DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Ich war neunzehn (I was Nineteen)
1968, b/w, 118 min.
Gregor Hecker, who as a child fled from Hitler with his parents to the Soviet Union, returns to Germany as a soldier with the victorious Soviet troops. Suddenly Gregor is different from all his comrades in arms, for this defeated land is his home country and the Germans he meets upon his return are his compatriots. Gregor is a victor, but also one of the vanquished. As the Soviet troops advance into Germany, Gregor attempts to understand the Germans he meets along the way. Of course, his perspective is that of a nineteen year-old, who is inquisitive, occasionally uncomprehending, and repeatedly dismayed by the atrocities and concomitant lies he encounters. Gregor falls in love and simply cannot understand the death of a friend in the last hours of the war - the final death in a long line of deaths that pave his way from Moscow to Berlin. An emotive story, unsentimental, sophisticated and upbeat. Konrad Wolf's most autobiographical film is a poetic exploration of the postwar dilemmas of German identity and a powerful document of the search for a "usable" German past after the debacle of film censorship in 1965.
Resources available at the DEFA Film Library
Books, Articles in Books
Gall, Wladimir. Mein Weg nach Halle.
Berlin: Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1988. DD 256.9 .G1
Silberman, Marc. "The Authenticity of Autobiography: Konrad Wolf's I Was Nineteen" German Cinema. Texts in Context. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1995. 145-61. file
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