Hidden in Silence is a 1996 film about the Podgorski sisters of WWII Poland who saved the lives of 13 Jews they hid in their attic from the Nazis, even while Nazis lived downstairs from them. :0
10 out of 10 stars. Proof that one person can make a difference.
The film takes place in 1939 Northern Poland along the Russian border. Fusia (real life name Stefania) is a sixteen year old Catholic girl working in the city in the store of family friends the Diamant family who happen to be Jewish. Fusia’s mother lives on their farm with her six year old sister Helena, so it’s a big deal for her to live in the glamorous city, even as Nazi forces have taken over southern Poland. Then everything changes when Nazi tanks roll into town and begin shooting people.
Fusia, who lives with the Diamant family, tries to go with them when they are relocated to the Jewish ghetto even though the Diamants have insisted that she stay in their apartment where she will be safe. Fusia is in love with the Diamant’s middle son Isaak. Very soon after being taken to the ghetto Fusia begins selling precious jewelry they give her to buy food for them and other Jews who are starving in the ghetto. Then one day Max, the oldest Diamant son, begs her to go help Isaak escape from a work camp they sent him to up north near her mother’s farm. Fusia runs day and night to reach the camp and bribes the guards into letting her speak to Isaak. She tells him that afternoon when he returns from working to separate from the others and she will take him somewhere safe and hide him. That afternoon he returns dead on a cart and Fusia is grief-stricken. She runs to her family farm and it is empty. As she’s washing herself at the water pump Helena stumbles from the barn, freezing cold. She tells Fusia that their mother was taken to a work camp and so she was sent to live with the neighbors but every day she comes to the farm hoping to see their mother. Fusia takes her back to the city to live with her.
Fusia’s new life becomes one of sneaking back and forth to the ghetto to get jewelry to sell, selling it for money, buying food with that money, then smuggling it into the ghetto. Each time she escapes the Gestapo. One day Max shows up all bloodied at the apartment and explains that they’d taken him and his brother on a train destined for one of the camps. He and his brother agreed to jump but only Max jumped. So Fusia hides Max from the Nazis and continues to take food to the ghetto. Soon there are other Jews who have heard that she is hiding a Jew. She begins smuggling them out.
The Gestapo shows up at her house and gives her a day to vacate as they’re giving her apartment to German families. She moves and helps Max and the others move with her. She finds a run-down apartment out near the outskirts of town with no heat and no running water, but there is an attic where Max and the others can hide. There are so many of them, though, that she has to bribe a city worker to get one of the few jobs so she can pay for more food to feed everyone. This sounds easy. Work, get money, buy food, go home. But there’s a war on. Every day she must hike into the countryside and go farm by farm buying the food, food enough for 15 people, and carrying it back to the city on her back. When she is at work during the day, her six year old sister Helena does it for her. Soon you begin to see the magnitude of the task she’s taken on.
There is a point during which Fusia has been seen too often at the ghetto and so Helena must go to lead three Jews out of the ghetto and to their apartment in the country. A Gestapo soldier grabs her, picks her up, and beats up. She quickly swallows the paper so as not to betray anyone and she manages to get away from the Gestapo soldiers. What six year-old do you know who is capable of that?
After a year living in this farm apartment, the Gestapo show up and give Fusia and Helena one hour to vacate. She refuses to leave. Two German Nazi nurses move in with their Nazi soldier boyfriends and still she manages to hide the 13 Jews hiding in the attic, feed them, fetch them water, and empty their toilet every single day. When the Germans are finally forced out of Poland by the Russians she is almost executed as a Nazi collaborator because one of the nurse’s boyfriends left his Nazi uniform behind. But Max and the others come down from the attic and tell the Russian soldiers how Fusia and Helena hid them for two years.
10 out of 10 stars. This was a wonderful film. Keep a box of Kleenex handy. I guarantee you will need them.
Reviewed by Erin.