The Wall (1982)




Director:     Robert Markowitz.

Starring:     Tom Conti (Dolek Berson), Lisa Eichhorn (Rachel Apt), Gerald Hiken (Fischel Shpunt), Rachel Roberts (Regina Kowalska), Philip Sterling (Reb Mazur), Eli Wallach (Mauritzi Apt), Laurent Aidenbaum (David Apt), Rosanna Arquette (Halinka Apt), Roberts Blossom (Kuchaski), James Cromwell (Francisek), Griffin Dunne (Mordecai Apt), Christine Estabrook (Rutka), Richard Frank (Stefan Mazor), John Hefferdan (Concierge), Ron Hunter (Menkes).

Warsaw Ghetto Jewish uprising; April 1943



Spoiler Warning:

Warsaw, October, 1940.  Jewish workers are building a wall to keep the Jewish population in a Jewish ghetto.  The Jewish people of Warsaw pour into the ghetto. The German guards now guard the main exits and entrances to the ghetto.  Rachel Apt speaks to Dolek Berson about coming to a meeting tonight. The meeting is for every organization in the ghetto.  Dolek tells Rachel that he doesn't want to hear about the planned meeting.  He just wants to survive his time in the ghetto. 

An old Jewish man bumps into a guard and the guard shoots the old man dead.  The people on the street are shocked at this. 

The individuals from various Jewish organizations meet together.  The speaker wants the different groups to forget their past struggles with different Jewish groups and now become united against the Nazis in Poland.  But an argument bursts out between the various Jewish groups.  Rachel is disgusted by this display of pettiness. 

Mr. Apt is the head of the Apt family.  His first name is Mauritzi.  The young man named Modecai is his eldest son.   Rachel Apt is his grown daughter.  She has a little brother named David.  Mauritzi has a young daughter named Halinka.  She wants to make a good impression when she steps on stage at the Britannia Club.  Papa arrives home and the family is going to have a dinner of some bread and potatoes.  He tells his family that they are going to get out of the ghetto and go to someplace warm, probably Istanbul.  Later family go to a little night club to see Halinka's performance.  On her way home, Halinka tells Stefan, who works as a Jewish policeman, that she isn't bothered by him being a policeman. 

Mordecai wants to marry a young lady by the name of Rutka.  She says she needs time, and asks:  How long can love last inside a wall? 

Rachel teaches school in the basement for some children. 

Mauritzi learns from the guards at the gates that the Jewish people are locked in now.

Berson's wife Symka has typhus.  The doctor says it can be cured with sulfur, but the Germans have taken most of the medicines from them.  So Berson can only take Symka back to their apartment. 

November, 1940.  Berson tries to get some sulfur through the black market.  Berson buys the sulfur through a man selling sulfur.  The man tells Berson that the Germans are going to cut their rations again next week.  He wants Berson to sell goods on the black market.  Berson says he will think about it. 

Mauritzi comes to Berson saying that he's in the market for a Polish identity car.  Berson says he won't do it.

Mauritzi tells his family that he's leaving the ghetto.  The family is not happy with him. 

Mordecai marries Rutka.

March 1941.  Jewish people are being moved out of the ghetto.   A German officer says an order has been issued for the resettlement in the east of all the Jews of Warsaw, regardless of age or sex.  They will be moving out of the Warsaw Ghetto 6,000 Jewish people everyday.  The people are put in cattle cars. 

The Germans have moved out 180,000 Jewish people from the ghetto. 

Stefan warns the Apt family that the Germans are carrying out pulling house raids.  The Apts get up and onto the roof.  They put a ladder from one roof to another and crawl over to a safe house.  They settled down into the attic.

April 1942..  Halinka can now leave the attic and live in the barracks with Stefan.  Rachel and Berson find out that it only takes the trains about seven hours of travel to go out and come back.  So the trains can't be going all the way out to the Ukraine.  Berson really gets rattled by this and starts hanging around the railroad yards.  Later he is working at the railroads.  He goes on a cattle car ride.  The railroad men get put off the train before the train reaches the concentration camp.

Berson now tells the committee members in the ghetto about what's going on with the trains.  The people from the Warsaw ghetto are taken to Treblinka.  Rachel watches as the the members start talking so fast that they break into small groups talking only to each other.  Rachel can't stand it and she shouts:  "Talk!  Talk!  . . .  what is this so-called underground?  A collection of blabbermouths.  . .  .  They've taken 200,000!  200,000!   Enough to populate a city.  Don't you understand?  They're burning us."  They must defend themselves.  The group decides to built a Jewish Fighting Organization. 

September 1942.  3,000 Jewish people are taken away each and everyday.  Stefan comes to the rabbi and tells him that the Germans have given a new order. "Each policeman has to bring four Jews to the train station everyday or else he has to go himself."  And they're threatening to take Halinka.  So now Stefan asks the old man if he would go to the station with him.  "You're old."  The rabbi slaps Stefan and then lays down.  Stefan decides to take Symka, who realizes what he is doing and screams out against this.  David tells Berson that Stefan took his wife to the train. 

October 1942.  There are less than 50,000 left in the ghetto.  Now Stefan and Halinka have to get on the train.  Halinka stays back in the barracks.  There is a surprise for the Jewish people.  The Germans mow them down with a machine gun.  Halinka sees this and starts screaming.  A German rushes into the barracks and shoots her dead. 

The Germans are rounding up a friend of Rachel's named Katz.  Rachel goes downstairs and shoots the soldier in the back.  The once captives now run away.  The rabbi says he wants his daughter Rutka to name her child, if it's a boy, after his father.   The rabbi dies. 

Berson is now in the city walking around.  He goes to see the black market fellow in a hotel.  The man says he can deliver two cartons of machine guns.  But now the Gestapo arrives and they take the black market leader away.  The clerk at the hotel desk tells Berson that he has a secret escape door. Berson goes with him, but at the last moment the clerk demands 15,000 zlotys from Berson.  Berson pays the man the money and slips out the exit. 

Another batch of Jewish people are now mowed down by machineguns.  A little girl witnesses this atrocity.

November 1942.  Now both Rutka and Berson meet outside the ghetto.  Rutka tells him that her father is dead.  Later Berson tests out a Molotov cocktail within the confines of a brick alley. 

The Polish underground will give Berson 50 pistols and 50 grenades

March 1943.  Rutka is about to have her baby.  Rachel is with her to help Rutka.  Rutka gets the impression that Rachel more than just likes Berson.  Three boys bringing in food to the ghetto are killed after they are captured. 

Berson says he can smuggle David out to Palestine with a group of children going there starting tonight.  She accepts the offer.  David says he wants to stay, but Berson and Rachel insist that he go. 

There are 650 Jewish fighters facing around 3,000 German troops.  There is another 7,000 in reserve.  The Jewish fighters now remove their Jewish armbands. 

April 19, 1943.  German soldiers are marching down a main street in the ghetto.  Rachel fires the first shot and the others join in.  Some of the Jewish fighters toss Molotov cocktails on the Germans.  They force the Germans to retreat.  Major Sternhagel is now relieved of his command of the Warsaw ghetto by Major General Jurgen Stroop. 

April 20, 1943.  The Germans return with tanks.  The Jewish fighters toss Molotov cocktail onto the tanks.  The Germans start retreating again.

Easter Sunday, 1943.  The Germans now bring up tanks and artillery.  They bring down one building after another.  Now the Germans are making progress into the ghetto.

April 21, 1943.  Sweeps of the ghetto have shown that the ghetto is honeycombed with a network of buried bunkers and subterranean passages.  It's house-to-house fighting.

April 24, 1943.  The commander says there are not many Jewish fighters left and they will be cleaned out by April 26.

April 26, 1943.  The revised estimation is that  it will take another week to put an end to the fighting. 

May 10, 1943.  Berson is outside the ghetto in a car with the representative for the Polish Resistance.  Berson goes down into the sewer system.  Later Berson tells the others that they can make an escape to freedom through the sewer system.  From there they can join the partisans in the Lomianki Forest. 

The Jewish casualties are 427 killed and 33 badly wounded. Another 95 are missing.  The committee argues whether to leave the ghetto or to stay and fight. 

The Germans are rounding up the last of the Jewish fighters.  Berson and Rachel hug and kiss each other.  They have sex and then Rachel says that she thinks she'll have a child. 

May 16, 1943.  The Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no more. 

May 20, 1943.  About a dozen men and women are with Berson. They go down into the sewers.  Berson says he thinks the Germans are flooding the sewers.  The water gets to be waist deep.  Berson opens up a closed gate to release some water.  They finally reach their destination, and now await the Polish underground to help them.  A fellow from the underground says that there will be a six hour delay in their plans. 

The delay time has past.  Lifting up the sewer lid, Berson takes a peek outside and sees three German soldiers nearby.  Rutka's baby keeps crying and crying so one of the men takes the baby to quiet it.  After awhile, the baby stops crying.  The man gives the baby back to Rutka, but she can tell that her baby is dead.  She starts crying and says that her baby is dead.  Mordecai, the father, starts screaming and going after the man who killed his baby daughter.  Meanwhile, the Polish rescue truck arrives.  The sewer lid is lifted up and the survivors start coming up out of the sewer and then heading to the truck.  German soldiers arrive and they kill the look-out man. 

Berson is the last one to get out of the sewer, but the truck starts pulling out and Berson is shot down in the street.  Then a soldiers throws a grenade into the sewer hole. 

The four survivors ( Rachel, the baby killer, Rutka and Mordecai) manage to join the resistance in the Polish forest.


Good movie about the Jewish uprising in Warsaw.  The uprising didn't take place until the numbers of Jewish people left in the ghetto was relatively small. Nevertheless, they did kill a number of German soldiers in the fight.  The uprising was put down, but that was to be expected given the overwhelming power of the German war machine.  Don't says  the Jewish people didn't strike back at the Germans.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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