Das schreckliche Mädchen (The Nasty Girl) (1990)
Director: Michael Verhoeven.
Starring: Lena Stolze (Sonja), Hans-Reinhard Müller (Juckenack), Monika Baumgartner (Sonja's mother), Elisabeth Bertram (Sonja's grandma), Michael Gahr (Paul Rosenberger), Robert Giggenbach (Martin), Fred Stillkrauth (Sonja's uncle), Barbara Gallauner (Miss Juckenack), Udo Thomer (Archivist Schulz), Ludwig Wühr (Owner of the Swingboat), Christof Wackernagel (Zoepfel), Richard Suessmeier (The Mayor), Sandra White (Iris), Rudolf Klaffenböck (The judge), Karin Thaler (Nina).
a German girl researches her town's past, discovers collaboration with the Nazis and earns the enmity of the townspeople
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
The motivation for the film was the experience of Passauer, Bavaria, Germany resident Anna Rosmus and her family.
Sonya Rosenberger Wesmus, a young woman, says her story all started with the Federal President of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) Dr. Karl Carstens. He announced that there would be an essay competition for the school children of West Germany.
Graffiti on a building says: "Where were you between 1939 and 1945?"
Sonja Rosenberger talks about her Bavarian town Pfilzing. Her family has lived here for generations. Her father is a teacher at St. Georgian High School and her mother teaches religion. She was forced to quit her job when she became too big when he was pregnant with the future Sonja Rosenberger. It was said that the school children were asking too many questions. Her father was a refugee from Silesia, so the family could not get housing. When she was born the family had to live with Uncle Franz, her mother's brother, who was a curate living on the grounds of a seminary. Later her mother gave birth to a boy they named Robert and another girl they named Nina.
When father became a headmaster they moved into a small house across from the school where dad taught. She says she had a wonderful childhood and her family was considered a model family. She enjoyed school and received high marks. Her Latin teacher, Miss Juckenack, especially liked Sonja. One day she came to the house to tell Sonja about the essay competition, the subject of which was "Freedom in Europe". She is sure that Sonja might just win. The librarian Mr. Schulz helped her with the archives in the town library.
But then everything began to change for her. Sonja attends an all girls' school and mostly has female teachers. But one day one of the teachers tells her class that a young student teacher named Mr. Wegmus from Munich will be teaching them. The girls are at the age where they are boy crazy and they eagerly await his arrival. They say they are going to play tricks on him. Discussing the topic of "contact electricity" the girls keep laughing at almost anything Mr. Wegmus says about "contact" and electricity. Sonja is sexually naive and she doesn't really understand what all this laughing is about.
Iris Raubenburg and Sonja Rosenberger go to the wishing or praying tree. On the tree trunk Iris puts up a picture of Mr. Wegmus. She lights a votive candle and prays to God asking Him to make Mr. Wegmus fall in love with her.
In school the teachers gave the exam questions to the rich students whose fathers donated a lot of money to the church. They also gave the same to Sonja because she was the niece of the curate Franz.
One rainy day, Mr. Wegmus gives Sonja a ride to school in his car. While he is driving he puts his hand on her knee. Sonja says: "My mother would never allow that." Mr. Wegmus removes his hand from her knee quickly. He gives her the math exam in advance, but Sonja tells him she doesn't need it and gives it back to him.
The postman brings news that Sonja won the essay contest. She wins a trip to France. Sonja is ecstatic.
Mr. Wegmus has to leave. Sonja goes to the praying tree and asks God to please let Mr. Wegmus come back one day so Iris Rabenbauer can marry him. She cries. Mr. Wegmus stops along the road at the bottom of the hill on which the praying tree stands. He climbs up quickly to say goodbye to Sonja. He sees his photo on the tree trunk and is amazed. He tells Sonja that he will come back. They agree to call each other by their first names. He kisses her and she swoons. When he picks her up he tells her she is now engaged to be married, but don't tell anyone.
In 1976 Sonja went to Paris during the summer. On the trip she bought herself a wedding veil. Back home the Mayor awards her the Silver Pfilz Medal. She meets the brother of Miss Juckenack, Professor Juckenack.
Two years later. Mr. Wegmus returns as a teacher. When Martin and Sonja meet by the tree they hug and kiss. She kisses him so hard and long that now he falls backward. Sonja tells him that she loves him.
Miss Juckenack comes again to Sonja's house. There is another essay competition. The topic is "The Concept of Europe" but there is another subject available: "My Home Town in the Third Reich." Sonja wants to write about the latter topic. She says she will write how the town resisted National Socialism, especially the church.
Sonja starts her series of interviews with her Uncle Franz. He tells her how the Nazis jailed Father Schulte. They did release him later, but when he continued to speak out against the Nazi racial laws, they executed him. Uncle urges her to contact Professor Juckenack for more information.
So Sonja heads over to the church archives of the archbishop's office. But the Professor doesn't really want to talk about this. He says only that Major Zumtobel was the only genuine Nazi and he got the punishment he deserved. Sonja learns that lots of the people in town condemn the former Mayor. But the file on him is marked "confidential" in the town archives. She will have to get permission from Zumtobel's widow at the chocolate factory.
April 1979 Mrs. Zumtobel meets with Sonja. She is very angry as she asks if Sonja is the girl who wants to drag up all the old muck and lies about her husband? The older lady tells her that her husband spent six years in a labor camp and died of grief. She concludes with: "Now get out! Fast!"
Sonja talks with her grandmother about the former Mayor. She says that he was not really that bad. He actually saved her. She was arrested and was going to be put in jail by the Nazis, but the Mayor told the others that she is a mother of ten and to let her go home. Grandmother was one of those who had protested against the removal of the crosses from the schools. Sonja finds a stray cat and adopts it.
Sonja next talks to her mother and mother tells her to go see Dr. Kogler. Kogler is very old now. He says he doesn't know anything about the town during the war. He was in Berlin. But, says Sonja, he was one of the judges of the People's Court there that condemned Mayor Zumtobel. Now Kogler gets angry and tells her: "Go home and don't come back again!"
Back to Uncle Franz goes Sonja. He tells her to go see Frau Guggenwieser. She is very ill and in a nursing home, but she tells Sonja that the Americans jailed her for denouncing Father Schulte. She was in prison for fourteen months. In her defense, she says that all she wanted was to stop the priest from continuing to make those speeches, so the Nazis wouldn't execute him. She mentions a man named Brown Heinrich. Uncle Franz thinks that the mystery person may be Mr. Zumtobel. Later Sonja comes back to visit Frau Guggenwieser only to learn that she has died.
Sonja misses the deadline for the essay. Wegmus is so happy about this because he says now she will have more time for him. He goes with Sonja to a graduation party. A drunken young fellow known as Eberhard tries to dance with Sonja. After awhile he just grabs her, touches her rear end and kisses her. Sonja slaps him and then Wegmus comes over and slaps Eberhard. Eberhard takes a swing at Martin but is so drunk he just falls down.
Sonja and Martin marry. As they are being driven from the wedding ceremony by her parents, two fellows in masks throw a rock through the back window of the car. This upsets Sonja and later she cries about it.
Sonja is pregnant. She moves into a house next-door to her parents' house. She names her daughter Sarah. Next comes Rebecca. Sonja was very happy with her family life, but she felt that somehow she had failed. People thought she had given up on her "crazy" ideas. So she entered the university and studied theology, German and history. She thought that since the towns people did want her writing an essay on their town in the Nazi era, she would write a book on the subject.
She takes Professor Juckenack's course. She visits the professor in his office as the editor-in-chief of the Pfilzinger Daily. Professor Juckenack asks her why she is studying this subject? She says there is something that has been hushed up and she wants to know what it is. Saying he has nothing to hide, Juckenack opens the newspaper archives to her.
In the archives Sonja finds an article from November 2, 1936 entitled "Typical Jewish Monkey Business". A Jewish underpants salesman talked two clergymen into buying 100 pairs of underwear. They then reported him to the authorities for remarks belittling the German government. As punishment he was put in a labor camp. There are no names in the article. Sonja asks an archivist about Hackeldorf and he just says he doesn't remember.
Sonja finds something very interesting. She tells her mother that in 1940 Dr. Juckenack wrote a very pro-Nazi column. That doesn't sound like a resistance fighter. Mom says it couldn't have been Mr. Juckenack, since he was a resistance fighter. Sonja suddenly realizes that Hackeldorf was a concentration camp. Her mother tells her that there was never a concentration camp around here. Sonja goes to see Professor Juckenack again to ask him about Hackeldorf. He says it's all nonsense. The men there were in a work camp and were treated very fairly. The workers were happy.
But grandmother says something entirely different about Hackeldorf. There was a high fence and barbed wire. People begged for something to eat. She would throw bread over to them until she was warned that she could get into big trouble for doing so.
Now Sonja is banned from the archives of the newspaper. She was stymied again. But then everything changed. Her school friend Ramona Lettl got engaged to Charles Zumtobel. His grandmother was now virtually a vegetable. And Charles is very willing to have Sonja look at the files because he figures his grandfather was not a Nazi war criminal. With his permission, she returns to Mr. Schulz, but he won't give her the files of the townspeople. So Sonja has to sue the town to gain access to the files. Her husband thinks she's crazy.
One morning Sonja finds her adopted cat nailed to the front door. She faints. She also receives a lot of threats and complaints on her telephone answering machine. One person calls her a Jewish slut and a communist. Even Miss Juckenack leaves a threatening message.
Sonja wins her case. The press asks her a lot of questions, many of them very biased.
When Sonja goes for the files, Mr. Shulz says they are not available. They are out on loan for six to eight weeks. When she returns, Mr. Schulz says they are still on loan. She comes another time and this time Schulz says the files are too old and brittle and cannot be handled. Besides, the waiting period for personal files is 50 years. The town had deliberately passed a law making it 50 years instead of the standard 30 years. On top of that her husband is very frustrated. He has to take over a lot of the house and child care chores and he doesn't like it. It leaves him with a lot less time to work on his lectures.
Sonja goes to court over the 50 year waiting period. She wins again. The town has to change it from 50 years back to 30 years, but it didn't really help. When she went for the files the excuse was that the files were "untraceable" being "lost in transport".
But one day Mr. Schulz was away and a new man took his place, a man who did not know Sonja. She asks the new guy for the files and he gives her the Zumtobel files. She almost immediately starts xeroxing the files. Finally a secretary stops her by telling her that this is forbidden. Sonja grabs up all the papers and goes to look for another xerox machine. A fellow is using the other machine, but the Mayor lets her use the one in his office. He wanted to talk to her anyway. He shows her he is sending her a copy of the new rules for file access, including the change of years from 50 back to 30. The Mayor tells her he will send them to her by mail.
Sonja xeroxes as fast as she can. She knows that soon they will be coming for her. When she finishes, she places the copied papers into the folder with the new rules to be mailed to her. She licks the envelope and closes it. Then she returns to the table where she first started xeroxing. The Mayor does come after her. He asks for the Zumtobel file. She gives it to him.
Later Sonja returns to the town files, but this time with the press. Mr. Schulz cooperates this time, of course. He gives her the Zumtobel file.
Sonja discovers the names of the people involved in the Underwear Affair. The Jewish man's name was Nathan Krakauer. Mom and she look the name up in the index and find it linked to the two clergymen who turned him in to the Nazis: Dr. Jankenack and Father Brummel. She also learns that their medical doctor was involved in medical experiments on human beings. The town's now deceased pharmacist is also implicated in the experiments.
Masked men throw a clump of dynamite into Sonja's house. Martin is very brave indeed as he runs and throws himself on top of the dynamite. He must have knocked the fuse out because there is no explosion. But the masked men also throw another clump of dynamite sticks through a different window. This one goes off doing a great deal of damage to the room. Sonja's father cries over what happened. The masked men are probably members of the local neo-Nazi group. A group of them sing their songs in a local bar.
Sonja sees Professor Juckenack after school. She asks him what happened to Nathan Krakauer and the professor says he can't help her. He starts to leave as she asks: "Weren't you one of the two clergymen?" The professor turns back to threaten her that if she spreads this around, he will wipe her out.
Sonja admits she was afraid. She was concerned about her children and her family life. But she does not give up even though her husband continues to complain about her to others. Granddad goes to the pharmacy for medicine for a sick Sarah. The female pharmacist refuses to give him the medicine because she has heard of the accusations against her husband.
Sonja gets her book published. It's a big success. She gets many honorary doctorates from places such as Vienna University, the Swedish Royal Academy and the Sorbonne in Paris. And the press is once again all over her. Even Pfilzing University asks her to give a lecture. She tells the assembled group that Pfilzing was not a Nazi town, but by no means was it a center of resistance to Nazism. It is much like many other German towns in this regard. There is only a smattering applause for the talk. A man on the podium wants to know the names of the two clergymen who denounced Nathan Krakauer. Sonja says no, she won't tell them. Sonja's opponents, however, make her so mad with their defenses of the town, including of Professor Krakauer, that she names the professor. He in turn names Father Brummel. So now it's all in the open. A man in the back stands up to say that Professor Juckenack was no resistance fighter. He was the one called Brown Heinrich.
Professor Juckenack is suing Sonja for defamation and libel. Sonja goes to see the man who spoke up against Professor Juckenack. He tells her that at the camp they were all afraid of clergyman Juckenack. Sonja asks him if he will testify. He says he surely will. While they sit talking, two masked men bust into the place and beat up the man and Sonja. She gets two black eyes. Her husband returns to Munich and Sonja and her children move back in with her parents.
The Neo-Nazis line up in formation in an open area.
The court says it will not take the case of Juckenack versus Rosenberger. The judge fell out of a tree while picking pears. Later the case is just dropped.
Sonja says that suddenly the townspeople all started coming over to her side. Many congratulated her on her work. They sent her a sculptor who sculpted her face. At a special ceremony in her honor, Sonja will unveil the statue. But when she sees it, she thinks it's so ugly that she believes that the town planned this whole affair as a way to humiliate her. Everyone, including her family, tell her it isn't true, but Sonja won't listen. She calls them all asses and assholes. She picks up Rebecca in her arms. She tells the townspeople to stick it up their asses and runs out with Rebecca. She runs to the praying tree. Up there she sits with Rebecca hiding from the townspeople.
Good movie with a fascinating subject. A brave young girl discovers a cover up. Her local town was no center of resistance to Nazism. It was much like many of the other towns in Germany that collaborated with Nazism. In her town the truth was covered up and the poor Mayor chosen as the town's scapegoat. The film covers the struggle of Sonja for the truth about her town's past. This, of course, earns her the enmity of almost the entire town.
It's not really that hard to turn turn to fascism. Nations such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Romania all became fascist before or during World War II (and some stayed fascist for awhile even after the war). Not all fascists are Nazis, although they may resemble them. Spain stayed neutral during World War II, even though Germany and Italy had helped Spain be taken over by the fascist Franco. When the Germans elected Hitler and he was named the chancellor by Von Hindenburg, they were not all raving, murderous fascists. But they were once Hitler came to power and used force and fear to scare everyone into either being fascist or staying quiet.
The USA seems to almost always be susceptible to fascism. That doesn't men that they are going to kill 75 million people as a result. But the USA has a tendency to fascism because of its racial divisions. Just add a crisis to a bad and deep social division and the nation starts imitating fascist methods and adopting more openly fascist ideas. We came pretty close to fascism under Bush and Cheney. If they could have had just one or two more big terrorist attacks on the nation, Bush and Cheney would have had their way with us.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
The film was based on the life of Anna Rosmus born in West Germany in 1960 in Passau, Bavaria, Germany. She did what Sonja did, but she had to flee to the United States to escape the wrath of many outraged Germans.
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