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Film / Jakob the Liar

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"Hitler goes to a fortune-teller and asks, 'When will I die?' And the fortune-teller replies, 'On a Jewish holiday.' Hitler then asks, 'How do you know that?' And she replies, 'Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday.'"
Jakob Heym

Jakob the Liar tells the tale of Jakob Heym, a Jewish shopkeeper in the ghettos during World War II. When he's caught out late one night, Jakob is sent to the Kommandant for being smart with the guard. While there, he hears news of advancing Russian troops. On the way back he finds a girl who managed to escape from a transport train, and begins to look after her. From there he finds himself risking life, limb, and more than a few lies as he tries to keep the spirits of his friends up, and give them the courage to face the next day in hope that the Russians will free them from Nazi occupation.

The story first appeared as a 1969 novel by Jurek Becker, who originally intended it as a screenplay; appropriately, it's been filmed twice. The first movie was an East German-Czechoslovakian film from 1975. The second adaptation was a 1999 film starring Robin Williams, which became the best known version of the story.



  • Ambiguous Ending: Depending on your interpretation, The Russians arrive to save the Jews at the end, but it could very well just be another lie from Jakob, who is also the narrator.
  • Consummate Liar: Jakob. Played for Drama, because in the end he's just trying to keep going a "Fawlty Towers" Plot that will get him (and everybody else) killed.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jakob ultimately dies to give his friends hope.
  • Hope Bringer: A Deconstruction. Jakob's status as the Hope Bringer is based on a massive lie, and if the Germans learn of it, all the Jews could suffer for it.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Jakob walks in just in time to keep Kowalski from hanging himself.
  • Ray of Hope Ending: The alternate ending after Jakob is shot:
    Jakob: ...But maybe it wasn't like that at all. Because you know, as Frankfurter says: "Until the last line has been spoken, the curtain cannot come down."
    Rosa: Mischa!
    Jakob: About 50 kilometers out of town, the train was stopped by Russian troops, who had just taken Bizonika, and Pratt...


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