Holocaust Horror in Hungary
By Skip Sheffield
April 28 is Yom Ashoah on the Jewish calendar. What better time to view “Walking With The Enemy?”
Yom Asoah commemorates the dead of the Holocaust. It also means “never again.”
Hungary in World War II was aligned with Germany through its fascist Arrow Cross Party, but it remained an independent country until the Nazis invaded near the end of the war.
The story is inspired by a true Jewish-Hungarian hero, Pinchas Rosenbaum. In the film, directed, co-written (with Kenny Golde) and produced by Mark Schmidt, the Rosenbaum character is called Elek Cohen, and he is played by handsome rising British-Irish star Jonas Armstrong.
The story begins in Budapest in the spring of 1944. Elek is a university student enjoying a flirtation with pretty Hannah (Hannah Schoen). Their carefree evening in a nightclub is marred by anti-Semitic slurs, and Elek and his friends are ordered out. Nazi swastikas are going up around town and Jews are being ordered to wear yellow stars.
We see the leader of the Jewish community meeting with the head of the Arrow Cross Party, who assures him if Jews follow certain restrictions, no harm will befall them.
Elek, the son of a rabbi, does not believe this, and actively rebels against the growing anti-Jewish threat. For this he is arrested and sent off to a prison labor camp. Elek escapes from the horrendous camp, but when he returns home he find a non-Jewish family living in his old house. Jews are being rounded up and shipped off. German pressure is being elevated by the sadistic Col. Skorzeny (Burn Gorman).
Elek hatches a desperate plot: when an SS officer is killed, he steals his uniform and impersonates a Nazi officer so he may learn more about the enemy. Elek enlists the help of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz (William Hope) to obtain Swiss passports to save at least some of Hungary’s Jews.
There is a lot more going on in this film; plenty of cruelty, violence, rape, intrigue and heartbreak, but at the least it made me proud of my Swiss ancestry. I did not know its role in this horrific chapter of human history. I did not know of Pinchas Rosenbaum either, but now I do, and I salute his memory.