Europa Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990) The Story of a Jewish Boy Hiding Among Nazis

Agnieszka Holland’s movie Europa, Europa is based on the true story of Salomon Perel. It is frequently mentioned as one of the top 100 war movies. It’s a harrowing and quite unbelievable story, still I have to confess that I did not like it.

The Perels are a Jewish family living in Germany at the beginning of the war. When anti-Jewish acts become more and more frequent, they are attacked and the daughter is killed. Salomon’s parents send the young boy and his brother to Poland where he should try to survive at any cost. He looses his brother early in the movie and ends in a Russian communist orphanage. Here he is given a passport and has to undergo some serious communist re-education. When the Germans invade Russia, the orphanage is attacked. They all flee and Salomon gets captured on the way by a Nazi patrol. All the Jews are shot immediately and it is only thanks to an extreme presence of mind that Salomon manages to make them belive that he is a true German and that he can be extremely useful as interpreter since he speaks Russian fluently. The soldiers take him along and he fights with them, helps them as a translator. He has to be super careful that no one sees him naked and this will stay a constant topic throughout the movie. The fact that he is circumcised would give his identity away.

A German officer hears of the young boy and that he is an orphan. He likes the bright boy and thinks of adopting him but first he sends him to one of the Nazi elite schools where he will be educated and trained. Here again, he has to be careful in order to not be found out. There are a few incredible scenes in the school. In one scene a teacher shows that one can see unmistakably, that, despite his dark hair, Salomon is of pure Aryan breed. The pupils are taught to hate the Jews and how to detect them. The absurdity of such scenes is incredible and Nazi madness made apparent.

Salomon is barely 16 years old and falls in love for the first time. Although the girl is willing “to do it”, he has to say no. The danger of being detected is too big.

It is incredible to think that he got away with it for so long. He blended in so perfectly, was such a good actor and so cold-blooded that they never even suspected him to be Jewish.

After the war Salomon finds out that his whole family died in a ghetto in Poland. He leaves Europe and settles in Palestine. At the end of the movie we catch a glimpse of the real Salomon Perel.

It took me a while to figure out why I didn’t like this movie. I didn’t like it because I didn’t like Salomon. I suspect that I found his behaviour cowardly. He isn’t much better than a collaborator. It disgusted me to see him act and talk like a Nazi. Sure, he was only a boy, he wanted to survive, he lost his family… I think sometimes it’s better to die than to sell out. Bit harsh, I know, but surviving is not everything.

I’d be really interested to know what others think of this movie.

Europa, Europa is part of the Children in War Movies List

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11 thoughts on “Europa Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990) The Story of a Jewish Boy Hiding Among Nazis

  1. […] Europa, Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990 Germany/France/Poland): WWII, Germany (See my review) […]

  2. Guy Savage says:

    I saw this a few years back and I remember really liking it. Now I’ll have to go back and rewatch it.

    • I was disappointed, I had expected a different type of cinematography, I found it quite flat. The fact that I didn’t like the main characater was not the only reason. And regarding the part on the Hitler Youth I found NaPoLa (Before The Fall) and also The Ogre so much better.
      It was a similar reaction I had when watching The Counterfeiters.

  3. the war movie buff says:

    I have this in my Net Flix queue. I’ll move it up so I can give you my opinion.

    • That’s good to know. I am sure you will be kinder for various reasons.

      • the war movie buff says:

        Just finished it and I am on the same page as you. It left me cold. There is nothing special about it other than the premise. The main character is slightly creepy and hard to like, although I did not really fault him for his actions. He appeared to be as typical jerk of a teenage boy. I mostly did not like it because it was so implausible. And don’t tell me it was based on a true story. So was Braveheart. Why would the German soldiers accept his word with no proof and in fact make him the company mascot? Ridiculous. You would think the Russians were the most tolerant people when it came to Jews. Untrue. The two Germans who discover his secret are absolute saints. Implausible. He stays two years in a Hitler Youth school and none of the other boys see his weiner in the shower. Highly unlikely. His brother saves him from being shot at the end of the war. Incredible luck.

      • Totally cold, agree. I just didn’t like him. I have to disagree on the plausibility. I think it is plausible but still left me cold. There were a lot of Germans who hid Jews and I think they found out because they were open. I guess if you try constantly to avoid to be seen naked it should somehow work. Agree, the Russians were certainly not more Jew-friendly.
        It really is a true story and unlike Braveheart the, guy, as you saw, was still alive when they did the movie. Maybe they embellished it a bit. And he didn’t look “typical” in their eyes.

  4. Guy Savage says:

    have you seen Olivier Olivier (not a war film but by the same director)?

  5. lifewith4cats says:

    Ill give this movie a watch. Thanks to netflix. But Im thinking that sice this is based off real life. That man who is Salomon probably has some serious psychological trouble over his personal identity. Having attended those schools and pretending as long as he did can’t have been good for him.

    Speaking of cowardace: I just finnished watching ‘The Tenth man’ a French story along a similar theme but much less violent.

    • Thanks for that recommendation. You are right about his psychlogy and I would have liked to know more abot him later. I know I was harsh in my review but it made me feel uneasy. I think this is the reason why he left Europe. I’m sure it does make him feel uneasy too.

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