The Invisibles

The Invisibles is an elaborate reenactment of events experienced by four Jewish survivors of the Nazis, who chose, at great personal risks, to hide in Berlin rather than board the extermination trains.

No one was sent to the camps to be rehabilitated back into society. There was no attempt at reeducating them to learn to adapt. It was a death sentence, and of the 7,000 who decided to hide, only 1,500 would be there when the war ended.

For them, living in this close proximity to daily Nazi operations meant no access to radios, no open correspondence. All of their bikes were confiscated, and they weren’t able to care for pets. The object was total isolation, resulting in a dog-eat-dog existence where no one could be trusted. The harsher the laws got against Jews, the more young Germans were acclimated towards it being a situation calling for every man for himself. The idea of giving up family and property and relationships to escape to the UK or Switzerland, especially in light of there being less hiding space when rooms were lost to annexation for German bombing victims, gained momentum.

Director Claus Rafle uses archival footage of Berlin in the 1930s with intertwined interviews of his four subjects to paint the loneliness and anxiety of living off the grid – changing hair color, names and locations multiple times without the slightest idea of how long this would be the norm to continue breathing.

Jewish informants were rampant, so it fell to Christians and the communists to gamble on avoiding detection to hide as many as they could.

Hanni Levy sewed parachutes after spending most of her days re-watching the same movie in darkened theaters to elude capture. Cioma Schonhaus found protection under the auspices of higher ups in local governments needing someone to forge passports abroad. Eugene Friede, though half Jewish, moved frequently to avoid suspicions. And, Ruth Arodt resorted to wearing grief-stricken funeral attire to blend in with all the Germans mourning soldiers.

When Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels declared Berlin free of all Jews in May 1943, it would lead to survivors not being believed at wars end by Soviet forces who were unwilling to dispute the claim. Without a uniform to determine government uniformity, you could be identified as a sympathizer which could result in your death because there was no belief in dissension – a resistance was deemed unfathomable.

The final result in German education and philosophic trends, people cashing in on what they’d been instructed to accept, elected Nazis. Hegel advocated for the coherence theory of truth that any set of claims that is coherent is therefore true.

Under the constant threat of exposure, The Invisibles foreshadows a lingering desire for secrecy from then on. “Only a few can hold their tongue when fingers are in a door jam and it’s slammed shut!”

Hanni speaks of not knowing where your next meal is coming from or even if it was forthcoming. The ache of an empty stomach put a damper on their every movement and thinking through any course of action.

The current trend of flippantly referring to an opponent as a Nazi may score momentary political points for some but it is a disservice to survivors of the Nazis. In the long run, that sort of shirk leads to moral greyness, but for The Invisibles the issue was continuously “either/or” – either surviving the night, or die trying.