Sample History Research Paper on Hiding One’s True Identity: Jews under Persecution

Introduction

There are a series of events that are inter-related that took place during the World War II that made it easy for authors and film producers to write or produce scripts to give an account of the various events taking mainly a global perspective. Hitler’s foreign policy is among the many themes captured by authors and producers. European nations are among those nations that considered the world war as an answer to the conceivable problems that had confronted them during this period. Among the challenges that they had to confront include aggressive moves, miscalculations that led to hostilities, local conflicts and wars, and subversion attempts that did not work out (Weinberg 12). Though the Germans appeared to be winning the war late in 1939, the different forms that the war had taken that was different from the Berlin plan made them losing World War II.

According to Gerhard L. Weinberg, the complexity of the war, especially the struggles, make it impossible to come up with a single unifying theme (Weinberg 13). At the same time, there are several existing accounts that make everyone to treat the war differently.  Among the themes that were evident during the Second World War in Germany was the persecution of the Jews by the Nazi. However, it was not only the Jews who were affected during this period by the war; some individuals such as the disabled and gay people were also persecuted. Among the films that captured this historic period especially the ways in which Jews and other individuals were affected by the Nazi Germany cruelty are Aimee & Jaguar and Au Revoir Les Enfants. These movies depict how Jews, gay people and other persecuted groups had to hide their true identity to avoid being rounded up.

Film summary

Aimee & Jaguar is a dramatic film that was produced in the year 1999. Max Farberbock was responsible for writing and directing the film that was set in Berlin with the main aim of depicting various events that took place during the World War II. Prominent themes in the film include love, homosexuality, war, and persecution. The film gives an account of the life of Felice Schragenheim a Jewish woman who hides her identity by using a fake name and working with an underground organization to avoid detention by the Nazi. Another character, Lilly Wust, a wife to a Nazi soldier falls in love with Felice though they had to hide their relationship from the public to avoid victimization for immoral behavior. Lilly who is the narrator in the film is only left with memories of their magical love story during a terrible period of war.

Au Revoir Les Enfants was produced in 1987 and directed by Louis Malle. Set in the year between 1943 1944, during World War II, the film clearly shows the difficulties that the Jews had to face in Germany. Various characters are forced to pretend to be someone else to survive. Jean Bonnet and two other students had to change their names to pass themselves as Germans in order to avoid being captured by the Nazis German.

The three students, had just been enrolled in a boarding school by a compassionate priest known as Pere Jean after he discovered that the Jews were being hunted down tries his best to protect them by allowing them to study in the school. However, the other Jews also experience discrimination from the Germans who claims that they do not have any problem with them but do not love their culture. The Germans such as father Jean who protected Jews are also punished for protecting individuals who were considered enemies of the nation.

Hidden Identity in the films

The main characters in the films, Felice and Jean show the importance of hiding one’s identity in the face of ethnic cleansing. Felice was forced by the current circumstances in the nation to hide her true identity by using a false name to move around the country. Felice was among the Jews who the Gestapo wanted to detain. Though she changed her name as a safe way to survive in the country, Felice constantly lived in fear of being captured like the other Jews. This fear is the reason she takes a long time before revealing her true identity to her Lilly, the love of her life. The 80,000 Jews who escaped capture, have to live with the lack of trust  that results from the fear and suspicion of those around them.

While Felice was working as the editor of one of the government newspapers, she kept her identity totally concealed. This is because this was a day time job and it could have been easy for anyone to recognize that she was a Jew. Though courageous to walk around the Nazis working for them, she and her workmates risked execution if she were found out as Nazis were kin to round up and exterminate all Jews and those hiding them.

Felice’s boldness is the only weapon she has for survival in the nation as she also works as one of the underground resistance. The producer perfectly depicts the roles that the remaining Jews who were not captured or killed on the first day that Hitler made a decree that all of the Jews were to be killed. Farberbock brought out the real life situation in the film by depicting how the remaining Jews went on with their daily lives regardless of the death sentence on their heads, a burden which they had to carry by concealing their true identity to the public or anyone whom they interacted with on a daily basis.  

In order to fully bring or create drama in the film, Farberbock decided to capture the theme of love focusing his main attention on gay people in the nation who were among the people at risk of persecution. According to the film, many women became lesbians because their husbands were away fighting the World War II. These are some of the negative impacts of the war on the people. Lilly Wust is an example of a woman who engages in a guy relationship. She developed a passionate and unusual attraction for the Jewish women and ended up falling in love with Felice after she took the courage to tell her the way she felt about her in letters. The love between these two women became so intense despite the full danger that they were placing themselves.

In the year 1942, all one could hear was the nightly raids in various houses in an attempt to capture the remaining 80, 000 Jews who were living in the nation. The conditions of seeing each other was therefore strict as there were curfews which restricted the movement of people especially those who loved each other. Every day as Lilly and Felice met there was intense sense of danger that she had face. She had to with fear of being captured and transported to a concentration camp in Auschwitz where other Jews were detained. The producer of the film has perfectly captured the tense environment in 1942 Berlin bringing out the fear and the danger of persecutions using the raids on daily basis at night. The intensity of fear grows as the Gestapo is seen purging in the Jews capital which makes the audience wonder what is next for people like Felice who is so determined to live her normal life by working and loving the woman who had captured her heart.

The arrival of the Gestapo might have been a sign of hope not only for Felice and the other Jews because it showed that the Germans were losing war so perhaps they would survive and continue with their normal lives. Felice being an editor is fully aware that the Germans are being defeated which gave a chance for some of the Jews in the country who had escaped the identification process to move out of Berlin (DJradin, 1). Dating a German woman who was a wife of a Nazi soldier was a bold move which meant certain death if caught. This is because Lilly was already respected in the society for bearing four children despite the husband being busy with the Nazi German battle. At the same time, she had penetrated the Nazi centers and establishment by pretending to be German. This was an act of treason that could have led to her execution caught. Therefore, it was important to hide her identity to avoid the persecution that awaited her.

Felice among the other Jews held on to hope that by Hitler’s 54th birthday, Jews would be free since there were already signs that the Germans were being defeated. This hope made her love more by visiting Lilly on a daily basis bringing with her flowers and love poems which she had wrote. However, the fear of being found out made her disappear from Lilly’s life for a couple of days. This was a chance for her to also help her other Jews to move out of the capital. Felice too had made attempts to move to the US but it seemed impossible because she wanted to remain true to her mission of not only helping her people but also aiding in the war by working spying on the Nazis while working for them. This is a perfect way in which the author has depicted the role that women played during the World War II.

When it appeared to everyone that the war was ending, Felice decided to reveal her true identity to Lilly explaining her double life. This was after it was announced that Hitler had been killed which brought a ray of hope to Jews like Felice. However, after a few days, Hitler announced that he is still alive and remains untouched something which Felice saw to be a death sentence thus the need to reveal her true identity because she could have not obtain another chance to say the truth to the woman she loved. Though surprised by this revelation, Lilly became more attracted to Felice because of the strong attraction she always had for the Jews women. This is a crucial moment in the film filled with tension, fear and romance at the same time. It was now time for Lilly to care for her love.

During the remaining months before Felice is finally captured, they both had to live in fear throughout the night especially when they heard the bombings or there was an unexpected knock on their door or even a sound of a vehicle moving around. It is during this time that the true nature of suffering that the Jews is revealed. According to Lilly, several of the Jews who did not have ration card had to go without food and lacked a proper place to sleep especially there for the children. However, due to the strong panic and fear the two decided to escape to Havel Lake to enjoy and embrace their love. Later when they came back, Felice is captured and taken away by the eight Nazi men who claimed that they had been after her for months. Sadly, like the other Jews, Felice had to die in Auschwitz because of tuberculosis as a result of the harsh living conditions that they were subjected to by the Nazi people.

The Felice’s case echoes Jean’s experience in Au Revoir Les Enfants.  Jean also decided to hide his identity by changing his last name to Bonnet but in real sense he was called Jean Kippelstein.  This is the best way in which he could survive the persecutions that the Jews were going through as Nazis hunted them down. The film also depicts the ways in which some of the Germans were merciful enough to hide the Jews true identity. For instance, the case of Pere Jean, the priest, who decided to take Jean, and the other two boys to the boarding school to protect them from persecution by the Nazi Germans. On the other hand, after Julien found out about Jean’s true identity, he decided to bond more with him and the two formed a close relationship which was a dangerous move because if caught to support and hide a Jewish person, one could be made to bear a heavy punishment. However, the idea that majority of the Germans were willing to protect and hide the true identity of the Jews who lived among them is also evident in the case of Felice who in several occasions her identity was revealed but no one revealed it to the German soldiers.

As the film continues, the true feelings of the Germans towards the Germans are revealed. It is evident that majority of Julien’s family members do not love the German culture and would do anything possible to do away with it. This is the reason they call for the Jewish diner to be expelled among them with claims that they are serving the France people (Films.org 1). When the Gestapo raided the school in the year 1944, Julien who also holds a deep grudge for the Jews decided to give away Bonnet by directing them in his direction. The remaining two Jewish children are also hunted down and caught.

On the other hand, Jean the priest is punished for his action of concealing the identity of the Jewish children by helping them to hide in his school. His compassionate act is not taken lightly and he is regarded as weak and undisciplined thus deserved punishment. This is a clear sign that not only the Jews were at a risk of persecution but also those individuals who protected them which is the similar case that Lilly had to undergo when the German soldier had to mistreat her when she made attempts to see Felice.

The ways in which films correlate to events in WWII

There are specific events in the two films that depict the events that took place during the Second World War. In the year 1941, the continental Europe was mainly under the influence of Nazi control.  It is during this same period that Hitler orders for the gas chambers to be built at Auschwitz as the bombings of German and Britain continued. All these scenes are depicted in the film in various occasions especially the building of the Auschwitz camps and also the many bombings that occurred in the nation. For instance, in the film Aimee & Jaguar, Felice and Lilly were constantly in fear of the many bombings that occurred in Germany during the raids. The bombings not only made people especially the Jews to live in fear of being persecuted but also gave them a hope that perhaps finally the Germans will be defeated and that meant that they will be free individuals.

The bombings actually crippled several of the German solders especially with the several attacks by the Russians (Weinberg 64). The Jews such as Felice had hopes that the US would also come to their rescue. She obtained this information from the underground group that she was working where she learnt that the US had pledged to avenge the Jewish people for all the mass murders that occurred in Germany. These are similar events that took place in the second half of 1942 when the world saw a reverse of the German fortunes. It is this same period that the US had learnt about the mass murders that occurred in Germany and pledged to avenge them in all ways possible. At the same time, the Allied shipping had arrived in the nation to destroy Germany and this is among the reasons there were increased bombings in the film.

The one thing that the audience can learn from the WWII by watching these specific scenes is that the Jews mainly relied on hope not only from other nations but also from the US. Those 80, 000 Jews who had survived such as Felice saw hope each and every time that the Germans felt overweighed by the extra bombings in the nation. This is the reason when Felice together with the other Jews learnt about the death of Hitler, they not only saw hope of freedom but also felt that it was a chance for them to live a normal life in Germany or move to other nations without fear of being captured by the Nazi Germans.

The impacts that these scenes have on the audience is a sign of hope and fear at the same time. The audience felt that at long last Felice will not have to hide behind a false identity to interact with the other Germans. At the same time, the scene where Hitler goes to the radio station and mentions that he is alive and untouched not only created fear and panic among the Jews but also made the audience to pity and fear for Felice and the other Jews. As the film continued after the big announcement, anxiety among the audience became high as they wondered what would happen to the Jews especially Felice who was the protagonist in the film.

These scenes were included in the film to show the wider perspectives of World War II. It means that these scenes plays the role historical analysis of the larger perspectives of WWII making the films important in understand the history of this war especially in regards to events that took place during this particular period.  At the same time, the scenes looks back at history and truthfully reveals a community (Jews) which was united by shared hardship. For instance, in the film Au Revoir Les Enfants the school children were joined together by crowded dormitories, freezing classrooms, stern discipline, and poor food. Though hidden behind a fake identity, Jean was a practical jokes and faced bullying because of the ways in which he handled himself. This shows that despite the fact that the Jews found refuge in the arms of individuals who were willing to protect them, they could not hide who they were as individuals. This is the reason Jean and Felice were finally captured by the Nazi soldiers and ended up dying in the death camps.

In conclusion, the films titled Aimee & Jaguar and Au Revoir Les Enfants has captured the historic World War period revealing the ways in which hiding one’s identity was an important factor for the Jews who were undergoing persecution since it gave them a chance to continue living their normal lives. Felice and Jean managed to live a normal life by their hidden identity with the hope that the war will end and Jews declared free individuals. However, amidst the raids, the war and the rage in the nation especially with the Gestapo in the capital, it was a matter of time before they were captured and taken to Auschwitz where they died.

Works Cited

DJradin. “Aimee & Jaguar.” YouTube. 11 Feb 1999. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhvlJFMfZHQ

Films.org. “Au Revoir Les Enfants.” YouTube Retrieved from http://ffilms.org/au-revoir-les-enfants-1987/

Weinberg, Gerhard L. A world at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge University Press, 1994.