Friday, December 12, 2014

Films We Like: Decision Before Dawn (1951), Part One


Title Card, Decision Before Dawn, 1951 (Photo: The Indefeatagable DVD Beaver
You Will Sing, 'O Canada'. Sing It Right Now.)

Saturday Night At The Movies

[Part One was originally posted in 2012. Parts 2 and 3 follow, more recently done.]

I was introduced to some of my favorite films through my parent's black-and-white Zenith, and on NBC's Saturday Night At The Movies, which Wikipedia describes as "the first continuing weekly prime time network television series... to show relatively recent feature films".

On January 5, 1963, at 8:00 PM Pacific Time, they premiered Anatole Litvak's 1951 film, Decision Before Dawn, the story of a young German soldier captured in late 1944 who decides to work for the Americans as an intelligence agent behind German lines. It's a good, if not great, film -- for me, a classic on my Top Ten List.

It was rarely shown on teevee after the 1970's, but released on laserdisc in the mid-1980's. Sadly, that LP-sized technology didn't last; its image and sound quality were amazingly good (better, even, than the DVD technology that replaced them, until the advent of Blu-Ray). The range of titles available on Laserdisc were never matched by DVDs, either.

It took twenty years for Decision to be made available on DVD; the image quality isn't bad, but compared with the laserdisc version I used to own, the sound on DVD isn't as crisp as I know it can be. Just one Dog's opinion.

Morals, Movies, And Mitwissers

Watching the film in 1963, I understood that many of the actors were actual Germans, and their uniforms; the bombed-out buildings in the background of various shots, all looked realistic -- because they were.

I've read some criticisms of the film, made when it was released in 1951: that Decision was made for political reasons -- an attempt to rehabilitate a people who had crossed a moral line which placed them beyond redemption. The real raison d'etre for the movie was to humanize them, so that Western Germany (just founded as a Federal Republic) could become more palatable as a proxy state of the U.S., a bulwark against the new Soviet Russian empire.

It was propaganda, and of the worst sort  -- because to accept it, you would have to ignore what Germany, and Germans, were responsible for in Europe during the twelve years of the Third Reich. The Holocaust topped the list of crimes, but it was a long list.

The U.S. government gave assistance to the film's producers and distributor, 20th Century Fox, by allowing use of U.S. Army vehicles, and active-service troops as extras -- a continuation of Hollywood and the government's collaboration during the war. It was just political expediency.

Creating sympathetic characterizations of Germans ... yes, the war was over; people just wanted to get on with living -- but should anyone try to paper over the ovens, and everything that led to them? The actors in this movie... well, what exactly did they do during the war?

Reichstheaterkammer (State Theater Bureau) ID; Nazi Germany's Equivalent Of A SAG Or AFTRA Card. If Employed During The War, Decision's German Cast Members Would Have Carried One.

Germans after the war went through a denazification process (depending upon whom you talk to, unnecessary, or one which didn't go far enough. I agree with the latter -- and particularly so in places like Austria or the former East Germany) to weed out former nazi party members from positions of authority or influence in public life. Prominent filmmakers and actors (such as G.W. Pabst, Leni Reifenstahl, Emil Jannings, Hans Albers or Zarah Leander), already famous in Weimar Germany and who publicly embraced the nazis, found themselves reviled and out of work.

The political backgrounds of German cast members in Decision had been through that same scrutiny; but like any person living in Germany after 1933, and unwilling or unable to leave, they became accomplices by association, proximity. The word in German is Mitwisser,  "Knows-With", and in law this can mean a person with knowledge of a crime -- as culpable as the ones who actively commit it; they were in the room when things happened.

I asked myself that same question, for years, and a while ago started researching the backgrounds of as many German cast members of Decision as I could find. It's the basis for the notes about them that follow in the description of the film.

The notes are interesting but only show the broad outlines of an actor's career -- unsatisfying for a film biographer, or a historian. As far as I'm aware, only one member of Decision's cast ever put themselves at risk with the nazi regime (who that is may surprise you). Many had been actors before the nazis came to power, or had just broken into the business, and continued trying to develop their careers right through the war.

Life is rarely lived in bold, dramatic moments. It's lived in the spaces between the highs and lows we experience; it's collective, and it does catch up to us. We'd like to believe that if we were faced with similar choices, that we'd act as courageously as any of our film heroes -- maybe, and maybe not.

But we're here to talk about films.

The Director: Anatole Litvak (1902 -1974)

Anatole Litvak (Wikipedia)

Anatole Litvak, Decision Before Dawn's director, was born Kiev in the Ukraine, and directed silent films for the new Communist Russian state in what was then Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) -- but after Lenin’s death in 1924 the revolution began turning even more into a dictatorship, and Litvak fled for Berlin.

Litvak made several films in Germany (A previous version of this post credited him with directing the 1932 classic, Menschen Am Sontag [People On Sunday] -- actually the work of another gifted director, Robert Sidomak, and his brother; screenplay by Wilhelm ['Billy'] Wilder. My apologies; Mongo does not know everything). When the nazis stumbled into power in 1933, as a Ukrainian and a Jew, Litvak knew what was coming and moved to Paris.

In 1936 he directed the film, Mayerling, based on the real-life story of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (French actor Charles Boyer) and his affair with a 17-year-old Baroness (Danielle Derrieux) and their double suicide. It was an international success, making Boyer a full-fledged star; within a year, Warner Brothers offered Litvak a four-year contract in Hollywood.

Litvak quickly became known as one of Hollywood's leading directors, and after the U.S. entered WW2, Litvak co-produced and directed a string of films in support of the war effort -- including, with Frank Capra, the famous documentary series, Why We Fight.

Immediately after the war, Anatole Litvak directed two classic films, Sorry, Wrong Number and "The Snake Pit", both released in 1948 -- and arguably the best performances of Barbara Stanwyck or Olivia de Havilland's careers.

After completing Decision Before Dawn, possibly sensing another political change in the McCarthy Era (a circus that had been running since 1948; the Hollywood Ten, the blacklist, was something he couldn't ignore), Litvak moved back to Europe. He continued to direct films there -- including Anastasia (which resurrected Ingrid Bergmann's career) in 1956.

His last film, "Night Of The Generals" in 1967, with Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif (working together for the first time since Lawrence Of Arabia), raised a few eyebrows -- it was filmed almost entirely on location in Warsaw, at the height of the Cold War.

The Project

In 1949, 20th Century Fox optioned a novel by George Howe, set during WW2,  'Call It Treason'. The studio used Peter Vertel to write a sceenplay under the title Decision Before Dawn  -- Vertel was a playwright who would go on to write the novel, "White Hunter, Black Heart" (made into a 1990 film by Clint Eastwood), based on his experiences with John Huston while shooting the 1956 film The African Queen. The character played by Robert Redford in 1974's The Way We Were was based on Vertel.

Fox needed a director to take on the project. It would be the first film production in Germany since the end of the war, with a few recognizable American stars, but primarily featuring German actors and actresses. It would be set in the final months of the disintegrating Third Reich, filmed in German cities still scarred by Allied bombing, and the film's real star would be a German. There were plenty of underemployed Germans, and also U.S. Army troops based in Germany, available to act as extras.

20th Century Fox asked Litvak to direct; he accepted. He was a good choice to direct a film that dealt with both moral ambiguity, and making a moral choice even at the risk of your own life. Like Hitchcock, Litvak's films always had a rising level of anxiety that was resolved, if not perfectly, then (within the limits of the medium) realistically.

Another aspect was that Litvak's anti-communist, pro-American film pedigree was spotless. He had run away from the Soviets, and the nazis -- if Litvak, a Ukrainian Jew, had stayed in Europe after 1936, he would have been swallowed up by the Holocaust. I always wondered what Litvak thought of returning to Europe, and of being in Germany at all, making casting decisions from a pool of persons who had done -- what? -- during the war.

The Film

The Classic Opening: Before Little Rupert Fouled The Name (All Screenshots © 20th Century Fox)

The film opens early in the morning with a line of German soldiers, a firing squad, marching out with a prisoner beside an older building in an urban area of a German city.


Over the sound of a church bell ringing, we hear Richard Baseheart's voice narrating:
Of all the questions left unanswered by the last war -- maybe any war -- one comes back constantly to my mind: Why does a spy risk his life; for what possible reason? If the spy wins, he's ignored. If he loses, he's shot.
... and the prisoner is shot, falling just as distant church bells start to ring. At an order, the firing squad turns and marches away; two other soldiers drag the body to a shallow grave recently dug, shovels still propped against a fence.
But a man stays alive only if he's remembered, and is killed by forgetfulness. Let the names of men like this remain unknown -- but let the memories of some of them serve as keys to the meaning of treason.
Artillery shells begin falling, and the two men hurriedly dump the body into the grave and run for the safety of Somewhere Else.

Baseheart continues his narration, now telling his own story: On the 8th of December in 1944, Lieutenant Rennick (Baseheart), wounded during the campaign across France and now assigned to an intelligence company as their communications officer, gets lost (thanks to his driver’s lack of direction) on the trip to find his new unit. The driver was played by one of the U.S. Armed Forces' personnel detached to appear in the film. His acting wasn't terrible, but unschooled.

While stopped, they flush two German soldiers, Paul Richter (Robert Freitag) and Karl Maurer (Oskar Werner), out of the woods who are just as lost, taking them prisoner. Rennick and his driver get back on the road, and deliver the two Germans at a POW cage. Rennick asks for directions from a Black First Sergeant, carrying a rifle and presumably a combat NCO -- impossible in the American army in France in 1944; a fiction of racial equality for the audience... in Europe, or at home.

Rennick finds his new unit identifies German POWs who could be trusted and train them for Allied intelligence-gathering missions behind enemy lines. Rennick finds this distasteful; he doesn’t like Germans, doesn’t like traitors, and says so. His commanding officer, Colonel Devlin (Garry Merrill), brings Rennick up short -- then orders him along on a trip to the same POW cage where he had dropped his two prisoners earlier that day, to look for new volunteers.



They interview older men (Arnulf Schroder), a whining nazi (a young Klaus Kinski in his first film role), and finally strike pay dirt in an amoral and opportunistic ex-sergeant, Rudolf Barth (Hans Christian Blech).

Arnulf Schröder: "No Sir, Not Me."

Klaus Kinski: "They Forced Me To Join The Party..."
Hans Christian Blech: "My Political Convictions? I've Never Been Able To Afford Any."
Devlin gives instructions to keep the volunteers separated; but they're watched by other POWs -- including Richter and Maurer, who recognizes Rennick as the officer who captured them. Other prisoners say the volunteers will be remembered and dealt with after Germany wins the war; surprised, Richter disagrees.
Jaspar von Oertzen, Charles Reginer; Freitag: "After We've Won?You Still Believe In That?"
That night, Richter is called to meet with the Amis (a slang term from the First World War; using the French, "Ami" [friend], it's a sarcastic reference for British and Americans). But it's a trick; some of the same loyal nazis in the yard that afternoon give Richter a two-minute courts martial, and throw him out a window.

Young Maurer shows up at the offices of the intelligence company ten days later, asking to speak with Lieutenant Rennick and to volunteer for -- whatever it is; "Doesn't matter," Maurer says. Rennick shoots back, "Well, what is it you believe in; do you know? Or does it change when your crowd's taking a beating?"

[A historical note: If Rennick reported to his unit in Mormemntiers on December 8, and Maurer came to see him ten days later on the 18th... On December 16th, the German army began its last offensive in the West, the Ardennes 'Battle Of The Bulge'. In the film, we hear nothing about it.]


"You Know What You're Getting Into?"

Colonel Devlin walks in; he asks Maurer what it is he believes in, and the young soldier convinces them: "I don't know exactly how to say it, but... I believe in a life where we don't always have to be afraid -- where people can be free, and honest with each other. And I know we can't have this in Germany, until -- until we have lost."

Despite an initial skepticism, Maurer is accepted as a volunteer. Because he is outwardly solemn and reserved, is given the code name, "Happy", and turned over to Monique (Dominique Blanchar) for processing. A Frenchwoman with a vague role on the American intelligence team, Monique begins falling for Maurer. Devlin sees it, and later transfers Monique as a result.


Werner And Blanchar



Meanwhile, Barth, accepted as a volunteer under the code name, "Tiger", despite his opportunistic cynicism, returns from a 'tourist mission' (a quick scouting behind the lines), but another agent, a radio operator, who accompanied him was arrested. Devlin is unsure whether Tiger is telling the truth; he has to be, because another mission is coming up that Devlin needs him for -- and Happy.


"Barth, Before Long We're Going To Be In Germany, In Every Village And Town, 
And If You've Been Lying ..."

Devlin explains to his team that a General Jaeger, commander of a key sector of Germany's Western front, has made an offer to surrender -- allowing U.S. troops a route into Germany. A key unit is the Eleventh Panzer Corps; American intelligence doesn't know where it is.

Karl Maurer / Happy's assignment will be to locate its headquarters. The team's radio operator had been arrested, working with Tiger -- and Lieutenant Rennick is the only qualified radioman available. Tiger will have to hide him at a safe house in Mannheim to meet with General Jaeger's representative about the surrender. All three men will be parachuted into southern Germany in the next two days.

No one is sure how well Happy will perform -- but if he fails, or is unmasked as a traitor, the consequences will be considerable.

[Continued In Part 2 Below]


Films We Like: Decision Before Dawn (1951), Part Two

Saturday Night At The Movies

 German -language poster for Decision Before Dawn,
showcasing Hildegard Knef and Oskar Werner (1951)


Eine Kleiner Redux: I was introduced to some of my favorite films on my parent's black-and-white Zenith, and presented on NBC's Saturday Night At The Movies .

Saturday, January 5, 1963: Two-and-a-half months before, we had escaped the Cuban Missile Crisis.  John F. Kennedy was still President. At 8:00 PM Pacific Daylight Savings Time, NBC aired the television premiere of Anatole Litvak's Decision Before Dawn, a story of a young German soldier captured in late 1944, who decides to work for the Americans as an intelligence agent behind German lines.

The film was important as Hollywood's first German-American co-production in the aftermath of a world war and twelve years of nazi atrocities.  Stretched out on my family's living room floor, I didn't have a more nuanced view of the world. I was aware that I was watching a movie (and a war film! Neat!), a story portrayed by actors -- and that almost every one of them were German, not American.

Years later, I became interested in the production as an artifact of European and American film and culture.  Most of the Germans acting in the movie were anonymous; they received no screen credit, something SAG or AFTRA would never allow in a production made in Hollywood.

So, who were those German actors? I wondered. What were their careers about? And, what did they do during the war?
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The Recap

It's mid-December, 1944. An American officer, Lieutenant Rennick (Richard Baseheart), joins the staff of an American intelligence unit based in France as its new communications officer. Commanded by a Colonel Devlin (Garry Merrill), the group's mission is to determine the strength, positions and intentions of enemy units. To do so, it trains and handles a team of German POW's who have agreed to act as spies, undertaking missions behind the lines and reporting back. 

Devlin explains to his staff that a General Jaeger, commander of a key sector of Germany's western front, has made a private offer to surrender units under his command -- opening a huge hole in the line that would allow Allied forces a route directly into Germany.

One wildcard is the Eleventh Panzer Corps -- American intelligence believes it's in the area of Jaeger's command, but if it doesn't surrender when the rest of Jaeger's troops do, any U.S. forces pushing forward to exploit the sudden opening in the German lines could be walking into a trap.

Karl Maurer (Oskar Werner), an idealistic young German, has volunteered to return to his own country performing intelligence missions under the code name "Happy", and becomes one of the former-soldiers-turned-spies in Devlin's unit. 

 Devlin (Merrill, At Right) Tells 'Tiger' (Blech, Left) That
Lt. Rennick (Baseheart, Center) Will Be Part Of The Mission

The team's German radio operator had been arrested on a previous mission with another volunteer, Rudolf Barth (Hans Christian Blech), code-named "Tiger".  Devlin isn't certain he's reliable -- Barth has an ego, and a need to dominate whatever situation he's in; Devlin thinks this led to his previous partner's arrest. However, 'Tiger' was born, raised, and has personal contacts in Mannheim, where the operation will be focused.

With time running short, Devlin decides to use 'Tiger', but makes it crystal clear he'll be watched -- because Lieutenant Rennick will be part of the mission; he's the only qualified radio operator available who can replace Tiger's missing partner.

Rennick has always seen every German volunteer -- even the quiet, idealistic 'Happy' -- as lower life forms ("They're all a bunch of lice"), but Col. Develin has told him bluntly that his personal opinions don't matter: They have a job to do, "and from now on the only (opinion) is the right one for the job."

'Tiger' will have to hide Rennick at a safe house in Mannheim to meet with General Jaeger's representative about a surrender, while  'Happy' is assigned to locate the 11th Panzer Corps' headquarters, return to Allied lines and report before the surrender operation begins. All three men will be parachuted at night into Germany -- 'Tiger' and Rennick near Mannheim, and Maurer / 'Happy' outside the town of Altmark, near Munich.

No one is sure how well Maurer will perform -- but if he loses his nerve and is unmasked as a traitor, the mission will fail.
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Part Two  
(Click On Images To Enlarge; It's Easy And Fun!)

Maurer is provided with a new identity close to his own; only his new last name (Steiner) and personal details are different -- still a Luftwaffe corporal and a Sanitätsoffizier (Medic), Maurer's cover story is that he is traveling from a hospital after recovering from wounds to rejoin his unit.  In truth, he will go wherever necessary to find the location of the 11th Panzer Corps and then return to the American lines.

Taken out to a nearby airfield, he and Barth / Tiger make final preparations; Barth is asked about his combat decorations ("Bump off any of our guys to get those?") and replies with a smirk, "No sir; I got them in my own special way".

Just before Rennick and Tiger are dropped near Mannheim, Maurer overhears Tiger remind the Lieutenant of the safe house address in the city ("18 Neckarstrasse"). As the plane heads north, Maurer asks for coffee from one of the air crew -- less than pleased to be serving a German. "You hate us, don't you?" Maurer asks. The airman replies, "I've never felt sorry when I see a string of 500-pounders leave the bomb rack."

Maurer lands successfully and makes his way down into Altmark to board a bus for Munich, and its central train station.

On the way, a portly SS Corporal sitting behind Maurer asks for a few Pfenning to buy a copy of a newspaper as the bus stops at a streetcorner. 'Happy' naively pulls out the entire bankroll he was given before his air drop and peels off a Mark note; the Corporal stares at the cash for a moment before handing the Mark to the woman selling the papers ("Here, Mutti; keep the change!"). Finally, the bus stops and Maurer heads into the station.

(Many of Decision's location shots [principally in München, Nürnburg, Würzburg, and Mannheim] show considerable bomb damage and uncleared rubble, even in 1950, when the film was shot.)
Maurer at the Fronsamstelle (Klaus W. Krause, Left)
Any army seems to run on paper, and having your travel orders checked and /or stamped at a transit point was standard for almost any soldier during World War II -- but nowhere more so than in the German army, which had permits, lists and indexes for everything.

Maurer's fictional persona, Corporal Steiner, has to go to the stations' Frontleitstelle (checkpoint for soldiers in transit to forward areas) to have his travel orders checked and stamped. A Sargent checks his papers against an army security 'Blacklist' (names of military personnel to be detained on sight) to check the Steiner name -- the current list hasn't yet arrived, and Karl Steiner isn't on the one they have.

Maurer relaxes a bit, then asks where the 11th Panzer Corps would be located. "Weren't they in Furth?" someone says; the Sargent says no, "They're just outside Nuremberg."

Maurer lines up for another control point to have his transit permit checked in order to board a train -- and runs into the SS Corporal from the bus, who is happy to help Karl, seems to know the lines to Nuremberg are repaired and when the next train is leaving.


Once on the train, the Corporal, Heinz Scholtz (Wilfried Seyferth) reveals he isn't exactly a good samaritan -- or, not one who provides help for free. "Heinz Scholtz! Special courier of the Waffen-SS," he explains. "Sounds good, huh? But, money? No."

Scholz explains he'd seen the "fat roll" Maurer was carrying while they were both on the bus. Karl replies that it isn't much, back pay for three months, but Scholtz proposes that Karl 'loan' him half of it, in exchange for some items he's carrying -- gold.
Dangling a pocketwatch chain, Scholtz says, "The fat stomach this used to go around, I can assure you, is much thinner now," (a clear reference to gold stolen from murdered Jews), then offers Maurer a man's wedding ring as "a better investment for a young man like you... they were together -- thirty-five years. How about it?"

Karl curtly declines, and falls asleep. The next morning, when the train arrives, Maurer slips away, avoiding the Nuremberg Frontleitstelle checkpoint, focused on confirming the location if the 11th Panzer Corps.

Riding a streetcar into the city, Karl ends up in a spy's worst nightmare -- recognized by someone he used to know -- Paula Schneider, a nurse (Helene Thimig), who worked with Maurer's father, a physician, at a clinic in Berlin when his family lived there.
She tells Maurer his father has just been moved to a new hospital, set up in Würzburg. She walks with him to a control point and during a check of identity papers nearly exposes Maurer by using his real name -- but when he admits he hasn't had his travel orders stamped, Karl is told to go to another control point, and slips away.

Ant the next control point, Karl explains to a Senior Sargent in charge (Gert Fröbe) that he hasn't gotten his orders stamped and is looking for the 11th Panzer Corps. Checking the security list -- last week's, like the one in Munich -- the Sargent finds no reference for "Happy"s cover identity, and mentions that the 11th Corps have moved to Glessheim.


Reading through Karl's papers, the sergeant looks up and asks suspiciously, "I see you've been in the army two years. Don't you know you should have your orders stamped?"


Suddenly, a soldier roars up on a motorcycle with a sidecar. "Hey, Heinz!" The Sargent shouts -- it's the SS courier, Scholtz, who identifies Maurer as a friend of his, and the Sargent allows Karl to pass. 

(Above: Publicity Still of Werner, Seyferth and Fröbe, in bomb-damaged Nuremberg.) Karl accepts a lift from Scholtz, saying he needs to get to Glessheim -- and, the courier is happy to oblige, and even knows of a place where they can spend the night... but which might cost a Mark or two.

In Würzburg, Scholtz stops at a petrol station (Above, Werner with original 1944 Volkswagen Kdf Model 87.166 -- worth a whole lot of money, now).  Maurer asks the mechanic, a woman with an eye patch, about the new hospital; she tells him it's "up on the [hill], right next to the factory".  Using her telephone, Karl rings through to the new hospital -- but when his father comes on the line, can't bring himself to speak.

The opportunistic Scholtz stops in a small town, and takes Maurer into a Gasthaus -- which claims to be full, but is really home to a full (if depleted) bar, kitchen, and a number of women who have been forced by circumstances to be good-time girls, down on their luck in the middle of a dying fascist empire at war.

The Gasthaus is lively, with music from a piano and accordion. "Is this place legal?" Maurer asks a barmaid (Elfe Gerhart), who shrugs. "Sure. It's as much a part of the army as you are."

Scholtz knows the woman who runs the place, Fritzi Kollwitz (Loni Heuser), and in short order -- with Maurer's cash -- they both have a room and a meal.

Karl sits next to a radio, broadcasting a report that "the enemy parachutist who landed near Altmark" -- Maurer -- "is still at large". He's joined by one of the girls, Hilde (Hildegard Kneff), who nods at the radio: "That just bores me... One morning we'll open the window, and they'll be here -- the 'Amis'," she says, German slang for Allied troops. She mocks Karl's serious manners and gets him to dance.

 


Afterwards over dinner, someone begins playing a song about Paris; "We're the 'Bosche' again, now," Scholtz says, and flies into a rage when Karl refers to Alsace-Lorraine as part of France, 'taken' by Germany ("No true German thinks that... We took it back; we took what belonged to us! And maybe a little more !").

Claiming to be tired, Karl quickly excuses himself and leaves for the room he and Scholtz are sharing. Hilde follows, bringing his overcoat, cap and cigarettes, all of which he'd left downstairs. She makes a pass at him;  he stiffly declines -- Hilde assumes because she's a 'loose' woman, so she rounds on him. "Oh, I know your type," she spits. "The little German Burgher, pure and honest! Well, you're as dirty as the rest of us now."

She ends by giving Maurer a shorthand version of her life -- once normal, engaged; then pregnant, her betrothed dying in Norway; a factory job; her child killed in an air raid.  "Afterwards, I ... hated everybody -- but probably myself most of all,"she says, crying, "I'm dirty, miserable; and alone. There are thousands and thousands like me."

Karl softens and offers her a drink (in the German army, medics carried a canteen of medicinal brandy), when Scholtz walks in and tells Hilde to leave. "Thought you were tired," he says to Maurer, who ignores him and goes to sleep.

The next morning, Karl is leaving the Gasthaus; Hilde pulls him aside and tells him that Scholtz ordered her to follow and watch him the previous night, and any unwelcome attention from someone in the SS could mean trouble.

Just then, Scholtz appears, apologizes for his previous attitude and gestures to an open truck parked in the street -- "That truck's going your way; driver knows all about you."

Hilde and Maurer get into the back of the truck, but not before seeing Scholtz exchange a few words with another soldier already aboard, another Corporal, wearing glasses. The truck drives off; after a while, Hilde, points out the man -- "He keeps looking at you".

The Corporal (Arno Assmann) has a thick chunk of bacon, which he shares around -- Germans watching the movie in 1951 would have no trouble remembering that possessing any amount of real food above a rationed allotment was illegal. The bacon was a red flag, automatically marking this character as shady, perhaps involved in the black market, or someone with official connections and protection. 


Then, the truck is stopped at a roadblock manned by armed soldiers and armored cars. All the men are ordered to form ranks in the road and march off for an unknown destination. The roadblock belongs to some military unit, and they're commandeering the men in the truck, no matter what -- a not-uncommon occurrence in Germany toward the end of the war.


Maurer, an enemy spy under a false name and with false papers, is being forced into a detour from his mission. Hilde watches him from the back of the truck as he marches on to who-knows-where.

[Part Three Continued Below]
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