Reunion (England, 1988-89)

Figure 1.--I am not positive what is transpiring here. Note the variety of caps the boys in this scene outside the school are wearing.

The film Reunion was a French/British production starring Jason Robards and Christian Anholt, and should be available on video. The images of clothing through all of the four seasons are quite detailed. The film opens in an antiqued black and white; several men are led onto a platform in handcuffs as Nazi soldiers guard them. The men are hanged. Present day: Now a successful lawyer in New York City, Hans Schwarz prepares to leave for his hometown of Stuttgart, Germany to reclaim the personal affects of his long dead parents and to bury the ghosts still haunting him. After arriving in Stuttgart, Hans seeks out his old school, Karl Alexander Gymnasium. Thinking it destroyed during the last days of the war, Hans recalls his schooldays--the day he met his only friend. Most of the film takes place at the boys school, Karl Alexander Gymnasium in Stuttgart. The NAZIs are just rising in power, and it is not until halfway through the film that Hitler wins the elections.


A French/Swiss co-production. Based upon the novella by Fred Uhlman. Screenplay by Harold Pinter. Executive producer Vincent Malle Directed by Jerry Schatzburg. It is based on a novel by Fred Uhlman.


"Reunion" starred Jason Robards as an American lawyer of German Jewish origin. Other prominent parts are played by Christian Anholt and Samuel West. Hans (as a boy of about 17) is excellently played by Christien Anholt. His friend Konradin is acted with equal distinction and sensitivity by Samuel West. Both are British actors.


Stuttgart, Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. Many of the scenes take place in the Stuttgart Gymnasium--an all-male high school for boys in their middle and late teens.


"Reunion" conveys the searing difficulties of adolescent friendship between a Jew and a non-Jew in late 1930s Germany just before the outbreak of World War II. The story is told by an elderly Jewish man as he realtes his childood experiences in NAZI Germany. An American lawyer of German Jewish origin returns to Stuttgart as a middle-aged man to relive certain aspects of his boyhood during the 1930s Third Reich when anti-semitism was rising rampantly. His middle-class parents, a doctor and his wife, had managed to send him to New York before the Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. But his parents were not so lucky. They commit suicide after the boy's departure to save themselves from being sent to their deaths in an extermination camp. The main thrust of the story concerns the boyhood friendship between Hans Strauss, the Jewish boy, and Konradidn Von Lohenburg, an aristocratic Gentile whom Hans gets to know in the Gymnasium or High School that they both attend. Konradin's family was pro-NAZI. When the two departed, Hans felt betrayed. Only as a grown man does Hans Strauss (having now changed his name to the more American "Henry") learn that his boyhood friend Konradidin was executed by the Nazis for opposing Hitler's "final solution" (the extermination of the Jews).

The film opens ominously in an antiqued black and white; several men are led onto a platform in handcuffs as Nazi soldiers guard them. The men are hanged. The film then switches to the present day. Now a successful lawyer in New York City, Hans Schwarz prepares to leave for his hometown of Stuttgart, Germany to reclaim the personal affects of his long dead parents and to bury the ghosts still haunting him. After arriving in Stuttgart, Hans seeks out his old school, Karl Alexander Gymnasium. Thinking it destroyed during the last days of the war, Hans recalls his schooldays--especially the day he met his only friend.

Flashback to Winter 1933, Karl Alexander Gymnasium, a boys day school. Young Hans (the only Jew in his class) sits in class when the door to his home room opens and in walks a youth in long trousers. All eyes turn and regard the new boy, whose blond hair and pricey suit cast him as the son of an aristocrat. Hans is immediately infatuated. The new boy takes his place at an empty desk in front of Hans, and after a prompt from the teacher, he announces his name: Graf von Lohenburg, Konradin. Hans set out to make friends with Konradin. Unbeknownst to him, Konradin had made the same decision.

Hans tells his father, a Jewish Doctor and veteran of the German Army during the first world war about the royalty that had walked into his classroom that day. Hans' father is awestruck. The next day at school, all of the boys try to befriend Konradin, and Hans watches, amused, from afar as the "caviar of the class," get the cold shoulder from Lohenburg. During a P.E. Class, the instructors shows off a maneuver on the parallel bars and asks for volunteers. Hans does, and Konradin is mesmerized by Hans' athleticism.

That afternoon, Hans notices that Konradin is walking the same direction as he through the labyrinthine Stuttgart. Hans stops and looks, and Konradin feigns to look away, then it is Konradin's turn to stop and look, Hans drops to tie his shoes, until they finally greet each other on top of the stairs of the city street. Their friendship begins, each a collector of foreign coins and foreign books. They take a bite at an eatery and talk; Konradin tells Hans that he's never been to school before, since his father was an ambassador and he had only had private tutors. Hans tells him that he's looking forward to University so he could meet girls.

Spring. Hans gives a report to his class on Hamlet, referring to Freud's theories of schizophrenia; one of the boys spurts out, "Freud's a Jew." Hans eventually asks Konradin to his home to show off his room in typical boy friendship fashion, only to be embarrassed by his father who regales the aristocratic boy with a colorful anecdote. Hans grows quiet and clutches his fists; his father leaves. Konradin, noticing Hans' discomfort declares, "I like your room."

Spring gives way to summer, and the boys as inseparable. They take outings in the Black Forest alone and encounter Nazi's along the way. Upon discovering a pair of young lovers in the forest one day, they come away wondering what to do about the question of physical desire, since Hans knows no girls. Konradin plans a trip for them to visit his female cousin. They take a lunch at an outside festival, only to encounter a group of NAZIs. Hans is punched in the face while they break up a fight. Later, as Hans washes his bloodied face in a lake, they see a NAZI marching band on the other side. Hans turns to his friend and says, "I'm frightened."

After returning from one of their outings, Hans discovers his neighbors house has burned down, killing all inside, even the children. Hans bursts out: "There can be no God! How can God let innocent children die!" Meanwhile, people cry out that it was an accident, that no one did it (the fire), since the neighbors were Jewish. Later that summer, they take a train to visit Konradin's cousin. Leaving the train station, they pass a marching throng of singing, exuberant Hitler Youths, and the cousin asks them why they haven't joined. Later one during lunch, Konradin tells her that Hans is Jewish. She replies: "Are you sure? You don't look Jewish." On the return journey, Hans asks his friend, "Don't I look Jewish?" Konradin replies, "No. I suppose you don't." Hans asks, "What does a Jew look like?"

Hans had received orchestra tickets from his parents as a gift. As he dresses, the radio in the background announces that Hitler has won a resounding victory in the Reichstag elections. During the concert, he sees Konradin. Afterwards, he waits in the lobby where Konradin's Mother and he walk towards him. But Konradin ignores him. Later at school, they had a row, and Konradin tells him the truth--both of his parents support Hitler and he has had to fight for every minute he had with Hans. Their friendship begins to unravel.

During the summer, both go their separate ways on holiday. When they return, the world has changed. Before school begins, the boys assemble to see the NAZI flag raised, and all of the boys salute, "Heil Hitler!" All except Hans. A new history teacher begins, a NAZI teacher introducing NAZI propaganda. There is a distance between Konradin and Hans. Later Hans is told by his father that they are sending him to live with his uncle in New York. Konradin and he meet one last time. Konradin spouts his praise for Hitler, and Hans runs away, stops and vomits.

Hans arrives in New York. ; his parents commit suicide by turning on the natural gas in their bedroom. His father pins on his war medals before turning on the gas.

Present Day. The elder Hans discovers that Karl Alexander Gymnasium has been rebuilt. He meets with the headmaster to discover what happened to Konradin during the war. His faith in his undying friendship is rewarded.

The shadow of NAZIism is ever present throughout the entire film, beginning with anti-Semitic comments and the radio messages in the background of Hans' household. Stuttgart is seen as a vibrant city until the Nazi's seize power, and suddenly it seems nearly a ghost town as the factories go on strike and the merchants have all disappeared. The P.E. instructor has a Hitler-style mustache near the beginning of the film, and Hans is clearly already a pariah even before the NAZIs seize control of the government. The soldiers seen on the street, at first, seem to be bumbling dolts but as the story unfolds, they become menacing devils.


The film is elaborately costumed with a lot of insights into boys clothing during the eraly 1930s. The novella describes it as such: "WE weren't as yet interested in girls, so we didn't mind being dressed in the functional, hardwearing assortment of jackets and short trousers or breeches bought for us in the hope that they would last til we grew out of them."

And of Konradin's first appearance: "But with this boy it was different. He wore long trousers, beautifully cut and creased, obviously not off the peg like outs. His suit looked expensive: it was light grey with a herringbone pattern and almost certainly 'Guaranteed English'. He wore a pale blue shirt and a dark tie with small white polka-dots; in contrast our neckwear was dirty, greasy, and rope-like."

In the colder months, Hans wears breeches with a suit jacket and tie, white shirt and dark knee socks. The breeches buckle just below the knees, and he wears boots. During the warmer months, Hans wears short trousers of a lighter color/fabric. During their outing in the Black Forest, Konradin wears a white shirt, shorts with suspenders (with straps across the chest) and white knee socks and black "slippers." Hans wears shorts and white shirt, suspenders (with straps across the chest -- *name??*), tan knee socks pushed down around his ankles/boots.

Most of the boys in school wear the same, most in black shorts or breeches or knee pants, black knee stockings, etc. During the "NAZI" return to school, a few boys are seen with Sailor Suit tops. All wear caps. During the colder months, pea coats and mufflers. Since there are so many boys, it is difficult to discuss all of the styles here. Example, some boys wear their stockings pulled past their knees, other slouched, some neatly in place. Styles of suit jackets varied with each boy, a few boys wear sweaters, etc. And since all of the seasons are presented, there is a great deal to document.

The clothing is interestingly varied. The first shot shows Hans and Konradidin as friends in the 1930s. Hans, the shorter of the two boys, always wears either short pants with knee socks that have a tendency to fall down or knickers with grey long stockings. Here we see him in the latter garb. His aristocratic friend is distinguished from the other students by always wearing elegant long trousers and beautifully cut suits and jackets--except for a bike riding episode in the Black Forest where both boys wear lederhosen shorts with shite knee socks. The second shot shows the variety of clothing worn by the boys in the highschool or gymnasium. Some wear short pants with knee socks while others wear shorts with long over-the-knee stockings. And some boys also wear knickers. (Notice the student peaked caps which many of the boys wear as an emblem of their studenthood.) But only Konradidn seems to wear long trousers-- a mark, apparently, of his more upper-class origins. At the opera, for instance, he wears white tie and tails whereas Hans gets to wear his first dinner jacket (black tie).

As for the Hitler Youth squad, the usual brown shirt and black short trousers, but most of the marching youth seem to be wearing black knee socks.


Overall, this is a very underrated film. It is about boyhood friendship set against the divisive background of the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. The opening present day sequences are mundane and tedious, but as soon as the flashback begins, the story unfolds quickly and beautifully. Hans and Konradin each have a different reason for befriending each other, and their bond lasts beyond death and time. Of course, the clothes "appear" too new, too fresh, especially after reading those passages from the novella. Comparing them to the old photographs from the time, they, however, seem authentic. And the film ends before the war actually begins in earnest. It is the impact of Nazism that comes through, filtered through the two main characters, each from a different class and background, each with a destiny neither can escape.

The initial draft of this review was submitted by Jeffrey A. Stadt and other reades have submitted addutiinal information.

Other Hitler Youth Films

The subject of NAZI Germany's Hitler Youth has fascinated fim makers since the very first years of the Third Reich. Several films have been made specifically on the Hitler Youth, but it is a rare film about NAZI Germany that does not include a required scene with Hitler Youth boys. The most notable such scene is from the Broadway musical Cabaret. Information on several other Hitler Youth films, several made in Germany, are avialable on HBC. The first such film was made in Germany, Hitler Jugend Quex. While it looks rather hokey to us today, it had a powerful impact in mid-190s Germany. The prevelence of the Hitler Youth in movies is extrodinary. The much larger Boy Scout movement is rarely depicted in films. The Hitler Youth, however, is rarely left out in a film with a German setting from the late 1920s to 1945.


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Created: September 3, 2000
Last updated: November 27, 2003