The Red Orchestra, one of the largest German resistance groups, were mislabelled as Communist spies, first by the Gestapo and then by Secret Services until recently. For the first time, surviving members tell their story, re-created by a pioneering technique of animations.

Gestapo Car

The Red Orchestra was a resistance group that fought against the Third Reich within Germany from 1933 to 1942. The Gestapo labeled them as Communists and traitors for their efforts to put an end to Hitler, a theory that was upheld by Allied Secret Services until recently. Historians now officially recognize their work as that of one of the largest and most efficient Nazi resistance groups.
The resistance fighters held a variety of political and religious beliefs. Forty percent of the members were women. Stopping the Third Reich was the common goal. Using a pioneering animation technique, this film tells their story. It also shows how easily information planted by secret service agents can become part of official history writing.

It is built from interviews with survivors of the group, their families and historians. Among them is the director’s father, Helmut Roloff who died in 2001. He was their last surviving member. Never before seen archive material shot by Nazis and private citizens illustrates further references made by those interviewed. Together, these techniques open a window into the last century’s darkest moment that brought the Red Orchestra into existence.
Approaching the subject from as private point of view, the film gives an example how people are capable of free will at all times and under any circumstance.

Director’s statement

When I interviewed my father during the last four years of his life in Berlin, I did not only undertake a time travel into the past, but attempted to bring his story into the present world. I was questioning how his experiences as a resistance fighter against the Nazis and as a Gestapo prisoner might apply to today’s values and state of mind.The conflict between individual and majority opinions exists in all societies and circumstances. Even in situations far less dangerous than the Third Reich.

I developed an animation technique that resembles moving black and white drawings. It helps to avoid a false reality through re-enactments and is used for scenes that were described in interviews but could not be documented. Example: Gestapo interrogations or secret exchanges of messages between prisoners that were in isolation and under heavy surveillance.
For the music I chose Martin Rev, keyboarder of the New York Duo Suicide. His experience with sampling allowed him to incorporate specific sounds while his style helps to make the subject more accessible to a contemporary public.

I tried to look beyond the fact that the Red Orchestra members risked and gave their lives for the freedom of all as something heroic. Getting to know them as regular people instead shows that what they did was normal – to resist the oppressive air of their surroundings.

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