A World War 2 Drama
set in Europe 1944 -45
(based on a true story)
When the word is out that occupied Holland is about to be liberated , Liesbet a young ambitious Dutch woman flees her homeland because of her families' politics and is assigned to work for the German war effort. She must do her duty, survive and return home but struggles against a regime of brutality, browbeating and inhumanity.
'Liesbet makes her own choices.
The consequences of her choices enable her to survive but at what cost?'
In France, Doctor Fischer serving in an SS Panzer Medical Division is severely injured. In the Netherlands a Luftwaffe plane crashes into a hospital. Two separate events, yet ones which ultimately play a significant part in a young Dutch woman’s life during the last nine months of WW2 in Europe.
Liesbet saves the life of the pilot and tenderly nurses the German deserter Hugo back to health. Liesbet, intelligent and ambitious, along with her younger rather wayward sister and unscrupulous dominating father live an otherwise settled life in occupied Holland protecting Hugo. Liesbet becomes extremely fond of Hugo but the family are at odds with most of the Dutch population, they suffer hostility, they are on the wrong side, they support The Nazis. Then suddenly their prosperity and relative tranquillity is turned upside down with the false announcement of the forthcoming liberation of Holland by the allies. The family chooses to flee their home for Germany. Liesbet’s father entrusts her to keep safe two valuable oil paintings which her father looted from a Jewish business friend. They depart by train along with many other families. At the border with Germany Hugo is identified and Liesbet chooses loyalty to her father above Hugo. She puts her own interests first. A shot is heard.
Once on German soil Liesbet pledges to her sister that they will stay alive at all costs. She is determined they will return home. Separated from her sister, Liesbet is recruited to work for the Waffen SS and made by her father to marry Doctor Fischer, who after being injured in France was sent initially to Holland to recuperate. Liesbet has to accompany her husband to Ravensbruck concentration camp where he works. Liesbet knows she has to do her duty if she is to survive first as a nurse and then as a guard. She befriends Klara because she has news of her sister and comes under the powerful influence of another female guard Gerda. Liesbet is faced with many choices to get through the ordeal, some tenable but many indefensible and gradually as we see the prisoners in the camp cruelly dehumanised and the SS personnel ‘s brutlaity so we see Liesbet gradually degenerating; her one consolation the two small Rembrandts she knows she must protect. Then the paintings are gone, Fischer has supposedly put them in a secure place. Liesbet finds them and steals them back but by doing so has broken camp protocol. She flees the camp at night with Klara and a girl, in the snow, into unsafe territory, into Poland, arriving cold, hungry and exhausted at the Stutthof concentration Camp. And there in the watchtower is Hugo very much alive, now an SS Officer. Conditions in Stutthof are appalling. Liesbet tells Klara and the girl she has a way out of the camp, a plan to get them all home. The Rembrandts, remain a glimmer of hope yet in the mean time Russian Armies are closing in. Germany is losing its grip on the war. Thousands of refugees are fleeing east to west. The sky is black with bombers, the air thick with smoke, the ground white with snow. A striking coldness encircles everything, the camp, Liesbet’s mind, her senses. In her frozen world she commits unspeakable acts of cruelty against the prisoners. Liesbet has sunk very low becoming much more than just a dutiful guard. Her relationship with Hugo develops, he sees she is clearly not herself.
Hugo is assigned to accompany a final evacuation of prisoners to the Baltic coast. Klara persuades Liesbet to board the German personnel and civilian evacuation ship. Both events have devastating consequences. Germany has lost its grip on the war; the safety of all Germans is undoubtedly questionable. Now totally intent on returning home Liesbet finds her paintings are in fact merely empty frames. She is determined to see Fischer, get a divorce, retrieve the paintings in spite of Hugo’s protestations. Shortly into the journey the car is ambushed by Russians. Liesbet is left for dead.