New German film Transit on refugees

This video says about itself:

Transit – Christian Petzold Film Clip (Berlinale 2018)

When a man flees France after the Nazi invasion, he assumes the identity of a dead author whose papers he possesses. Stuck in Marseilles, he meets a young woman desperate to find her missing husband – the very man he’s impersonating.

Director: Christian Petzold
Writer: Christian Petzold
Stars: Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese

By Stefan Steinberg in Germany:

Christian Petzold’s Transit: The condition of refugees as hell on earth

9 May 2018

Written and directed by Christian Petzold, based on the novel by Anna Seghers

A number of films at this year’s Berlin Film Festival dealt with the plight of refugees.

Forced to abandon their homelands—and everything familiar to them—to escape war, famine or the lack of any economic prospects, refugees are rendered stateless for at least the period of their flight. In transit they are deprived of the rights due to them as citizens of a nation. They are at the mercy of the state or maritime waters they are crossing, and are then equally at the mercy of the state they have chosen as their new home, and its repressive apparatus. They also run the risk of becoming the targets of right-wing demagogues seeking to divert attention from the disastrous state of life under capitalism.

The fate of refugees is the subject of the latest film by German director Christian Petzold, Transit, which screened at the Berlinale and is now on public release in Germany. This is Petzold’s third historical film, following Barbara (2012), set in East Germany in 1980, and Phoenix (2014), about a concentration camp survivor in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Born in 1960, Petzold has made eight feature films in total since 2000. One of his mentors was Harun Farocki, the left-wing German filmmaker and theorist.

Transit is based on the novel of the same title by German author Anna Seghers (1900-83). Seghers joined the German Communist Party (KPD) in 1928. Her novels were subsequently burned by pro-Nazi students in the notorious action in the middle of Berlin in May 1933. Like many other left-wing intellectuals, Seghers was forced to leave National Socialist Germany and fled with her family through several countries. Her novel Transit appeared in 1944 and mirrors her own flight from the Nazis through France to Marseilles and then eventually on to Mexico.

In her book, Seghers describes the refugee’s feeling of helplessness and frustration with bureaucracy: “Everything was on the move, everything was temporary, but we didn’t know whether this state would last until tomorrow, a few weeks, years or even our entire lives.” The fictional character in the novel wonders if the Nazis in Paris “a tough and dreadful enemy (…) were in fact better than this invisible, almost mysterious evil, these rumours, this corruption and fraud.”

Petzold decided to locate his film adaptation of Transit in the present day. Germany is run by Nazis, who have also overrun most of France. The main character, Georg (Franz Rogowski), a Communist, is sent by a comrade with an important letter to the writer Weidel. In a hotel, Georg finds a few belongings of the writer who has killed himself. Georg takes the papers of the deceased, including visas and a ship’s passage to Mexico, and travels to Marseilles.

In Marseilles, he encounters and becomes friendly with a small boy and his mother. Having assumed the identity of the dead writer, Georg begins the laborious process of securing his passage to South America. At the embassy, he chances to meet and is captivated by an enigmatic woman, Marie (Paula Beer), who is waiting for her husband. She proves to be the wife (or widow) of the very man whose identity Georg has assumed. Trapped between states, she is also unable to choose between the husband she left behind, her current companion, Richard (Godehard Giese), or her new acquaintance, Georg.

There are moments in both film and novel that recall Franz Kafka’s novels, The Castle and The Trial —flight and transit as a permanent, meaningless, incomprehensible state. In one memorable section of her novel, Seghers writes: “He waited in the hereafter to learn what the Lord had decided about him. He waited and waited, one year, ten years, one hundred years. Then he finally begged for the decision. He was told: ‘What are you waiting for? You’ve already been in hell for some time.’”

While Seghers essentially preserves the historical context of the massive exodus from Nazi-dominated Europe, Petzold unsettles the viewer with abrupt changes of perspective and mysterious encounters (and failures to encounter).

In his film Barbara, Petzold effectively portrayed the oppressive nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany). His Phoenix dealt with the consequences of the fascist mass murder of the Jews. Nazi rule in Transit remains nebulous, but Petzold’s film transmits the coldness and cruelty of the French bureaucracy, which insists that all protocols are adhered to before further passage is possible.

Observing the growing disorientation and despondency of Transit ’s central characters, one is reminded of the fate of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig—who committed suicide with his wife in 1942 after reaching South America—and that of German philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin who—convinced he was in danger of immediate arrest by the Gestapo—killed himself on the French-Spanish border in 1940.

Petzold was motivated to make his new film by his sympathy for the plight of refugees and uneasiness at the growth of far-right radicalism in Germany and Europe. In an interview, the writer-director noted that he played badminton regularly in a sports hall close to the large refugee camp in Berlin that features in the documentary film Central Airport THF (2018, directed by Karim Aïnouz).

Transit is clearly an attempt to provide some context for the dire situation confronting refugees in Germany and Europe today. At the same time, it points to the real dangers of the re-emergence of fascist movements in Europe. Far-right governments and coalitions involving neo-fascist forces are already in power in Poland, Hungary and now Austria.

In a recent interview with the Berliner Zeitung, Petzold made a number of interesting and correct points regarding the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which emerged at the last general election as the main opposition party in the German parliament.

Commenting on the organisation, Petzold countered those who argue that the racist AfD reflects the views of ordinary workers. He said: “I don’t think the AfD can be regarded as a party of the working class. It is also not a party of the betrayed working class, as some people say…. There are judges and former CDU [Christian Democratic Union] members in it.” Petzold went on to refute claims that the party has its base in regions of heavy working class representation. Instead, he notes: “The AfD stems from the petty bourgeoisie and the professional middle class.”

Petzold is undoubtedly one of the most significant directors active in Germany today and Transit is well worth viewing. At the same time, his new film lacks the same degree of urgency and concrete immediacy that characterised a number of other films at the Berlinale dealing with refugees, such as Styx and El Dorado.

The weakness of Petzold’s approach was indicated by a comment he made in another recent interview in which he described flight “as a normal condition.”

The problem with this is that the flight of refugees today, and at any time, is not normal. Flight is not some sort of existential dilemma affecting all of humanity. Rather millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and often their own families in past years due to poverty, hunger and wars fueled by unparalleled levels of economic and political inequality, as well as definite government policies. The rottenness of the official “left” in Europe and elsewhere, which has facilitated or led the anti-refugee campaign, is at the heart of this situation.

If flight and its consequences are viewed as a universal characteristic of the human condition, then we can do little about them. This is not Petzold’s position, but the disorientation of the characters in his film, combined with a passive readiness to accept their fate, leaves open the door for those seeking to interpret the current refugee crisis as an irresolvable, inevitable state of affairs.


Stop deporting refugees to Afghan war

This 30 April 2018 Dutch video is against the Dutch government deporting refugees, to the war in Afghanistan.

A petition against these deportations is here.

KABUL BLASTS At least 25 people died in twin blasts in the Afghan capital Monday, including seven journalists who raced to the scene after the first detonation. [Reuters]

On Sunday, US immigration authorities turned away some 200 Central American immigrants seeking to apply for asylum at the US-Mexico border. As the workers and youth fleeing murderous repression in countries long dominated by US imperialism chanted, “Why do they kill us, why do they punish us for seeking a better life?” US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents announced they had reached capacity and would not process the applications: here.

‘CARAVAN’ REACHES BORDER The migrant caravan that has so vexed Trump has arrived at the U.S. border, despite the White House mobilizing the National Guard. [HuffPost]

Britain: ASYLUM-SEEKERS on a deportation flight were “unnecessarily” restrained with waist belts, a shocking inspection report reveals today. The HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) report raises “serious concerns” over a January flight transporting 23 people from two immigration removal centres to Austria, Bulgaria and France: here.

THE COURT of Appeal upheld yesterday the Home Office’s decision to deport a bipolar man to Uganda despite him having lived “almost all his life” in Britain. Kennedy Mwesezi, 30, came to Britain aged two with his mother and brother and speaks only English, having returned to Uganda just “a couple of times on family holidays”: here.

Close Libyan torture and slavery jails, Dutch government says

This Mediavision Uganda video says about itself:

26 November 2017

A slave market in 🇱🇾Libya for African immigrants.

🌍Africans mostly from 🇳🇪Nigeria and other countries trying to get to 🇮🇹Italy through Libya are being sold to Arab countries (Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia) @ $200 to $700, together with others, Libyan nationals who are against the Tripoli government. 🇺🇸USA is purely silent simply because it’s gaining millions of dollars from oil wells. These boys and girls are forced to work and are forced to fight in wars.

Translated from Natalie Righton in Dutch daily De Volkskrant, 8 March 2018, 19:16:

Minister Kaag: Libyan detention centers for migrants must be closed, circumstances are inhuman

The Libyan detention centers for migrants must be closed immediately. The conditions are too dehumanizing. This says Minister Kaag of International Development after a visit to Libya. In more than thirty state prisons, there are still about five thousand migrants arrested by the Libyan Coast Guard when they tried to reach Europe by boat. Thousands of others are locked up in prisons of armed groups.

‘State prisons’ are prisons of the armed group recognized by most NATO governments as the ‘government’ of Libya. Other armed groups claim to be ‘governments’ as well; and sometimes get semi-recognition of that by some NATO governments.

‘The centers, which are not suitable for humans, have to close’, according to Minister Kaag Wednesday after a visit to a detention center in Tajoura, a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli. This makes her the first EU member of government to come to this conclusion.

Kaag thinks that the Netherlands can not remain silent about exploitation and forced labour, just because Europe does not want migrants to reach the European coast. “On whatever side you are in this debate, we are all human”, says Kaag. … ‘This includes a humane asylum policy. This is not humane. ”

In line with the EU, the Dutch cabinet is also striving to keep as many African migrants as possible in Africa to prevent them from coming to Europe. But Kaag emphasizes that Libya is not a suitable candidate to make deals with for the time being, because of the administrative chaos that prevails there. …

Hell on earth

Migrants call the Libyan detention centers, speaking to human rights activists ‘hell on earth’, where torture, sexual abuse and even murders take place. The American channel CNN opened the eyes of many European politicians at the end of last year by showing how imprisoned migrants are resold as slaves. …

Libya has no clear border control like Turkey, with which the EU has a deal about stopping migrants. …

Last year, 110 thousand of the 180 thousand boat refugees departed from Libya to Europe.

Especially Italy, but also other EU member states are determined to further reduce the numbers. They finance the Libyan Coast Guard. The Italians reportedly also pay local Libyan militiamen to stop migrants. …

Kaag’s call to close the centers not only poses a dilemma for her European colleagues, but also for her coalition partners from VVD, CDA and Christen Unie. Because what should happen to the migrants who have been caught if they can not be taken to a detention center?

Kaag’s D66 party is the most ‘liberal’ in the Dutch four party government. Especially the VVD and CDA parties are anti-refugee hardliners.

Styx and Eldorado, new films on refugees

This video says about itself:

STYX – Wolfgang Fischer Film Clip (Berlinale 2018)

8 February 2018

Styx” depicts the transformation of a strong woman torn from her contented world during a sailing trip. When she becomes the only person to come to the aid of a group of refugees shipwrecked on the high seas, she is shown the limits of her importance and of the empathy of her cultural milieu. She is left slipping impotently from one nightmare to the next, and by the end she is forced to recognize that there is no way to counter the cruelties of real life. Only chance can save her.

By Stefan Steinberg in Berlin, Germany:

68th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4

Styx and Eldorado: Once again on the plight of refugees

22 March 2018

Two years ago, the European refugee crisis played a central role at the Berlin film festival with the documentary Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) by Italian director Gianfranco Rosi taking the festival’s main prize. Fire at Sea graphically portrayed the plight of refugees attempting to enter Europe, although it essentially concluded with an appeal to the European Union (EU) to rethink its policies.

Following a dearth of films dealing with the theme at the 2017 Berlinale, it was significant that a handful of movies this year dealt powerfully and insightfully dealt with the EU’s criminal abuse of refugees.

Styx by the Austrian director Wolfgang Fischer grabs our attention from the start with a dramatic road accident. The accident provides the backdrop for introducing the main character in the film, the paramedic Rieke (Susanne Wolff). In her 40s, Rieke is self-assured, proficient and ready for the holiday of a lifetime. She plans to sail a 12-metre yacht singlehandedly from Gibraltar to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, some halfway between Africa and South America.

For long stretches, Styx has little dialogue. Instead, we are introduced to the complex mechanics of sailing a small boat in the middle of the ocean, including navigating a fierce nighttime storm. Most of the filming took place on the high seas and the cinematography vividly depicts the enormous challenges involved in combatting the elements alone.

The film switches gear dramatically when, having survived the storm, Rieke spots a leaky trawler overflowing with African refugees. Highly alarmed, she does her duty according to maritime law. She immediately issues a Mayday call and informs the coast guard. In response the coast guard notes her call and strongly warns her against intervening personally.

Witnessing the dilemma of the refugees first-hand as their ship begins to sink, Rieke refuses to leave the scene and repeatedly requests assistance. Every time she is instructed to leave the area and not to intervene. Frustrated with the negligence of the coast guard, she contacts another ship in the area, a tanker. The message from the tanker is that they have strict instructions from the company not to intervene in such a situation—at the risk of losing their jobs.

Determined to leave the sinking ship, a handful of refugees jump overboard, and one of them, an African boy, manages to swim to Rieke’s yacht. She hauls him aboard and uses her paramedic skills to assist the exhausted, unconscious boy. On board her small craft, Rieke has everything—food, water, medicine, the most advanced navigational equipment. A few hundred metres away, a vessel is sinking with a hundred refugees on board who have nothing.

When the coast guard finally does arrive, its first priority is to arrest Rieke. Her boat is confiscated, and a shocked and fatigued Rieke is informed she faces serious criminal charges for providing assistance to drowning people.

In fact, Fischer’s film makes clear that the real criminals are the politicians who have callously sanctioned a policy that has allowed tens of thousands of helpless men, women and children to die at sea. In the making of Styx, the director worked closely with voluntary organisations that assist refugees in distress at sea and the film is based on genuine encounters.


The river Styx is the mythological river lying between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. In the real world perhaps the closest parallel is the transit camp, the no-mans land where refugees are rendered stateless and invisible to the rest of society. Other films at the festival sought to give a face to the tens of thousands stuck in transit on Europe’s borders and at the mercy of the European Union vicious bureaucracy and police.

This video says about itself:

Eldorado – Markus Imhoof Documentary Trailer (Berlinale 2018)

Drawing inspiration from his personal encounter with the Italian refugee child Giovanna during World War II, Markus Imhoof tells how refugees and migrants are treated today: on the Mediterranean Sea, in Lebanon, in Italy, in Germany and in Switzerland.

The Stefan Steinberg article continues:

Markus Imhoof’s documentary Eldorado begins with the director’s own wartime recollections in Switzerland. During World War II, neutral Switzerland was a “transit” land for Jewish refugees, The fascist powers allowed some Jews to cross the country and depart for other countries if, in return, Switzerland agreed to take in a certain number of war refugees. Imhoof relates how, as a young boy, he went down to his local railway station with his mother to pick out a refugee to take home—Giovanna, a young, sickly Italian girl who the boy later learnt to love.

After the war, refugees like Giovanna were forced to leave Switzerland. She died later in Milan, malnourished, at the age of 14. In the course of his film, the director, now 76, conducts a dialogue with his long lost childhood friend. This dialogue is interspersed with current footage of the dreadful plight of refugees, mainly from Africa, seeking to reach the European Union—a false El Dorado, which treats them with contempt and hostility should they manage to survive the perilous passage across the Mediterranean.

At the Berlin festival, Imhoof explained he had to wait months to obtain permission to film on official EU vessels, on the open sea and in the primitive transit camps established on Europe’s borders. Europe wants to wash its hands of the refugees, they are to remain unseen.

Eldorado also deals with the economics of modern human trafficking. He notes how he paid 36.50 euros [$US 44.75] for a ship’s passage from Africa to Europe, including a reserved seat. A refugee fleeing war and poverty often pays $1,500 for the same trip in a leaky dinghy without a lifejacket.

Those who do make it to Italian shores are often incarcerated in camps run by the Mafia, where they are employed as virtual slave labour. They work 10 hour days on tomato plantations for 30 euros a day, half of which they have to give to their gangster employers. It is reckoned that there are about 30,000 such illegal workers in Italian agriculture. Lacking any legal status they have no legal rights. Often they are not paid at all.

Imhoof notes that tomatoes are an ideal crop to grow in Africa and could significantly boost the economies of African countries. Instead African migrants working for poverty wages guarantee cheap priced tomatoes in Italy for the European market, a process Imhoof calls “economic colonisation.”

Together with his references to his own boyhood experiences in the war, Imhoof’s film implies that the treatment of refugees today is no better than it was three-quarters of a century ago during the war.

Styx and Eldorado deserve a wide audience.

Prominent German filmmaker Christian Petzold’s new work, Transit, based on a novel by the left-wing writer Anna Seghers (1900-1983), which also treats the “refugee problem”, will be discussed at a later date.

Dutch government, don’t send refugees to Afghan war

Afghan refugees campaign

Today, in The Hague in the Netherlands, Afghan refugees have been campaigning against Dutch government plans to send them back to the war in Afghanistan.

They have been flying kites in protest.

Afghanistan is the second most dangerous country in the world. All over Europe, there are protests against European Union governments sending refugees back to that bloody war.

Their site Don’t Send Afghans Back- Europeans against Afghan deportations – Afghanistan is not safe is here.

German extreme right terrorists convicted

This video says about itself:

7 March 2018

A court in Germany has found 8 people guilty of being members of a right-wing terror organization. The verdict was handed down Wednesday after a yearlong trial of members of the so-called “Freital Group”. The ringleader was sentenced to ten years, the others are also serving prison terms, the shortest being four years. The terror cell was founded in eastern Germany and has been accused of firebombing two refugee homes and an office and car belonging to the left-wing, pro immigration Die Linke party. The aim of the attacks was to “generate a climate of fear and repression”. More than one million asylum seekers and refugees arrived in Germany in 2015 alone, many of them fleeing war in Syria.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

German terrorist group convicted of attacks on asylum seekers and politicians

Today, 4:30 PM

Members of the German right-wing extremist ‘Gruppe Freital’ have been sentenced to long prison terms for a series of attacks on asylum seekers and political targets. The seven men and a woman have received sentences ranging from four to ten years, including for forming a terrorist association and attempted murder.

The convicts are responsible for five attacks, in Freital and nearby Dresden. The targets were two residences where asylum seekers lived, a car of a left-wing politician, a party bureau of the Left party and a left-wing residential group. Two people were wounded.

The members (aged between 20 and 40) met each other in 2015 at demonstrations against the arrival of asylum seekers. The region around Dresden, where Freital is close by, was at that time a center of resistance against Chancellor Merkel and her asylum policy. The group is said to have wanted to silence dissenters and would like asylum seekers to leave the country by creating a “climate of fear”.

In addition, according to the justice department, they took killing people for granted. “It is very good luck that no people have been killed by the actions of the group.”

There was a lot of criticism of the police and the judiciary in this case. Particularly because the police quickly found out about the group, but the justice department did not seem to see the seriousness of the case. The case is said to have been neglected for too long. And when the justice department did decide to prosecute the group, it was not for terrorism, but for lesser offenses. The federal public prosecutor, who deals with terror cases, then took over the case.

The justice department is still investigating ten other suspects, among them allegedly three partners of the individuals now sentenced and a politician of the extreme right NPD party.

He didn’t know it yet, but the bombing was the first attack of a small group of local thugs and Nazi sympathizers known as the Freital Group. According to prosecutors, what started out as a loose association of far-right activists, football hooligans, and hate-filled anti-migrant Facebook groups soon spawned a terror organization. Its goal was clear: to drive out the few hundred refugees who’d recently settled in town, many of them fleeing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, at any cost: here.