ByVaria Fedko-Blake, writer at
Staff Writer at Moviepilot! [email protected] Twitter: @vfedkoblake
Varia Fedko-Blake

On January 13, war drama Alone In Berlin sweeps into theatres, bringing with it a true story simmering with emotional intensity based on the novel by Hans Fallada. Starring the exceptional Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson and Daniel Brühl, the feature focuses on a working class couple who attempt to defy the Nazi regime following the death of their only son. Here's the trailer:

Currently, there are countless wartime movies out there documenting the tragedy of the Second World War. However, among the sea of personal stories and harrowing accounts, there's something about that strikes a chord more than most. Below, familiarize yourself with the true story of German Resistance at heart of the movie ahead of its selection to compete at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival later this year.

The True Story Behind 'Alone In Berlin'

Who Were Otto And Elise Hampel?

Otto and Elise Hampel
Otto and Elise Hampel

Alone In Berlin portrays events surrounding a working class couple – Otto and Elise Hampel – who once lived a low-key life in Berlin with no particular interest in politics.

However, after learning that Elise's brother (shown as their son in the movie) is killed in action, they take it upon themselves to encourage resistance against the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. Committing acts of "civil disobedience," they wrote hundreds of leaflets on postcards, urging others to break through the facade of the Third Reich, to resist military service and to overthrow the totalitarian regime. Despite the fact that they knew their actions to be a capital crime, they remained determined in their quest to change public opinion one leaflet at a time.

One of the postcards the Hampels wrote [Credit: Aufbau Verlag]
One of the postcards the Hampels wrote [Credit: Aufbau Verlag]

Operating between September 1940 and towards the end of 1942, the Hampels hand-wrote over 200 postcards — often riddled with spelling mistakes as they weren't well-educated — and left them in mailboxes and stairwells for people to find. During this time, despite the fact that many of their notes were handed directly to the Gestapo, they managed to avoid discovery and their message remained strong.

Arrest & Conviction

The execution room in Plötzensee Prison [Credit: WikiCommons]
The execution room in Plötzensee Prison [Credit: WikiCommons]

However, the Hampels' luck ran out two years after they began resisting the regime and in the autumn of 1942, they were denounced by a neighbor and arrested. While being tried by judge Roland Freisler at the Nazi "People's Court," Otto remained adamant that he was proud to have been able to protest against Hitler and the Third Reich.

When the verdict rolled in, both him and his wife Elise were convicted of "preparing for high treason" and beheaded at Plötzensee Prison on April 8. 1943.

See more:

Hans Fallada's 'Every Man Dies Alone'

Memorial plaque at the site of the Hampels' former residence in Berlin [Credit: WikiCommons]
Memorial plaque at the site of the Hampels' former residence in Berlin [Credit: WikiCommons]

Years after their executions at the hands of the Nazi regime, Johannes Becher – a poet and novelist – returned from exile and as a member of the post-war Soviet military administration, worked hard to go through all of the Nazi files of executed resistance fighters. The aim was to find authors who would be able to write up the stories of the deceased to ensure their legacies lived on. Turning to his good friend Hans Fallada, Becher urged the novelist to bring to life the Hampels' story.

A year after receiving their files and familiarizing himself with every aspect of their case, Fallada wrote Every Man Dies Alone — otherwise known as Alone In Berlin — in 1946 over a timespan of 24 days. A few months later in 1947, he died and never saw the book published himself.

To this day, the work of fiction based on the gripping true story of an ordinary couple's determination to resist a monstrous regime continues to touch millions all over the world, inspiring hope that others will follow in their lead.

Alone In Berlin hits theatres on January 13, 2017.

Were you already familiar with the true story behind Alone In Berlin?


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