Film Festival Preview: ‘A Blind Hero’

A Blind Hero: The Love of Otto Weidt; directed by Kai Christiansen; Germany; 2014; 90 minutes in German with English Subtitles; Drama; to be shown three times during the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State St., Carlsbad and at  1:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 7, and 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the Reading Cinemas 14, 4665 Clairemont Drive, San Diego.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SDJFF26thLogoRed16SAN DIEGO—Comparisons to Schindler’s List are inevitable for this film, so let’s deal with those right away.  Whereas Schindler had a large munitions factory; Otto Weidt had a small factory in Berlin, a workshop really, in which blind people like himself as well as sighted workers made brooms and brushes needed by the German military, among other customers.  His workers were Jews, and Weidt, an uncommonly civil man during barbaric times, cared for his workers as best as he could by forging documents and bribing Gestapo officials to keep them off the transport lists.  While he tried his best for all of his workers, he developed a fondness, one might say a love, for one worker in particular – young Alice Licht—whom he surreptitiously employed as his secretary while listing her as a factory worker. (Jews were excluded from office jobs under Nazi law.)

In this film, Weidt is compassionately portrayed by Edgar Selge, and the sighted Alice Licht comes alive through the efforts of Henriette Conturius.  We watch as Licht’s gratitude turns to affection, and affection to adoration as Weidt again and again saves his workers. But eventually, even his best efforts are insufficient to stop the blood lust of the Nazis, and except for Inge Deutschkron, another sighted worker who narrates the story as an elderly lady, and is portrayed as a young woman by Julia Goldberg, the workers, including Licht, are sent off to the concentration camps. Deutschkron was able to hide with a Gentile family.

The film begins with a scene that is later reprised.  Licht, pressed against the wall of a cattle car, slips a letter to Weidt through a crack in the boards.  A soldier finds the letter and puts it in a mail box; the letter says she is en route to Birkenau, the sister death camp of Auschwitz.  Weidt, though blind, makes a trip to Auschwitz to plead for her life, but learns she already has been transferred to another camp, Christianstadt.  So he goes there, and winning the friendship of the female owner of a bed and breakfast establishment, he leaves a suitcase of clothing for Alice, should she make it out alive.  She does, and having been advised of the address of the boarding house, Alice makes it to freedom.

From my point of view, one of the most interesting personages in this whole drama was Elsie Weidt, the long-time wife of Otto.  She could see that her husband was falling in love with this soft-spoken attractive woman, who was young enough to be their daughter, but she did not intervene.  However jealous she might have been, she kept her silence, and when Alice turned up on their doorstep as a survivor of the Holocaust, Else welcomed her with tears as genuine as those of her husband.

Eventually, Alice received official permission to immigrate to the United States, a poignant moment for Otto and Else.  Why would Alice leave?  Otto asked.  In Europe, where her parents were murdered, there is not even a cemetery for their bodies, she said.  She needed to live somewhere else.  Otto responds vaguely of perhaps following, but he, Else and Alice all know this will not occur.  Only two years after Alice left, Otto died.  Else continued a life of good works, including operating an orphanage for Holocaust survivors.

This highly nuanced film will leave many viewers reflecting about the nature of goodness… and courage!

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected] .  Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)

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