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The Murderers Are Among Us

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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(May 21, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Critically ranked in the top ten of Germany's 100 most important films, Wolfgang Staudte's THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US is a haunting film about personal accountability and the process of healing in post war Nazi Germany. The first feature film produced amid the ruins of East Germany after World War II, under the auspices of the newly created DEFA Studios, THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US featured the budding star Hildegard Knef. Susanne Wallner (Hildegard Knef) is a concentration camp survivor who, despite unspeakable experiences, is filled with a desire to return to some semblance of the routine of her former life. She wants to move back into her Berlin apartment, but soon finds that Dr. Hans Mertens has taken up residence. Once a successful specialist surgeon, Hans cannot return to his medical practice after the war, incapable of tolerating the sound of anguish and human despair. She offers to share the apartment with Hans until he can find other lodging, but soon finds herself drawn to the troubled, self-destructive, and angry young man who is trying to suppress his terrible memories through excessive drinking. With Susanne's help, Dr. Mertens slowly returns to his former self. But first he must confront his former commanding officer, now a prosperous and respected businessman, over a wartime atrocity. THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US is a compassionate portrait of hope, resilience, and personal atonement. Rooted in the tradition of German expressionism, Wolfgang Staudte juxtaposes realistic filmmaking with rapid montage sequences, unusual camera angles, and sharp lighting contrasts to create a disorienting harsh reality that reflects the fractured lives of the war's survivors. What emerges is not a menacing portrait of a faceless Cold War enemy, but a poignant tale of profound humanity and a sincere, desperate cry for justice.


Ranked by critics as one of Germany’s most important films, The Murderers Are Among Us offers a wrenching look at history and humanity. The first feature film produced in Germany after World War II, it is set in Berlin just after the surrender, and the city is still being battered by air raids. The characters move through the half-destroyed husks of old buildings, and even simple acts like serving a meal at a table take on new meaning as the people try to put their lives back together. Susanne Wallner is a concentration camp survivor, eager to taste life again after her living death. Dr. Hans Mertens is a former German officer, unable to live with the guilt of what he and his former comrades have done. The two must quite literally learn to live side by side as they come to terms with the past and start to look toward the future. The film is beautifully and sensitively made, and possesses a shining optimism that is surprising for its time. --Ali Davis

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Hildegard Knef, Elly Burgmer, Erna Sellmer, Hilde Adolphi, Marlise Ludwig
  • Directors: Wolfgang Staudte
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • DVD Release Date: May 21, 2002
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000063UQS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,356 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Murderers Are Among Us" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This was the very first film made in post-World War II Germany, and it is ranked as one of the most important German films ever made. 15 million Germans saw it between 1946 and 1950. The story begins as a concentration camp survivor, Susanne Wallner, returns to her home in Berlin. She discovers that her apartment is occupied by a former Wehrmacht doctor, Hans Mertens. An experience during the war has seared his soul, and he is a damaged human being. Ultimately, we find out why. The event in question, and the callous manner in which it took place, is horrific.

This film takes on, in a hard-hitting way, the fact that many Germans walking around in 1946 had been complicit in, or even ordered, atrocities. (Hence, the title, "The Murderers Are Among Us.") It raises, and attempts to answer, the question of how it affected them. According to the film, some were tormented by their actions; others refused to accept any blame for them and went right back to "normal" life.

The film does not attempt to take on, however, the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Susanne is a Christian, as is everyone else in the film. The graves all have crosses. At least in the English subtitles, the word "Jew" is not used once in this film. One would walk out of this film without knowing that there had ever been Jews in Germany, or understanding that their annihilation was a prime effort of Nazi Germany. (However, the film's 1946 German audience surely would have been able to put the film into context.) Additionally, the film nowhere describes what Susanne went through in the concentration camps. The focus is entirely on how the war psychologically damaged Dr. Mertens. Susanne is there to love and support him, and enable him to achieve redemption.
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Format: VHS Tape
There have been many movies about soldiers returning home from war, especially since Vietnam (Coming Home and The Deer Hunter leading into films like Courage Under Fire). But before the 70's it was rare to find a film that analyzed the absolute losing side's perspective. How do soldiers return to life if they are deemed losers by the whole world? In Staudte's film two soldiers return home to the ruins of post-war Berlin. The irony is that the one who courageously defended innocents finds himself destitute and plagued by nightmares while his sadistic officer has seamlessly blended back into the broken society. The film follows Ernst Borchert's character as he takes up with a woman and searches for a place for his life and a purposeful identity.
The power of the film is found in its realistic atmosphere shot in 1946 and in its uncompromising ambiguity. It is too early to make judgements on the completed WWII rather Staudte uses the medium to highlight the cyclical nature of violence. This is the notion that wars must be avoided at all costs for the damage they do is beyond any possible benefit as well as human comprehension. On that note, many see Murderers Among Us as a post-war message of hope. A prophecy that the German people would unite again as they had in the past, and again find some semblance of community. Only hopefully this time tempered by cool rationality. All in all, a decent film and one that begs comparison to the Hollywood mechanizations of the time epitomized in The Best Years of Our Lives.
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Format: DVD
"Report for December 24, 1942. Execution. 36 men, 54 women, 31 children, 347 rounds of ammunition"

It's now Berlin, a year after Germany surrendered. The city is little more than destroyed buildings and mountains of uncleared rubble. Susanne Wallner (Hildegarde Knef) has made her way to a crumbing apartment building where she lived before being sent to a concentration camp in 1943. She finds her apartment is now occupied by a man called Hans Mertens (Ernst Wilhelm Borchert). He's withdrawn, depressed, sardonic, and he refuses to leave. She finally says that she is moving in but that he can stay a few days until he finds other quarters. Mertens, it turns out, is a doctor who has lost all desire to do anything but drink. He had been a surgeon assigned to the Germany army in Poland. As he and Susanne tentatively develop feelings for each other, two things happen. He discovers the man who had been the captain of his unit in 1942 is now in Berlin, a happy and confident factory owner, father of two, and untroubled by any war experiences. Ferdinand Brueckner (Arno Paulsen) is a brisk little man with thinning hair, rimless glasses and a small mustache. He tells Mertens, "Every era offers its chances if you find them. Helmets from sauce pans or sauce pans from helmets. It's the same game." Mertens plans to shoot him.

Mertens also is called to help a young girl who is slowly suffocating. He reluctantly identifies himself as a doctor. He does not want to do anything, but knows the girl will die if he doesn't take emergency steps. He winds up realizing a new self-worth in his skills as a doctor. He and Susanne begin a much happier time together.
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