Bye Bye Germany is a touching post WW2 dark comedy about a band of Holocaust camp survivors who become door-to-door salesmen hawking linens to unsuspecting Germans. The 2017 film is currently streaming on Amazon (pay to play).
Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a super slick merchant and the only Holocaust survivor of his once thriving family drapery dynasty. He assembles a team of fellow death-camp survivors to become door-to-door salespeople for his repatriated Frankfurt’s drapery business after it was destroyed by the Nazis. He and his partner Holzman (Mark Ivanir), along with their crack sales team are seen exploiting guilty German consciences to score linen sales.
Bermann’s trains his team in the use of various shady sales scams to seal their deals – including combing the newspapers for death notices, then spinning a tale, to the widow, of orders booked already and deposits put down by their recently deceased spouse.
One salesman quips, “We are the Jewish revenge”.
All the while, there is are hints that Bermann may not quite be the victim he appears to be.
Bye Bye Germany, in German with English subtitles, is directed by Sam Garbarski and written by Michel Bergmann and Sam Garbarski. Virginie Saint-Martin is the cinematographer.
Garbarski’ touching film focuses on a group of German concentration survivors who, in 1946 and 1947, found themselves living and working again in the same country that sent them to the death camps.
Now in a war-torn Frankfurt resettlement camp, Bermann’s is having trouble securing his citizenship paperwork approved by the US authorities. A beautiful and steely no-nonsense US Army Investigator, Sara Simon (Antje Traue), is tasked with bringing Nazis and their collaborators to justice for crimes against humanity.
Daily, Simon summons Bermann to her office to better understand his activities in the concentration camp. She is investigating why he seemed to receive preferential treatment in the camp. As we hear Bermann recount his story, we’re left wondering if there is something dark and sinister in his past—and whether he’s hiding incriminating parts of his own personal history.
The well-dressed, and extremely confident Bermann stands in stark contrast against the post war collapse of Frankfurt, Germany, the backgrounds of desperation, and hopelessness that are pervasive in the UN Displaced Persons Camp.
Bermann’s background stories touch chords that are poignant, funny and often bittersweet.
Virginie Saint-Martin’s cinematography is certainly a delight to see. From the fragments of shattered buildings that line the streets to the large, bare office, probably once crammed with German military officials and now occupied by the American investigator, each shot is stunning in its color, detail, and composition. The uniforms and other costumes are all done to meticulous detail.
Using a host of different locations and studio sets, Bye Bye Germany takes an old-fashioned approach to its film making, evoking a 1946 Frankfurt still devastated from the Allied bombings and war shortages.
Scored by a jaunty/melancholic klezmer-style soundtrack, this is also a film about guilt – both the aggressive German variety and Jewish ‘survivors guilt’.
Finally, Bye Bye Germany is about life in limbo with communities full of refugees dreaming of living life somewhere else, in this case America and British-Mandate Palestine.
Jeffery Giesener, former CEO of SourceMob, has both public and private company experience. Today, retired and enjoying life in San Diego, he’s a freelance writer who has a passion for both cinema and baking his Mom’s (OBM) European recipes.
Republished from San Diego Jewish World