Hotel Meina (2007)

 

 

 

Director:     Carlo Lizzani.

Starring:     Ivana Lotito (Noa Benar), Benjamin Sadler (Captain Hans Krassler),  Majlinda Agaj (Irma Moneri),  Eugenio Allegri (Vittorio Pomas),  Marta Bifano (Camy Benar),  Veronica Bruni (Sig.ra Ariana),  Ursula Buschhorn (Cora Bern),  Butz Ulrich Buse (Tepper),  Silvia Cohen (Liliana Fendez),  Diana Collepiccolo (Ester Moneri),  Simone Colombari (Pierre Fendez),  Federico Costantini (Julien Fendez),  Elia Donghi (Robert Fendez),  Fiamma Ferzetti (Bianca Fendez),  Marco Fubini (Marcus),  Fabio Ghidoni (Giacomo Fidani),  Giancarlo Judica Cordiglia.

first Italian Nazi massacre of Jews occurs following the armistice of the 8th of September 1943 where Italy went over to the Allies

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

 

Only Italian language and subtitles.  (I painfully typed the Italian subtitles onto freetranslation.com and gave my best estimate of what the English translation meant.)

 

Lake Maggiore 1952.  A woman named Noa looks out at the lake.  She is thinking of the past.

Flashback.  September, 1943.  Hotel Meina, named for the town, is run by the Benars, a family of Turkish Jews.  Many Italian Jews stay at the hotel. 

A young man named Battuto comes up from under the waters of the lake and he shouts for his cousin Noa.  Noa emerges from below the surface of the lake and calls out Battuto's name.  He challenges her to race him to be first onto the beach. 

At lunch at the hotel, a mother tells her prospective son-in-law that she hope his parents can come from Milan to the wedding.  The daughter chides her mother saying the wedding is still a month away. 

Nao reaches the beach first, but her cousin says he deliberately lost the race.  She calls him a liar!  She goes into a bath hut to change clothes.  When she comes out she giver Battuto a kiss and then runs up to the hotel. 

At lunch a loud speaker announces that there is a message from the Italian government.  The government, realizing it can't continue to resist the overwhelming power of the Allied forces, has asked General Dwight Eisenhower for an armistice.  The request has been gladly accepted.  There is a great sense of relief and happiness coming up from the guests and owners of the hotel.  Many believe that the war is over for Italy. 

The border between Italy and Switzerland.  The guards are checking passports.  A black car drives up and the driver with a woman passenger named Erikia Bern explains that he is from the German Consulate.  He adds that the lady is coming to Italy for a vacation.  The driver asks his passenger if she is sure she wants to go?  Yes. 

At Hotel Meina Noa and some others are praying together in Hebrew. 

At the border the man from the German Consulate is told that he can go ahead into Italy.  The man stays at the border and the woman drives away in the car. 

A guest of the hotel reads from the newspaper a notice that the military command has stabilized the situation in the province of Novara.  Curfew is now abolished.  The Italian Jews are relieved that the curfew has now been lifted.  One of the men says they should not be overly optimistic.  He doesn't believe that the Germans will accept the armistice of Badoglio.

Another man says that perhaps they do not know what the others know.  In Greece they deported more than 50,000 Jews.   But still another man says that Italy is not Greece and that kind of expulsion cannot happen here in Italy.  The pessimist says that that' what they were saying back in 1938.  The optimist counters with aren't we Italian Jews still alive?  A man comes in to tell the guests that the car for Turin is waiting outside for them.  Two of the men in business suits pick up their briefcases and say goodbye to the others  One lof the men says that if their businesses are not badly damaged, they will return to the hotel tomorrow.  One of the men tells his wife Ester not to worry. 

With a cake in her hands, Noa shouts to her father:  "Happy birthday!"  It's her father's birthday.  One of the presents he receives is a white scarf.  The guests toast to the hotel owner. 

Erika Bern arrives at the hotel.  The owner asks her how long is she staying and Erika says she doesn't exactly know the length of her stay.  Dad tells Noa to take the new guest to room 206.  Battuto goes with them.  Later Noa tells Battuto that she saw how much Battuto liked watching the new guest Erika. 

On the beach chairs, Noa tells Battuto that she is going back to study at Milano.  Her cousin says that he in returning to Greece.  He was just kidding.  He signed up for engineering in Milano.  Noa is very happy they will be together. 

The happy times are over.  The Germans have arrived.  The order is given to come away from the beach.  In the hotel, a German calls the names out of the Jews on his list.  They have to come stand behind him.  A Jewish woman is taken from her Aryan husband. 

A whole family is called, but some of the members are not present.  Why?  The mother says the others are not in the hotel.  They will return soon.  Another woman says that her husband is also not at the hotel. 

The German woman, Erika Bern, looks in to see what's going on.  Captain Hans Krassler of the SS asks:  "Erika Bern?"  She gives a faint smile and comes over to the captain.  He tells her that he read her name in the hotel registry.  She tells the captain that she is happy that they arrived.  He has her sit down.  He tells a soldier to escort the Jewish group up to the fourth floor.  They leave.  Now the captain explains that the hotel has been requisitioned by the German army.

The owner of the hotel tells the captain that he can't do this.  He is from Turkey and Turkey is a neutral country.  The captain tells him that he is a Jew.  He has extended his hospitality to Jews.  The captain adds that the hotel owner can explain his situation to the commander at Bevano.  His family says no, no, but father is taken away.  His family is also taken away.  An Aryan guest at the hotel says that the hotel owner's face will never be seen again.  The captain adds that the non-Jews are free.  The hotel remains open. 

Noa and her mother and brother are placed in a room all by themselves.  Mother calls outside for Gignora Melloni.  She gets the woman's attention and she tells her to notify the Turkish embassy that her husband has been arrested.  

Erika Bern comes out and the captain asks her why is she here in Italy?  She says she works for the museum of Dusseldorf and she came to Torino to arrange an exchange of art works between the two countries.  He says he was once charmed by museums, but now he is pretty indifferent about them, because compared to the reality of what the Germans are creating today is a lot more exciting.  Erika says:  "We Germans admire ourselves."

The Turkish father Giorgio comes to see his wife Camy and his son Marcel.  Then Noa comes to greet the father.  He tells them that the Turkish consul came and convinced the Germans to let him go.  The family is free to wander around the hotel.  Noa asks about Julien Battuto.  Dad says sooner or later they will let him walk around too. 

The guests at the hotel are happy to see that the hotel owner is able to return.  The captain offers a toast for the great hospitality of the hotel owner.  Noa has a disgusted look on her face at the hypocrisy of everyone who are now making up to her father.  Her dad tells her to stop looking like that way.

Camy tells one of her waiters to escape before the Germans find out that he is a Jew.  He replies that here he can be of some use. 

Some shots are fired.  The waiter is caught and returned to the hotel.  Meanwhile, Noa brings some food to her cousin and his family.  They want to know immediately why were those shots fired?  Noa says if they will settle down, she will tell them.  She says the waiter Pomas was fleeing but they caught him.  They want to know if Pomas is hurt?  Noa tells them he is alright.  They tell Noa to be careful because this is dangerous.  And what are the Germans doing?  She says:  "They eat and drink like pigs."

Suddenly, two soldiers enter the room.  They want to know what is Noa doing here?  One of the soldiers Sgt. Tepper says they decide what and when they will eat.  He leaves them some food, but takes Noa with them.  Tepper tells the captain that this girl is helping the Jews. 

Erika slaps Noa across the face hard.  Then she excuses herself to go to her room.  The captain just tells Noa to go away.   

Noa's father is mad at her.  He says that  people are capable of everything. Does she want to kill herself?  Is this what she wants?  Noa asks:  "Why are we free and they are not?"  Dad answers that this is not their hotel anymore and they make no decisions about what happens here.  Does she even want to understand the Nazis?  Noa says:  "It's not just."  Dad agrees that it is not fair.  But they must not give the Germans any excuse for taking reprisals on the Jews or others.  She agrees. 

Now the captain assigns the responsibility for Noa to Erika.  Nao will be at her beck and call.  

Baveno.  The captain takes Erika and Noa to a really fancy house abandoned by the Jewish owners.  The captain looks at the beautiful paintings on the wall and says:  "How many treasures have the Jews stolen from us?"  He wants Erika to estimate the value of the various paintings in the mansion.  She says she will do it if given enough time and. if tonight, she can go to Torino. 

Erika has dinner with the captain, but she doesn't eat much saying she's not hungry.  At this moment the guard bring in a man.  They say their German shepherd smelled him.  The fellow was in the cellar.  The captain asks the man's name.  The man says he is Virginio di Nepi.  He also says that he is a friend of Mussolini.  The captain says the man abandoned his friend Mussolini.  Now he asks Noa if she knows this man.  Noa hesitates but eventually says yes.  The captain tells the guards to take the man away.  They take the man away. 

The captain says it's the Jews that caused Germany to fall into chaos.  Erika says she can't stand politics.  The captain says that politics consists of corruption and profiteering.  What really counts is the destiny of Germany.  Germany should guide the whole world.  The captain is a big fan of Hitler and waxes eloquent in his praise of the man.  He says the Jews will never corrupt Germany again. 

At night the two traveling salesmen come back to Hotel Meina.  They are a bit stunned to see the German vehicles and the German guard.  Two guards ask for their documents.  Pierre is reunited with his family.  His wife Liliana asks him why he has returned to the hotel?  He should have escaped.  Pierre says hello to his son Julien and to his daughter. 

Secretly Erika sends a message out by Morse code. In turn, she receives a message in Morse code.  The message is that the package will arrive tomorrow night in Baveno.   

The men who received Erika's message say they must move as fast as possible for the Germans have occupied northern Italy.  They say the anti-Fascists in the north need their help.  One of the men is the companion of Erika.  He drove Erika to the border.  He like Erika, is German and anti-Hitler. 

Erika is headed for Torino.  She asks Noa if everything's okay?  Noa tells her:  "They will kill all of us."  Erika shakes her head and says no. 

A message arrives for the captain.  He reads it.

The Germans are having a celebration of some sort and are getting awfully drunk. 

A very tightly wound Pierre tells his daughter Blanca to stop what she is doing.  He starts going crazy banging on the door and telling the guards to open the door.

The captain comes to the party and everyone jumps up to stand at attention.  He tells everyone one to get outside at once.  The men fall in with their weapons and helmets and they march away.

Saying that the Germans have left the hotel, Noa unlocks the rooms of the Jewish prisoners.  Noa and Julien hug each other.  The group starts down the stairs slowly. 

They find one man in the hotel, a collaborator.  He says that Captain Krassler ordered a punitive fast march to Stresa.  He then tells them they should eat whatever they like. 

One of the Jewish men, Uomo, calls the man a "filthy spy".  He is the one who told the Germans that he was Jewish.  He tries to hit the collaborator, but others hold him back.  The collaborator says that the Germans already had the list of the names, including that of Uomo.

Things settle down a bit and the people start eating different things.  Some women ask a young woman named Irma to play the piano for them.  Some of the women dance with each other.  The men talk in another room. 

A man named Raoul says that it's crazy of them to think that they can go anywhere without documents and without money.  Another fellow says it's all a trap.  The hotel owner says that the Germans don't have to set any traps for them. They can kill the people anytime they want to.  But the group must decide.  Do they leave the hotel or not? 

The Germans march back to the hotel.  Everyone is back in their rooms. 

Erika stops her car near some woods.  A man brings a weak, older man over to Erika.  She asks if there is any news of Giovanni Fiore? The man says that the Nazis arrested him in Milan.  The male agent says the Germans occupy the entire north of Italy and now its nearly impossible to move about in the north.

Erika now drives to the border of Switzerland.  She meets up with the fellow working in the consulate, the Baron.  With her is the older man. Before the two men leave, Erika tells her friend that they will kill all the Jews at the Meina Hotel.  They just have to do something to stop it.  Her friend agrees with her, but says for right now Erika must rest.  He says they will talk later.  Erika can't wait.  She gets back into her car and drives off.  The baron shouts to her:  "Erika!"  But it does no good. 

The hotel owner and two guests talk about the influential people they know that may be able to help them. 

The Germans return.  Tepper tells them that all the Jews have to go to the lounge restaurant.  The captain says that the guests can go outside in groups of two only.  Anyone who does not return in the time allotted is subject to being shot.  Now the Jewish group has a discussion of who will go out first, second, etc.  Julien tells Noa that they should go outside together.  This pleases Noa. 

When it's their turn, Julien and Noa go on a bike ride.  They then sit for a short while.  Noa sees Erika return.  Noa goes over to talk with Erika, who tells her to tell her father that Erika needs to speak with him.   Julien and Noa go inside.  The desk clerk says something sounding anti-Semitic and Noa slaps him for it.  He makes a kissing sound to her, while she turns and walks away. 

In the restaurant at night, the hotel owner tells a group of men at a table that he heard that the fence border with Switzerland has many places where there are holes in the fences.   The men discuss whether they should or should not try various options that may be open to them.  But whatever they will do, they all have to agree to the operation. 

Erika puts her transmission set away.  The waiter drops some food on one of the boots of the captain.  The captain makes the waiter shine his boot where the food fell on it.  The waiter complies.  Now the captain wants Tepper to show the waiter how Germans serve their guests.  So Tepper and the desk clerk school the waiter on how to serve the food.  Then the plate is given back to the waiter to finish serving the table.   By this time, the waiter is so scared that he drops the item from off his serving spoon.  The German soldiers at the nearby tables all burst out laughing. 

The captain tells Tepper to have Noa serve Erika Bern in her room.  The captain now tells the German soldiers to serve the non-soldiers their food and drink.  The soldiers start serving it, but kind of just drop food items on the plates. 

Erika is getting out of her shower when Noa arrives with her dinner on a tray.  Erika tells to leave her dinner on the table.   Before Noa can comply with the request, the captain tells her to go away.  He then takes the dinner into Erika's room.  From the sound of the boots hitting the floor, Erika can tell that it's not Noa who is serving her.  The captain shouts that he knew that Erika would come back to the hotel.  She comes out of the bathroom and opens the hotel room door so the captain can leave. 

At this time the captain steps on a small wallet.  The problem is that the wallet is very close to the radio transmission set under the bed.  The captain picks up the wallet and this worries Erika a lot.  She kneels down close to the captain to distract him from looking around the area.    When he returns the wallet she says thank you and now the captain should please leave.  But the captain looks so sexually hungry for her that he looks as though he is ready to pounce on her.  He pushes her onto the bed and starts kissing her while she is saying no.  She slaps his face, but this only seems to make him angry.  She says she's sorry about that.  Then she says she doesn't want to have sex with him in this hotel filled with Jews.  Very angry, the captain leaves the room. 

Noa waited around in hiding place behind a curtain in the hall.  When the captain rushes by, she goes to see if Erika is alright.  Meanwhile, Erika rushes to the bathroom to throw up.  She was really scared that she was going to be raped.  Noa comes into the bathroom to check on Erika. 

Later Noa goes with her father into the basement cellar.  He goes over to a window and with a great deal of force cuts the chain stopping the window from being opened.  He then walks through a passageway dripping with falling water and comes outside of the hotel.  From the exit he is not far from the beach. 

Erika confers with some men about how to help the Jews escape from the hotel.  A man says that if the Jews escape tonight, they can be transported across the lake by boat.  He adds that the men with him will be ready to provide covering fire for the escapees.  He now gives Erika a light that she can use to signal the boats.  Erika says that if everything is ready, she will signal from the middle window on one of the floors of the hotel.

Over the radio comes the news that Il Duce spoke to his supporters and soldiers saying that the recent events in the surrender of Italy does not mean that Allied victory is at hand.  The two great empires of Germany and Japan will never surrender.

The hotel owner shakes the hand of Erika saying that he doesn't know how to thank her.  She tells him that the German people are not all like the captain and his soldiers. 

Julien is very upset at the news over the radio.  He says the war is beginning again.  Noa tells him to come with her.  She takes him to an empty room and gives him a big kiss.  They go over to lay on the bed while still kissing each other. 

The captain gets an urgent message.  Later he talks with Erika in the hotel restaurant.  He asks Erika to read the urgent message in Italian to all those present in the restaurant. 

The Jewish guests are taken back to their prison rooms. 

Erika reads the message that says that the Jews in the Hotel Meina will be taken to a concentration camp 150 km from Meina.  The news is shocking to those who hear it.  Noa gives Erika a terrified and very sad look.  Erika's eyes become watery. 

The Jewish people thrown into one room find out that signora Melloni no longer has the means and ways to help the Jewish people escape their terrible fate.  The Jewish people start giving signora Melloni their watches and jewelry.  Melloni says she will put the valuables in a safe deposit bank in Baveno. 

Noa is becoming desperate.  She tells Erika that she promised to help them.  She tells her father the Erika promised to help them.  She asks her father to find a solution.  Erika and father just let her keep talking without any answers. 

A young couple ask the rabbi to marry them.  The ceremony is held in the room where they are held prisoners.  The groom stamps on the drinking glass.  Tepper comes in and is shocked to see a wedding taking place. 

A woman named Lisa is married to a gentile.  She is one of  four Jewish people snatched by Tepper and his men to be taken away in a truck.  Her husband Mario runs after the truck and tries to climb up into the back of the truck.  Tepper keeps hitting his hand with the butt of his Lugar.  Mario can't hold on any longer and he is left behind. 

A small girl asks Julien where are they taking Irma's parents?  Julien says, to kill them.  The girl's father tells Julien to be quiet. 

Julien's mother asks the German guards for a hairdresser, so she can prepare herself for the interrogation.  Tepper says fine.  After that the mother tells Julien that if they separate the men and the women, he is to make sure he stays together with father and brother Robert.  A little later she has her hair done. 

The captain interrupts the enlisted men to offer a toast to Adolf Hitler.  Now he calls for music!  But the hotel owner cuts the electricity off by starting a fire by the main fuse box.  He throws gasoline on the floor of the hotel. 

Tepper comes running to tell the captain that the hotel is on fire.  Noa enters the room of the Jewish people and tells them to come with her quickly.  Erika hears the noise made by the people heading down the stairs.  Erika runs out to signal to the men waiting with the boats.  The fire has been extinguished. 

Erika hears the soldiers shouting in German and then hears firing.  She starts to whimper.  The would-be Jewish escapees are captured and held in a hall of the hotel.  The captain comes by and hands Tepper a note.  Tepper looks over the group of prisoners and picks the husband of Irma.  Irma comes along with him.  Then Tepper picks out the parents of Julien.  Mother says goodbye to her children. 

The remaining prisoners are taken back up to their room.  Weighted down bodies wrapped in cloth are placed by soldiers in a boat.

Tepper goes to the room holding the Jewish prisoners and picks out four more people.  They are very scared, so Tepper says they are going to be interrogated.  Julien and what's left of his family are left behind for the moment.  Noa goes into the room to hug Julien.  He tells her to be sure and give his grandfather's clock to the sergeant.  Julien says that after the interrogations they will all be set free.  She tells him that she will wait for him here.  He says they will go to Switzerland.  Julien adds that they will always be together.  They hug and kiss.  Then he gives her his harmonica. 

Julien's brother Robert gets very sick.  Grandfather and Julien pray together. 

Tepper and some other soldiers are out on the lake dropping dead bodies into the dark waters.  When he comes back he takes the only four people left, Julien and his family.  He says it's time for their interrogation.  Noa cries as the last of the family is taken out.  They are driven to the lake side.  There stands the captain. 

The captain tells them to walk to the lake shore.  As they do, they are gunned down by the German soldiers.  Tepper shoots each one of them up close and personal to make sure they are dead.  The captain wants Julien shot again, this time in the face.  But Tepper's pistol misfires.  Julien is still alive.  The bodies are now wrapped and weighed down with chains.   

Now the hotel owner and his family plus Noa take the secret passageway and come out near the coast.  They hook up with the boatmen.  They then get into the boat.

The soldiers are moving the furniture out of the hotel.  The captain sees Erika still at the hotel. 

The boat taking the escapees to Switzerland hits something hard in the water.  Noa goes over to the side of the boat to look.  After awhile, Noa starts crying.  She found something very disturbing in the lake. 

The drunken captain calls for Erika to come to him.  She tries to stay away from him.  She keeps running, but he catches her eventually.  He starts kissing her, while she says no.  She manages to push the captain down on his backside.  The captain just laughs and laughs.  Erika grabs his Lugar.  She gets out of the greenhouse and locks the door behind her.  He comes over to her and tells her to open the door.  She asks him how does it feel to be trapped?  He says open up immediately.  She calls him a cowardly murderer.  She really tells him off, but she still can't shoot him. 

Back to the present.  Noa puts Julien's harmonica on the beach.  She goes into the water and starts swimming.  She imagines she sees the bodies of the dead floating there in the water.  And then she imagines that she sees Julien. 

 4 July 1968 the Court of Assise of Osnabruck in Germany condemns the five defendants of the massacre at the Hotel Meina.  Three of them were sentenced to life in prison and two others got three years in prison.

2 April 1970 the Court of Appeals in Berlin cancels all the previous convictions with this simple reason: "The offenses should be considered prescribed".

 

Good film.  Italy surrenders to the Allies a little too early, because the Germans completely take over the northern part of Italy and start killing people, especially the Jews, on a more massive scale.   This is the true story of the Jewish guests at Hotel Meina being imprisoned in the hotel by the racist Germans.  Ivana Lotito was very good at playing the heroine of the story, Noa Benar.  Benjamin Sadler was good as the fascist Captain Hans Krassler.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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