Hamburg, Germany. 1939.
The main character, a young, German man named Peter Muller, was very traumatized by what the Nazi's and Gestapo (the terrorist political police of the Nazi regime founded by Hermann Göring, whose purpose was to persecute all political opponents of the Nazi regime) did to his father. Over the course of the movie, Peter went through a change; he saw his father in a new light, and realized what really mattered in the world around him. Peter's father was a violinist and professor at the university. He spoke out against the expulsion of the Jewish professors and the entire Nazi movement. Because of this, one night, in the middle of dinner, he was taken away by the Gestapo. He was brought back home four months later, a completely different man. Before, he was lively, brave, and strong; however, after they brought him back he was a weak man, and would not ever pick up his violin again. He died shortly after he returned home. That was six years before the present setting in the movie. His son Peter was naïve about what his father had worked for; but what he did know was that in the time his father was away the Nazis did something to break his father down. Peter and his friend Thomas, who was from a well-to-do family, decided one afternoon to "lift" a radio that one of the Nazis had taken from a "traitor" and had given to a "lady-friend." Peter was unable to escape the police, and as a result was told the only way to avoid punishment was to join the HJ (Hitler Jugend or Hitler's Youth, which prepared young boys for further advancement within the National Socialist party). Being a good friend, Thomas joined also; he said "We can't let them split us apart." However, over the course of their training, Thomas went through a change. He began to believe the Nazi propaganda about German superiority, and how everyone else "doesn't belong." Peter, on the other hand, did not know what to believe; he was in conflict with himself on what is right or wrong. He was torn between what he was told to believe by the Nazis and what his father and good friend, Arvid, knew. Arvid, a musician and a cripple, saw the ignorance and audacity of the Nazi's beliefs. He was outcast because of his extreme beliefs. Arvid and Peter's father saw the Nazis as murderers, and they both believed that by not raising a voice in protest against the Nazis, that they (and everyone else in that society) would be aiding in what the Nazis were doing. Arvid said, "We are murdering Pols
gypsies, and Jews
You can't think that just because you aren't doing it you aren't a part of it
." Unfortunately, their beliefs lead to their deaths. Arvid killed himself because he no longer wanted to be a part of it, he did not want to be a murderer. Before Arvid's death, Peter was extremely torn between the Nazi regime and the beliefs of his father and friend. He questioned his father's actions and his father's character, he thought his father was weak. He was left unsure about what to think about Arvid. Arvid's death began to make things clearer for him. He began to realize the terrible things that the Nazis were doing. Peter is one day given an assignment to deliver three boxes to three families, the contents of which he had no knowledge. As he was walking away from the second house, he heard the screams of the woman he had just given one of the packages. He then took the third box and opened it, to find inside the message "Verrätor" (traitor) and the box filled with ashes. Mixed in with those ashes he found a man's wedding ring, and discovered he had delivered to those women their husband's ashes.
This incident, for him, is the final straw. He then went to see an old friend of his father's, who showed him a letter that Peter's father had written to her husband, in which Peter's father talked about how the Nazis were murdering fellow human beings and also about his son, Peter. He said that, because of Peter, he knew...
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