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