This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film series is Europa, Europa, a 1990 film directed byAgnieszka Holland. The film was adapted from the autobiography of Solomon Perel, a Jewish man from Germany who survived World War II as a boy by hiding his identity from the Nazis. The original title of the film, Hitlerjunge Salomon (literally, Hitler Youth Salomon), provides more of a clue to the specific kinds of peril involved in Perel's struggle than does the less descriptive title under which the film was released. Here are some questions to get you started in your reflection on the ethical issues raised in the film.
How many times in how many ways does Solly escape?
How does this film differ from other films you've seen about the Holocaust? Why do you prefer Europa, Europa? Or why do you prefer Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice, The Diary of Anne Frank, Life is Beautiful, The Pianist, Holocaust, etc.?
What's the reason for the comic scenes?
When is Solly acting? Are there scenes in which it is difficult to decide if his actions are performed or real?
Isaac tells Solly, "Don't tell your story to anyone. No one will believe it." Does Solly tell us his story with ease? What is the effect of hearing a story that he has been advised to suppress?
What is the significance of the dream sequences?
Why does Agnieszka Holland shoot the scenes of the Lodz ghetto the way she does? How does this style of shooting relate to the larger film?
Consider the significance of the following lines:
"Children nowadays - they're so different.""I barely hesitated to have [my sons] circumcised.""If you were a Jew, you'd look like this.""I didn't know. . . .I thought Madagascar."
Do you sympathize with Solly or are you shocked by his behavior?