While Joseph Goebbels infamously declared Berlin “free of Jews” in 1943, some 1,700 managed to survive in the Nazi capital until liberation. Claus Räfle’s gripping docudrama traces the stories of four real-life Jewish survivors who learned to hide in plain sight. Masterfully weaving their stories together in an unusual mix of first-person interviews, archival footage, voiceover narration and dramatic reenactments Räfle delivers a testament to the resourcefulness, willpower and sheer chance needed to survive against incredible odds.
Hanni Lévy (Alice Dwyer) is an orphan who has just turned seventeen. Completely on her own, she only narrowly escapes being arrested. She dyes her hair blond and becomes invisible to her persecutors, mingling among the many pedestrians on the Kurfürstendamm and often seizing the opportunity to disappear into dark movie theaters.
In order to avoid deportation, Cioma Schönhaus (Max Mauff, The Reader) also takes on a different identity. Working as a passport forger, he joins his friend Ludwig Lichtwitz (Sergej Moya) and electrician Werner Scharff (Florian Lukas; The Silent Revolution, The Grand Budapest Hotel) in saving the lives of dozens of Jews in danger. With his regular income, Cioma even manages to regain a certain measure of normalcy, going on sailing trips and frequenting restaurants.
Eugen Friede (Aaron Altaras) is also forced to go into hiding, but is fortunate to arrive at a comfortable home with good meals and a flirtatious young woman, the daughter of his supportive host. Yet Eugen, too—like all of the “invisibles”—will soon be obligated to move on. He joins the resistance group led by Hans Winkler (Andreas Schmidt), which is active in distributing leaflets about the true deeds of the Third Reich.
Ruth Arndt (Ruby O. Fee), together with her friend Ellen (Viktoria Schulz), dreams of a life in America. But before contemplating an escape from Germany, the two young women disguise themselves as war widows and, in secret gatherings, serve black market delicacies in the home of a Nazi officer (Horst Günter Marx).
All of them live from one day to the next, fully aware that they could be arrested and deported at any moment. Their irrepressible will to live and ingenuity give them the hope that they might make it through until the end of the war . . .
“The Invisibles is a powerful testament to the remarkable courage of those forced into heroism, and to the exceptional strength of those who chose it freely.” (Elizabeth Weitzman, TheWrap)
“A film like The Invisibles is part of bearing ‘precise witness.’ We clearly need reminders, and constant ones, of the end result of ‘otherizing’ an entire group of people.” (Sheila O’Malley, RogerEbert.com)