BYE BYE GERMANY (Es war einmal in Deutschland)


APRIL 26, 2018 -- The original title for Sam Garbarski's latest film is "Once upon a time in Germany..." which is probably more appropriate than it's US version. It is hardly a lap-slapping comedy but it does have a few ironic scenes.


Moritz Bleibtrau stars in this less than somber look at post-War Germany as the surviving Jews are trying to figure out what to do next. They have been encamped in Allied displaced persons camps with many deciding to go to Palestine (now Israel) and others choosing to come to the United States. Bleibtrau's David Bermann character - who survived concentration camps - has come up with a scheme to be able to afford the price of a US bound ticket.


Using the knowledge he gained from his families former pre-Nazi linen business, he has decided to sell linen to the Germans to raise capital. He enlists the help of a few other survivors and starts up a less than savory business selling to mostly German widows. The more lighthearted scenes are those with the guys selling to their customers.

There is a side story however, as Bermann has been called in for questioning by a lovely American agent Sara Simon (Antje Traue) who has accused him of being a German collaborator - thus the reason why he was able to survive concentration camps. It seems Bermann was enlisted by the SS to teacher Hitler how to tell jokes, thus elevating him to a special privilege Jew status.


Things get testy when Bermann's business partners wonder where he disappears to on occasional days. And there is yet another side story of the identification of a Nazi criminal hiding under a Jewish name by selling newspapers; this leads to a huge mistake.


While there are significant light humor scenes as the guys scam their wares into German homes, the somber reality of concentration camp survival is narrated by Bermann to the agent Simon even while she bombards him with accusation after accusation.


To that end, the best repartee is between Traue and Bleibtreu as they trade quips. The rest of the cast is fills in superbly in this unique Holocaust story of survival and continuation. Symbolically Garbarski has a 3-legged dog that appears from time to time as a recurring gag - but also a testament to survival.


The story is based on the novel The Teilacher by Michael Bermann who wrote several novels looking at the Jewish experience in post-Nazi Germany.


"Bye, Bye Germany" (Es war einmal in Deutschland) is a dark comedy that looks at the German Jewish experience during and after World War II in a uniquely lighter style with charming performances.   -- GRADE B  --   GEOFF BURTON