Stielke, Heinz, Fifteen
(Stielke, Heinz, fünfzehn...)
Stielke, Heinz, fünfzehn... © DEFA-Stiftung, Waltraut Pathenheimer
Young Berliner Heinz Stielke is a fanatic member of the Hitler Youth. He has only just achieved the rank of Rottenführer when he finds out that his father, who died as a hero for his fatherland, was Jewish. From one day to the next, Heinz is expelled from high school, and his classmates approach him with malice and violence. He cannot believe that he is experiencing the anti-Jewish laws he’d only heard about. When his mother dies in a bombing, he is left entirely on his own and the police sends him to an orphanage. On the way, however, he is caught by the Waffen-SS and sent to a forced labor camp, where they train young people to defend Germany to the end.
“Kann embraces the narrative conventions of the adventure film to structure his protagonist’s ideological and sexual coming of age. […] Where the film does unquestionably break new ground … is in the presentation of a teenage protagonist who is half Jewish. Kann’s film offers a fascinating case study of the generational reconfiguration of the “staple of GDR filmmaking,” as well as uncovering wider societal debates about the challenges of transmitting the central founding myth of the GDR to the first generation of Germans born into a socialist system.” —Elizabeth Ward, East German Film and the Holocaust