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Film / None Shall Escape

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None Shall Escape is a 1944 film directed by Andre De Toth about a trial against Nazi officer Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox) following the end of the (then-ongoing) second world war, told via flashbacks from the points of view of the witnesses at the trial.

Provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The film, made in 1944, is set shortly after the end of the then-ongoing Second World War.
  • An Aesop: Nazis are bad, and must be held accountable for their actions. Though they may say that they're Just Following Orders, that's merely an excuse used by those who do not dare to do what is right.
  • Artificial Limbs: Wilhelm has a prosthetic leg after losing his real one in World War I.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Karl threatens to reveal Wilhelm's role in the Reichstag fire and the "Schleicher murder" (i.e. the Night of the Long Knives).
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  • Bittersweet Ending: On the larger scale, WWII is over and the Nazis are brought to justice for their crimes, but countless numbers of people have lost their lives because of the Nazi regime. On the smaller and more personal scale, Karl and Marja both survive to testify at Wilhelm's trial, but have lost a son and a daughter, respectively.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Karl is preparing to leave Nazi Germany for good and threatens to reveal Wilhelm's role in the Reichstag fire and the "Schleicher murder" (i.e. the Night of the Long Knives) unless he leaves the Nazi Party. In a Have You Told Anyone Else?-esque twist, he threatens to put it in writing when he arrives at his destination. Wilhelm solves his predicament by having Karl arrested and deported to a concentration camp before he has a chance to leave.
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  • Book Burning: As a "reward", Wilhelm orders the students to burn their Polish schoolbooks, to be replaced by German ones shortly.
  • Cain and Abel: Downplayed. Wilhelm has his brother Karl deported to a concentration camp.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The film depicts the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland from the point of view of the small town of Lidzbark.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marja displays shades of this.
    Wilhelm: What are you staring at?
    Marja: I'm trying to see one spark of pity.
    Wilhelm: In which eye?
    Marja: The left one.
    Wilhelm: (chuckles) That's the glass one.
    Marja: I know.
  • Defiant Stone Throw: When Wilhelm has been arrested on suspicion of raping Anna and Father Warecki tries to get the lynch mob to disperse, Jan tosses a stone at Wilhelm. It hits his left eye, causing him to lose it.
  • Defiant to the End: Says the rabbi to Wilhelm after all the Jews that were to be deported have been gunned down: "We will never die. It will be you, all of you!" Wilhelm shoots him with his handgun at point blank range.
  • Dehumanization: With a movie about Nazis and the atrocities they commit, this is a given. For instance, Willie justifies the harsh measures against the Jews this way to Janina.
    "Anyway, those weren't people, they were Jews."
  • Determined Widow: Marja mentions at the beginning of her testimony that her husband was killed during the Nazi invasion of Poland. She spends the rest of the movie being pretty openly hostile to the Nazis, Wilhelm in particular.
  • Driven to Suicide: Anna drowns herself after letting slip to Marja who it was that raped her.
  • Elective Mute: After being raped, Anna stops talking for three weeks. It's not until Marja returns from Warsaw and starts guilt-tripping her about letting an innocent man be punished for the crime unless she sets the record straight that she starts talking again.
  • Evil Cripple: Wilhelm Grimm, the antagonist of the film, lost a leg in The Great War and now has a prosthesis and a cane to help him walk. He also loses an eye during the course of the film.
  • Eyepatch of Power: After losing his left eye, Wilhelm briefly uses an eyepatch before he gets a Glass Eye instead.
  • Eye Scream: Wilhelm loses his left eye to a stone thrown by Jan.
  • False Reassurance: Karl tells Wilhelm that he's leaving for Vienna and threatens to reveal Wilhelm's role in the Reichstag fire and the "Schleicher murder" (i.e. the Night of the Long Knives) unless he leaves the Nazi Party, leading to the following exchange:
    Wilhelm: You leave me no choice.
    Karl: Then you will come?
    Wilhelm: (nods)
    Karl: In Vienna we can be free to start some kind of a new life. And whatever little money that I've been able to save, I will share it with you.
    Wilhelm: When do you leave?
    Karl: Tomorrow morning.
    Wilhelm: Expect me tonight.
  • Flashback: The bulk of the movie is told through three of these, via eyewitness testimonies: one by Father Warecki, one by Karl, and one by Marja.
  • A Fool for a Client: Wilhelm eschews having an attorney in favour of representing himself.
  • Framing Device: The bulk of the story consists of the testimonies/flashbacks, with the trial serving as the framing device.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Wilhelm goes from being a schoolteacher at the end of WWI to a ruthless Nazi officer during WWII.
  • Glass Eye: Wilhelm gets one after losing his left eye to a stone thrown by Jan.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Following the death of Janina, Willie denounces Nazism, discards his Schirmmütze and rips the shoulder marks off his uniform.
  • In the Back: Wilhelm shoots his nephew Willie in the back after the latter denounces Nazism.
  • It Has Only Just Begun: Says Jan to Dr. Matek about the defeat of the Polish army in the context of the war against the Nazis:
    "You think the war is over because our army has been defeated. No, the war has just begun."
  • Just Following Orders: At the beginning of the movie, Father Warecki pre-emptively dismisses the notion of Nazis not being free to act according to their own, personal morals (and thus, implicitly, bearing no responsibility). Later in the movie (though earlier in the in-universe chronology, since it happens in a flashback), Wilhelm explicitly says this at one point, but Marja is having none of it.
    Wilhelm: I merely carry out orders.
    Marja: You're afraid not to carry out orders?
  • Killed Offscreen: Janina gets shot at the "officers' club", apparently accidentally. The viewer finds out about this when her body is brought to the church for the funeral service.
  • Last Stand: When a trainload of Jews are to be deported (presumably to an extermination camp), the rabbi tells them to fight instead. They put up a valiant effort, but the Nazis massacre them all with a machine gun.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The judge's final remarks are clearly addressed to the audience just as much as to the people in the courtroom.
    "Men and women of the United Nations, all of you — you are the jury. It will be up to you to finally judge all criminals and to determine the penalties that shall be meted out to them. For this will only be your war if the final victory brings you justice and a true and everlasting people's peace."
  • Like a Son to Me: After having his own brother Karl arrested and sent to a concentration camp, Wilhelm more or less adopts Karl's son Willie as his own son. He even says that Willie is his own son, spiritually.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Janina's death and funeral provide the reason and setting, respectively, for Wilhelm and Willie's final falling out over the evils of Nazism.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Twice.
    • Marja's daughter Janina is (apparently accidentally) shot at the "officers' club". Marja carries her lifeless body to the church for the funeral service,
    • Karl's son Willie is shot In the Back by Wilhelm for denouncing Nazism. Karl, having been in a concentration camp since before the war, is unaware of this when he testifies at Wilhelm's trial.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: After Janina has been killed, her mother Marja carries her lifeless body to the church for the funeral service in this manner.
  • Rape as Drama: Anna is raped off-screen and becomes an Elective Mute. The matter of first identifying and then bringing the perpetrator to justice causes a lot of tension in Lidzbark.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Willie discovers Jan hiding in Marja's basement, Marja delivers a fierce scolding to Willie, who feebly tries to defend and justify himself.
    Marja: Well? Take him. Take him and be proud of yourself: you've captured a helpless, wounded man. Why, you're a hero. They'll promote you, give you a medal.
    Willie: I'm only a soldier.
    Marja: A mechanical soldier run by wheels and springs! They turn a key and you jump!
    Willie: An officer of the Reich obe...
    Marja: Obeys orders, I know. But you obey orders because you haven't the courage to disobey. You don't dare.
    Willie: It isn't a question of...
    Marja: It's the only question! Your uncle doesn't dare disobey even though he knows he's wrong. Rabbi Levin made a choice as a free man, but you're afraid. Your father dared. You speak of a master race! Men like your father are the masters, you and your uncle the slaves! Go ahead, take him away! Take him and think of your father while taking him!
    Willie: Don't tell me what to do! Nobody can make me do anything I don't wanna do! I make my own decisions! (he leaves, without Jan)
  • Redemption Equals Death: Willie denounces Nazism following the death of Janina, only to be shot dead by his uncle Wilhelm.
  • Rousing Speech: The rabbi delivers one to a trainload of Jews about to be deported, after having been told by Wilhelm to get them to be quiet.
    "My people! Be calm, listen to me. Let us prepare ourselves to face this supreme moment in our lives. This is our last journey. Doesn't matter if it's long or short. For centuries we have sought only peace. We have submitted to many degradations believing that we would achieve justice through reason. We have tried to take our place honestly, decently alongside all mankind to help make a better world. A world in which all men would live as free neighbours. We have hoped, and prayed, but now we see that hope was not enough. What good has it done to submit? Submission brought us rare moments in history when we were tolerated. Tolerated! Is there any greater degradation than to be tolerated? To be permitted to exist? We have submitted too long! If we want equality and justice we must take our place alongside all other oppressed peoples, regardless of race or religion. Their fight is ours—ours is theirs. We haven't much time left. By our actions we will be remembered. This is our last free choice, our moment in history. And I say to you: let us choose to fight! Here, now!"
  • Seeking Sanctuary: In 1919, after the rape case against him is dismissed for lack of evidence and he is discharged from the hospital after losing his left eye, Wilhelm goes to the Lidzbark church in order to seek sanctuary. There he finds the priest and the rabbi, and borrows some money from them in order to be able to cross the newly-established border to Germany.
  • Sent Into Hiding: When Wilhelm comes to Lidzbark as Reichskommissar, he starts looking for Jan (who has been wounded in battle during the Nazi invasion of Poland)—no doubt to exact revenge for the stone throw that cost him his left eye. When she finds out about this, Marja sends Janina to tell Jan to go into hiding. Jan eventually hides out in Marja's basement.
  • Sex Slave: Heavily Implied. The Nazis send the Polish women to the so-called "officers' club". Janina gets sent there by Wilhelm to break her and Willie up.
  • Sexual Euphemism: Wilhelm says to Willie that the Polish women are there to work for the Nazis and for "recreational purposes".
  • Signature Item Clue: A verbal example. Marja figures out that it was Wilhelm that raped Anna when Anna mentions the rapist's cane.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Jan has a permanent one on his face after the Polish defeat by the Nazis.
  • Time Skip: Each flashback/witness testimony is set a few years after the previous one. The first one by Father Warecki takes place in 1919 right after the end of WWI, the next one by Karl takes place in 1923 right before and after the Beer Hall Putsch before skipping ahead to 1929 and then to 1934 after the Night of the Long Knives, and the last one by Marja takes place during WWII.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: After Anna drowns herself, an angry mob shows up at Wilhelm's doorstep. Anna's father wants Wilhelm dead but father Warecki manages to calm him down until the police arrive shortly thereafter. The mob doesn't disperse right away though, opting instead to... let's say "help escort the prisoner".
  • Translation Convention: The German and Polish characters all speak English, presumably representing German and Polish, respectively. Hebrew is however left untranslated, driving home the Jews' status as outsiders.
  • Turbulent Priest: The rabbi naturally opposes the Nazi occupiers, eventually leading the Jews to fight back physically. By then it is unfortunately far too late, however.