Joseph Rochlitz's essential documentary account of the non-Jewish Italian resistance to Hitler’s “Final Solution" begins with the story of the director's father, who was interned by the Italians during WWII. The film's scope enlarges to show how Italian officials saved some 40,000 Jews in Yugoslavia, France and Greece from deportation to concentration camps.
Unique interviews with Italian officials and Jews who survived (including Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, himself saved by the Italians) explore why these Italian officials subverted Mussolini’s orders to comply with German plans for Jewish annihilation and how they created ingenious bureaucratic evasions and, when necessary, literal roadblocks. The film includes previously unseen Italian and German newsreel footage, archival photos, and excerpts from Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem. The film seeks to understand the motives behind these acts of conscience. Above all, The Righteous Enemy demonstrates that individual morality can play a powerful role in history.
“There have been so many books and films depicting the horrors of the Nazi atrocities, that it is a welcome change to find one which can call attention to decent, humanitarian people who, on a large scale, were willing to challenge the Nazis... this is the first time that the Italian resistance has been presented on film." - Carl Alpert, Jewish Advocate
“Thoughtful, carefully researched and, in a way, warming explores a little-known area…''The Righteous Enemy'' is [an] ambitious work…A remarkable story is unfolded. As many as 35,000 Jews may have been saved when the Italian allies of the Germans declined to act like barbarians.
“The topic is significant in itself; beyond it is the film maker's sensibility. The Righteous Enemy, without being overt, is a tribute by a son to his father. The film maker is Joseph Rochlitz; the father, Imre Rochlitz, fled Austria for Yugoslavia, was imprisoned by Croatian Fascists, and finally was sheltered by Italians.” – The New York Times Full Review
Written, Directed & Produced by Joseph Rochlitz
Historical Consultants: Serge Klarsfeld and Menachem Shelah
Joseph Rochlitz is an opera and film director and based his documentary The Righteous Enemy on the Italian protection of thousands of Jewish refugees, including his father, during the Holocaust. He collaborated in the research and writing of his father’s wartime memoirs, Accident of Fate: A Personal Account, 1938–1945 (See link below).
Imre Rochlitz was born in Budapest in 1925, but he spent his childhood in Vienna. After the war, he immigrated to the United States in 1947, where he studied law. He moved back to Europe in 1958.
Accident of Fate: A Personal Account, 1938–1945 by Imre Rochlitz, the director's father, is now available from Wilfrid Laurier University Press. The Righteous Enemy was based on several chapters of the manuscript which is a first-hand account of persecution, rescue, and resistance in the Axis-occupied former Yugoslavia.
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The Righteous Enemy
Italy/UK, 1987, color/B&W, English and Italian and French with English subtitles, 84 or 60 minute versions available
Directed by Joseph Rochlitz
Public Exhibition formats: Beta, DVD