Movies, Moving Something

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Lately, as my beloved one and I spent some chilly October evenings
skimming through the TV channels, we happened to find two gemstones
under a giant pile of vain nonsense: Neger,
Neger, Schornsteinfeger
, this year's contribution
to our national holiday, October third, and Lorenzo's
Oil
, which, presumably by error or negligence, had found
its way to the German TV screen.

Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger (Nigger, nigger, chimney
sweeper, a once common song with children), starring TV blondie
Veronica Ferres in a surprisingly well-performed character role,
tells the true story of a boy who should not have existed: the illegitimate
son of a black Liberian diplomat's son with a German woman. Today,
this would not raise too many eyebrows; alas, this boy happened
to be born in Hamburg of 1926, seven years before the NSDAP seized
power in Germany.

Mercilessly, this movie showed how tyranny was gradually creeping
into the everyday lives of ordinary people. Not by brute force but
by mental corruption. Those days it was fashionable to own a copy
of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and to display it on a prominent
place for visitors to notice, but hardly anyone had bothered to
read it. School notes or other qualifications became less and less
important, membership in Jungvolk and Hitlerjugend
for the youth, SA, SS and NSDAP for adults,
at the same time, turned out to be of increasingly crucial importance.

At first, the boy, Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, was what we would
call "integrated" nowadays. Though sometimes teased for
his dark skin, even with the above-mentioned song, he was accepted
like anyone else in his neighborhood. He had friends, boys in his
age, was a bright pupil at school, even his teacher liked him. His
mother, abandoned by her son's father, was working as a nurse in
a Hamburg hospital, struggling through her life as any unmarried
mother would have in these times. She made the acquaintance of the
hospital's deputy staff manager and they fell in love with each
other. This man, who apparently honestly liked his girl's son, did,
what many people did these times to advance their career: he joined
the NSDAP. THE Party. At first, he used to share the advantages
he pulled out of his political connections with his fiancée,
establishing sort of a private peace zone, not really caring for
her son's being "non-aryan."

The noose tightened, of course. Hans-Jürgen found himself
being increasingly harassed, stripped of rights and dignity and,
eventually, of any possibility to take part in public life. He was
expelled from school, along with his beloved teacher, who was considered
unbearable for aryan pupils, being a Jehovah's Witness. He was denied
access to any school at all, of the right to get any professional
education, sports clubs, not for being incompetent, but for successfully
striving to be the best. Incompetent but "aryan" boys
were promoted at his expense while he was not only rejected, but
harassed and beaten up on a regular base.

This was the main reason why her mother resisted her fiancée's
urging to join the Nazi party. Finally this would be the point which
caused their relationship to break apart. The newly-promoted staff
manager, of course, would take revenge.

Not too long after the break-up, his mother was fired from the
hospital, as women with "non-aryan" offspring were no
longer considered good enough to treat thoroughbred Herrenrasse
patients.

As she was now barred from any employment with "aryan"
employers, she found a new job as a domestic help in a Jewish family.
Mr. Goldstein, a physician, had the same problem as she: he was
prohibited from treating "aryan" patients.

Hans-Jürgen, who wanted nothing more desperately than to be
accepted as a German under Germans, first resented her from working
for a Jewish family, but not too long after found a friend in Dr.
Goldstein's son of his age.

Hans-Jürgen still hoped that the system might recognize him
as an equal as long as he complied with the system. What united
him with the Jewish boy was the feeling of being outcast.

A cold chill of terror and understanding ran down his spine, when
he saw that Dr. Goldstein and his entire family had committed suicide
and, their bodies still warm in their bed, the SA started to loot
the place.

World War II accelerated the downfall of civility. Expelled from
any kind of social life, Hans-Jürgen found himself lucky, when
a local locksmith hired him to replace his assistant, who had been
drafted to die in the war. The locksmith did not mind him being
"non-aryan." He hired the boy because he had known him
from the first day when he had moved into this neighborhood.

Eventually, in the same measure his understanding grew, his previous
enthusiasm for the Nazis turned into shock and hatred. A timid and
tender romance with a girl from his neighborhood made him a target
for the GeStaPa, whose agents arrested him on invented charges.
His life was saved by a regular police officer who had known him
from his childhood days on and who still believed in justice instead
of arbitrary laws.

Living through the bomb nights and the
infernal devastation of 1943
, when Hamburg was scorched, he
found life more and more impossible. His boss went out of business
when his locksmith shop was declared unimportant for war production
and deprived of any raw materials. The house he used to live in
with his mother, had been destroyed by bombs and as a "non-aryan,"
he would find no other home, not even admittance to a bomb shelter.
So he and his mother were living till the end of WWII in a hole
in a burnt-down ruin, where they greeted the end of this nightmare,
when American soldiers, some of them black, took the city.

This movie was shocking, not so much for depicting graphic violence
and stunning special effects, but for showing how tyranny can creep
into everyday life in disguise of corruption, nepotism, and regulations
of a hypertrophied state.

The other movie worth this name, because it moved something in
me was "Lorenzo's Oil" (no link, as even Wikipedia is
behaving like the yellow FDA cowards) — a touching story, starring
Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon in the roles of a boy's parents who
find out that their son is ailing of a rare and incurable disease,
ALD (adrenomyeloneuropathy), which is caused by a genetic deficiency
carried by women who transmit this disease to their sons.

These boys will show first symptoms when they are five to seven
years old and die within two years after being diagnosed.

The movie tells the story of this family's struggle against lethal
and uncaring enemies — not only the disease, but bureaucrazy and
institutionalized science as well.

At first, both parents react predictably terror-stricken, feeling
guilty and desperate. They join a foundation consisting of parents,
helpers and physicians, only to find out that this foundation's
main objective is to help the parents accept that their sons are
doomed. The physicians' help consists of little more than the consolation
that keeping a certain diet is the only known thing that might help.
In reality, this diet turns out to boost the problems.

These parents would not accept the verdict, medicine has felled
over their son. In private efforts, they digest entire libraries
in order to find out how much science does know about ALD. They
do any research possible to them, and find a flaw in the dietary
treatment. When they try to mention it to the foundation, they find
themselves barred from being heard. On their own expense, they keep
on searching for way to treat their son with a different kind of
diet, and, after a long struggle succeed in talking a chemical company
to produce small amounts of a special preparation of a certain fatty
acid, which will prevent their son's body from producing a poisonous
fatty acid instead of a healthy one.

To the flabbergasted dismay of all paper experts, this diet shows
effects, which were considered impossible. As the story ends, the
son is still alive even twelve years after his death sentence uttered
by socialized medicine. To add insult to injury, this boy even regained
parts of his brain functions, which were thought to be lost forever.

What
I liked in this move were not so much the heart-tearing images of
a young boy being deprived of his life by a lethal disease and the
not less heart-tearing struggle of his parents. All this was expertly
performed by extremely qualified actors and looked as if they felt
what they were performing. This in itself would qualify as a good
movie, sure. But what I liked most was the stubbornness, the relentless
struggle of a man who had discovered a piece of truth and would
defend it with teeth and claws against institutionalized ignorance
called official science. Myelin.org
will tell you that this story is true, and if you are looking for
a charity organization that does a good job (after being kicked
into its most sensitive part), this might be a candidate.

October
9, 2006

Ulrich
Biele
[send him mail] is
a consultant in Munich, Germany.

Ulrich
Biele Archives

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