Die Flucht – March of Millions (2007) German TV production about the Flight from East Prussia

This is one of those stories that needed telling. East Prussia, this vast and beautiful region in Germany, was quite peaceful during the war until the Eastern Front collapsed and the Russians started invading Prussia and moved towards Berlin. The people living there had but two choices. Stay and face the Russians who were not exactly going to handle them with care. Or  to flee and leave all their possessions behind. East Prussia was the home of many aristocratic families who lived at ease on huge estates. Theirs was a life of wealth and tradition. Leaving was extremely hard on them and for many it took a long time until they made up their minds. Too long in some cases. For those who had less, it wasn’t any easier. Not only did they have to leave everything behind, they didn’t know where they were going or if they were not going to be outrun by the Russians.

You see, a lot of potential for a great story and all of the above is shown in Die Flucht – March of Millions. Unfortunately even historical events like this need good storytelling and that’s where I’m not happy with this two-part German TV production. While it’s not bad, I would have preferred if they hadn’t decided to turn the second half into a love story.

Lena, countess von Mahlenberg (Maria Furtwängler), leaves Berlin and returns to her family’s estate in East Prussia. Things still look pretty much the same as they did before the war with the exception of French POWs – led by cranky François (Jean-Yves Berteloot) – working on the estate. And there is also a  panicky feeling underneath the surface. Things do not look good for Germany. That they will win the war is not very likely anymore and what this could mean for them, this close to the Eastern front, starts to dawn on a few people.

The von Mahlenberg’s are friends with another aristocratic family, the von Gernstorffs. Lena is going to get married to their older son although she doesn’t really love him. The younger son who is in love with her as well, is one of the only ones to clearly say that Germany will lose the war. He is fighting on the Russian front and scared of dying. When he deserts, the family breaks apart.

Meanwhile Lena wants to flee together with the POWs who have been working for her and with all of the people who live on the estate.

The first part of the movie is dedicated to the time before they flee, the second focusses entirely on that long march.

Many of the elements are interesting and dramatic. The tensions among the Germans, the justified fear of the Russians, the tragedy to lose your home and to be unwelcome wherever you go, is shown quite well.

What I liked too were the pictures. I have never been in East Prussia but those vast landscapes seem very beautiful and they were beautifully filmed. What did not work is the love story. I think this movie could have been dramatic without a love story but on top of that it didn’t seem very realistic.

In any case, a watchable movie but not as good as I had hoped for. I think however this would be successful in the US or the UK as, like Dresden or Anonyma, it shows aspects of German history and suffering we sometimes tend to forget. Of the three movies I liked Anonyma best but I’m fond of Dresden as well, although it has corny elements.

I’m not sure Die Flucht is available in English. I attached the German trailer and for those interested in the history of East Prussia during WWII, a documentary in English which looks quite good.

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11 thoughts on “Die Flucht – March of Millions (2007) German TV production about the Flight from East Prussia

  1. Guy Savage says:

    This sounds like something I’d be interested in, but it’s doubtful that it’s available. TV films don’t exactly hit the big time.

    Have you seen Coup de Grace?

  2. nem baj says:

    Nice review, I ordered it.

    I’m quite curious to see how ‘quite peaceful’ East Prussia is presented, since it was both a flagship region for national-socialist policies, and a border region used as a base by the Einsatzgruppen operating in Lituania from 1941 and for the ‘germanization’ of southern Polish territories annexed in 1939…

    Almost untouched by the destructions of warfare until the RAF bombing of Königsberg in August 1944 surely, relatively prosperous within the war economy indeed, but peaceful… hum.

    By the way Goerdeler, who was the presumptive Chancellor had the 20th July plot suceeded, was an East-Prussian politician, as were many of the civilian conspirators.

    • Knowing you I’m afraid where I sw a movie wth flaws you will see flaws with some movie. 🙂
      Yes, they showed it as a peaceful region although, implicitly we know the front isn’t too far away.

      • nem baj says:

        Sure, and after reading your review my expectations are rather low, thank you 🙂

        What I meant was that it probably wasn’t peaceful at all for Jews, Gypsies, political opponents, and slave laborers (notably Russians and Poles).

      • To this day it’s said that the worst Nazis or the most Nazis were living in Prussia so in that context, it was not peaceful if you weren’t Aryan.

      • nem baj says:

        Sure, and at the same time the local political establishment (both social-democrats and conservatives) very strongly opposed the nazi coup d’État. Königsberg before 1933 was more ethnically diverse than Berlin, and the NSDAP didn’t fare well at all in the elections… then it became an iconic national-socialist area; kind of a schizophrenic situation!

      • Nowadays, the former Prussia has the most neo Nazis. So often when somethin g happens it’s somewhere in that region and the groups are growing.

  3. the war movie buff says:

    It always amazes me to think that there were areas of Germany as late as 1944 that were little effected by the war.

    Is the story based on a true story?

    I can’t imagine that I would like this.

    • No, unfortunately it is not. That’s sad because I think there would have been stories worth telling. And the love story….

    • nem baj says:

      It was mostly the same for Pomerania: not industrial enough, and too far away from Great Britain to be a priority target for aerial bombings in the early years. Plus, it would have implied a violation of Swedish neutrality.

      Moreover, Stalin had claimed the area as a future part of the USSR from 1941, and it wasn’t only an Alexander Nevsky posture. All this might explain why the Western Allies didn’t bomb Königsberg until late August 44, when the Red Army eventually approached.

      Problem is, East Prussia in the meantime had become a haven for displaced German civilians and wounded German soldiers – hence the particularly intense trauma of the last months, when all hell broke loose. But in my opinion they had been living, since 1932 and the Preußenschlag, in the eye of the storm.

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