Saviors in the Night

Returning from Germany’s eastern front in 1918, Menne Spiegel is decorated with the Iron Cross. Twenty-five years later, living as a popular horse merchant in Westphalia, he’s branded with a different insignia: the Star of David. On the eve of a mass deportation of Jews, Spiegel seeks out his old comrade Heinrich Aschoff, a Catholic farmer with a conscience, who instantly agrees to shelter Spiegel’s wife Marga and daughter Karen at his farm despite the risk to his own family. Based on the real Marga Spiegel’s best-selling memoir, Saviors in the Night relates the extraordinary story of the two families’ perilous years together, and with a forthrightness befitting the salt-of-the-earth Aschoff family (later recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for their death-defying act of compassion). Dutch director Ludi Boeken (Other Face of Terror, SFJFF 1986) captures the characters’ vulnerability as they endeavor to escape detection—rarely has a handheld camera felt more appropriate in a historical drama where a child’s thoughtless remark might mean a death sentence. The Aschoffs’ rural village isn’t as malignant as the one in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, but the good deeds of the few are undermined by neighbors’ whispers and resentment. Moreover, family bonds are tested, as the Aschoffs must justify their act of courage to a daughter whose friends have joined the Hitler Youth and a son who is fighting on the front. With outstanding performances and a riveting conclusion, Saviors in the Night delivers a powerful message about the price—and rewards—of altruism. This is an extraordinary feature film that powerfully records one memorable instance of moral courage under desperate conditions.
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