europa Europa

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Europa Europa is a 1990 World War II drama film adapted from Solomon Perel's 1989 memoir Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon,note  written and directed by Agnieszka Holland and starring Marco Hofschneider and Julie Delpy.

After his sister is killed in Kristallnacht, the young Solomon Perel and his family flee Hitler's Germany and settle in Poland, only for the Nazis to invade a year later. Fleeing with his elder brother Issak, Solly is quickly separated and ends up in a Soviet orphanage. He is separated from his friends again when the Nazis invade the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Picked up by a German patrol, he is able to pass himself off as a Volksdeutscher (ethnic German living outside Germany) and is taken in by the unit. After accidentally capturing a Soviet position and being declared a war hero, the company captain soon adopts him and sends Solly to an elite Hitler Youth school in Berlin, where his secret is in constant danger of being exposed.


  • Artistic License – History:
    • The film implies that Solly’s entire family was killed, except for his brother Isaak. His brother David actually survived the war by fleeing to Palestine.
    • They also had a sister who was killed by the Nazis, though she isn't mentioned in the film.
    • Solly didn't meet Stalin's son until later when he had been established in the German Army. He translated during his interrogation. In fact, his job was not only as a regular soldier there but also as a translator, as he'd learned fluent Russian from his time in the Komsomol orphanage. After the war, he worked briefly as a translator for the Soviets too.
    • Solly's actual alias was Josef Perjell.
    • The final sequence, where Solly is set to be shot and then his brother recognizes him, didn't happen. He was captured and soon released (not by the Soviets but by the US Army) and spent some time searching for his relatives, finding Isaak months later.
  • Asshole Victim: Zenek, a Catholic Pole who is a member of the Soviet orphanage with Solly. He is antisemitic and hates the communists, not to mention having sympathies for the Nazis occupying his country. He threatens to expose Solly as a Jew until Solly opts to defend himself, then it leads to the Germans attempting to get rid of Zenek. Zenek then gets run over while desperately trying to flee.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Leni, a German girl from the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel) becomes attracted to Solly, unaware that he's a Jew who's Hidden in Plain Sight. She's quite committed to the Nazi cause, partly because her father (a Wehrmacht soldier) was killed in the war. Because of this, Solly cannot take things further, especially because he would be found out if she saw his circumcised penis. We're later told that Leni has become pregnant by a different boy.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While his parents and brother David are dead, Solly still survived the worst atrocity of the 20th Century and is reunited with his brother Isaak. He moves to the British mandate of Palestine, soon to become Israel, and proudly embraces his Jewish heritage.
  • Born Lucky: Solly is impressively lucky in the film. When he tries to surrender to a Soviet outpost, he inadvertently captures it and is hailed as a war hero. Near the end of the film, when the Gestapo is investigating his parentage, Solly leaves the building just before it is reduced to rubble by an Allied bomber.
  • Bury Your Gays: The closeted gay soldier Robert, who befriends Solly (himself then secretly a Jew), gets killed in combat. This is more justifiable than many examples though as it's in a war, plus this was real.
  • Child Soldiers: Solly, who's 16 when he serves the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. At the end of the film, he's sent to the front again with the other Hitler Youth to defend Berlin.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Downplayed, but Robert tries to grope Solly in the bath, then runs after him when he takes off in a panic to escape. However, after Robert discovers he's Jewish, he keeps Solly's secret while Solly also then keeps his (as the Nazis persecuted gay men as well) and doesn't attempt to do anything else.
  • Foreshadowing: After hiding out in the street during Kristallnacht while completely naked, a neighbor decides to help Solly get home by providing him with clothes. Said clothes are a black leather trenchcoat with a Nazi armband.
  • Genocide Survivor: Solly manages to survive the Holocaust while pretending he's an "Aryan", even being in the Hitler Youth and Army without being discovered (at least by anyone who told). He wasn't even aware of the genocide until the war's end (though he obviously knew about lesser persecution), discovering that only his brother Isaak lived, with other surviving prisoners along with him seen at Auschwitz. Most astonishing of it all, his survival actually did happen as the film portrays.
  • God Test: The Soviet instructors at the Komsomol academy in Poland stage one to "prove" that God does not exist for their students after one Polish boy disputes this. He's told he should pray for candy from God, which doesn't come. At the same time, one of the Soviet men goes up on the roof and drops in candy to the students, which they say is from Stalin. Thus they claim God doesn't exist and won't give them candy, but Stalin always will. Solly does not look at all convinced by this but wisely stays quiet.
  • Good Luck Charm: Solly becomes this for the Wehrmacht company after he reveals that one of the captured Soviets is Josef Stalin's son, Yakov.
  • Guile Hero: Solly has to survive being a Jew living in Nazi Germany through cunning and deception.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Solly survives the war by claiming to be a non-Jewish German named Josef Peters and joining the Nazis after they invade the Polish village his family originally fled to from Germany. He even gets adopted by a childless aristocrat Wehrmacht officer and inducted into an elite Hitler Youth school, where the 'race scientists' declare him a genuine Aryan!
  • Hollywood Atheist: The Soviet instructors at the Komsomol academy try to convince pupils there that God doesn't exist with a rather silly God test (which really was done). However, aside from this they seem kind. Solly's Soviet teacher (who ran the test) tries unsuccessfully to save him when he falls off the truck they're being taken away in after the Nazi invasion.
  • Irony: In one scene, Solly is chosen for a demonstration on identifying Jews and the teacher measures his face with anthropometric indices. He’s pronounced "mixed, but pure Aryan stock." Another sign of how Nazi "racial science" was actually junk.
  • Just Plane Wrong: When Solly leaves the Gestapo building, with the clear implication that he's about to be exposed as a Jew, he's saved when it gets bombed by a modern C-130 Hercules, which first flew nearly a decade after the war ended.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Solly meets an ardent Nazi woman on a train, and the pair have sex after she grows enamored due to his slight resemblance to Hitler and having Hitler's birthday.
  • Mistaken Ethnicity: The film, which is Based on a True Story, is about a Jewish youth who's trying to avoid becoming a victim of The Holocaust. It has a tense scene where the protagonist Solomon, in front of his entire Hitler Youth class, has his head measured by a metal pseudoscientic contraption used in Nazi Germany to try and find Jews amongst them. The results from these measurements declare him an Aryan.
  • Nazi Nobleman: The company captain who adopts Solly is one.
  • Oh, Crap!: Solly's reaction when he's picked up by a Wehrmacht motorcycle patrol.
  • The Peeping Tom: Solly gets the hots for his female instructor at the orphanage, climbing onto the wall so he can spy through the open window at her in her nightgown.
  • Pet the Dog: Solly's Soviet instructor Inna helps defend him from the more strict communists.
  • The Purge: Besides the Holocaust being central to the story, Solly and Zenek watch as one of their teachers at the Komsomol school is taken in by the NKVD.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The film tells the story of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who poses as a German when he is captured after the Germans invade the USSR. He is so persuasive that he is eventually adopted by a Wehrmacht officer and sent to the special elite Hitler Youth school in Berlin, where an instructor at one point pronounces him "an authentic Aryan" despite his dark complexion. He is later saved from exposure when a Gestapo officer who is investigating his background is killed in a bombing, moments after the hero leaves the building. At the end, he is about to be executed by the Red Army as a Nazi despite his protestations that he is a Jew, when his brother, just liberated from a concentration camp, recognizes him. A lot of critics found these later coincidences contrived and unbelievable. But while the ending was indeed written for the movie, Solomon Perel, who wrote the memoir the film was based on, did indeed survive the war the way depicted in the film.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: At the end, after Solly has survived World War II, the real Solomon Perel appears briefly in the present day.
  • Released to Elsewhere: The company captain tells Solly that the Jews will merely be relocated to Madagascarnote , which he believes until he's brought to a concentration camp and is shown photographs of the atrocities. Even upon seeing a Jewish cemetery dug up, Solly refuses to believe that Hitler would order such atrocities, thinking "The Führer knows better!"
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • During the September campaign, Solly's brother David joins the Polish Army but returns home because he's unable to join his unit, and because of how hopeless the situation is.
    • Later, when the Russians invade, a number of Jews flee to one side of a river to escape the Nazis and a number of Poles flee to the other side to escape the Russians.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Robert the gay soldier and Solly learn each other's secrets and so they keep it between them and watch out for each other until Robert is killed in combat.
    • Leni's mother and Solly’s mutual heartbreak at losing Leni (Solly due to another boy, and both due to Leni's devotion to the Nazi cause) leads Solly to confess to the mother that he's a Jew. She promises to keep his secret safe.
  • Secret Police:
    • Solly is briefly intimidated by a soldier from the NKVD when one of his Communist teachers is arrested.
    • Near the end of the film, Solly is called to the Gestapo as they investigate his parentage. Unable to produce a certificate of Aryan purity, he realizes that he'll soon be exposed. Fortunately, just after he leaves the building, it is destroyed by an Allied bomber.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: The boys at the Hitler Youth school are working in a factory when they hear a broadcast announcing the loss of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Many of them are brought to tears, including Solly.
  • Shown Their Work: The announcement that the Sixth Army has been defeated at Stalingrad contains much of the actual dialogue in the real announcement.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Referenced. The Gestapo officer firmly believes that at the last minute, the Führer will unleash his "wonder weapons" that will annihilate the Allies.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Various types appear, from standard grunt Wehrmacht soldiers to sadistic Nazis who smile at the prospect of killing Jews.
  • The Tooth Hurts: After learning that he'll have to be fully naked for a physical, which would reveal his circumcised penis, Solly immediately fakes a toothache and is taken away to have it pulled. After a very painful extraction, the dentist confusedly notes that the tooth appears quite healthy.
  • Tragic Bromance: Solly befriends the gay Wehrmacht soldier Robert because he found out Solly is Jewish. The tragic part comes as Robert is killed.
  • You Have to Believe Me!:
    • Inverted. Upon finally reuniting with his brother at a liberated concentration camp, Isaak tells Solly to never reveal his story, as it would never be believed.
    • Played straight just before, when Solly tries to convince the Soviets that he's a Jew. They retort to his claim with pictures of Jews at the various camps they've liberated. He's nearly shot before his brother Isaak, a prisoner there, identifies him.