They say that history repeats itself, but we like to think we’ve come a long way since the horrors of WW II. And yet, the racism, hate, antisemitism, homophobia, and xenophobia that existed then are far from eradicated— if anything they’re being perpetuated by the current US administration. Which is probably why this scene from the 2010 film Habermann is making the rounds. “Habermann is a thought-provoking movie about the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the end of World War II in 1945,” one review explains. “This complex film is a disturbing drama focused on the toxic nature of ethnic hatred. Czech director Juraj Herz weaves a compelling tale about August Habermann (Mark Waschke), a real mill owner in the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia, where German and Czech families have lived peacefully together for hundreds of years. The wealthy Habermanns are ethnically German, but they have owned a mill in the area for generations… Habermann himself is engaged to a beautiful young Czech woman, Jana (Hannah Herzsprung).”
The scene that has been getting attention is a dark one. I wouldn’t recommend watching it at work— and you need to be prepared to see violence. It shows the moment when Habermann realizes that his wife is Jewish. And you can’t help but see how much it resonates now. Between Trump’s travel ban and the recent DACA decision, we are seeing families torn apart— often out of the country they grew up in. The fact that many of those affected have done nothing wrong doesn’t matter. Similarly, Habermann’s wife, Jana, doesn’t even know she has any Jewish connection, but that doesn’t save her from punishment.
You can see the whole scene here:
Habermann wasn’t exactly a critical success. There were complaints of it being confusing and melodramatic. But that doesn’t take away from the importance of scenes like this. They serve as a reminder, they serve as a warning. We haven’t come that far.