What ought one to watch if one wants to know about Nuremberg? Which films best capture the essence of the tribunal? Famed film aficionado Lydia Maslova has prepared a unique list of films to accompany the “Nuremberg: Casus Pacis” project. We continue with our series, publishing her recommendations twice a week – the greatest films about the war and its aftermath, from the famous and award-winning to the niche but important and meaningful ones.

‘Black Book’ (2006, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch

Paul Verhoeven worked on the script for more than 20 years while he comprehensively studied the history of the Dutch resistance which was riven by divisions and not a simple matter of the good guys against the baddies. 

The film starts in September 1944 and Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) is the German Jewish heroine in occupied Netherlands, whose house where she is hiding is destroyed by an Allied bomber. Through the aid of a lawyer called Smaal (Dolf de Vries) she joins a group of fellow Jewish refugees who are trying to travel south to the liberated part of the country. However, they are betrayed and all are killed apart from Rachel.

She changes her name to a less Jewish sounding Ellis de Vries and joins one of the Dutch resistance units, on whose orders she has an affair with SS-Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch), thereby putting herself at risk on both sides: either the Nazis will expose her association with the underground or the underground will accuse her of being a traitor. 

The” Black Book” reflects the internal squabbles of the Dutch resistance, not all of whose members treat the Jews well. Each of these members is guided primarily by selfish motives, adhering to the principle that “charity begins at home”. In this situation, so familiar even today, a noble person who thinks not only of his or herself is often defeated by the selfish people who are intent on saving their own skin and who show the worst qualities brought out by war - no matter whose side they belong to.