I am not a student of films and I have no expertise in filmography but I do enjoy watching foreign films. This is a black and white WWII movie about the effects of the Third Reich on a single close-knit family. The protagonist's (Hans Behnke) son joins Hitler Youth and tattles on his conscientious father's efforts to provide for and protect his family. Behnke is a not a party man, he works assiduously, upholds neutral principles and family loyalty. His apathy towards overt Nazi party affiliation and the use of his printer's skills to publish anti-Nazi literature to help his doting brother-in-law (Kurt) land him in trouble. The War ends, there is reconciliation between him and his son. His son's transformation and realization that evil is preventable are the kernels of this movie. Filmed in late 1940s, in German with English subtitles, its technical limitations compared to current technology actually enhance the effects of fear, paranoia and desperation. Behnke's steadfast non-affiliation is admirably brought out.
That this story focuses on a single family is its strong suit. There is due time given for Behnke's character development. He joins the party, albeit reluctantly, just to keep his job and provide for his tolerant wife, Lotte, and his much-loved son, Helmut. Unemployment, crushing hunger, Helmut's malnutrition, shock of filial betrayal and the pervasive spying by Nazi secret service all test Behnke's convictions. At times he compromises, and at others he suffers immensely for not relenting. This raises the dreaded perennial question, "What would you have done under these circumstances?"
The film closes with a coda showing Helmut falling in love at the same location as his father did 20 years earlier. Helmut, now repentant and transformed, seems to hold out hope for a future that does not repeat its destructive past. He promises as much to his new love. We know differently now; we humans have since broken our internal promises and reengaged in many newer destructive acts. Sorry Helmut!
For us, now in early 21st century, this is a painful realization because we are incapable of not repeating ourselves - BUT our hopes to the contrary sustain us.