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“A Friendship in Vienna”

Produced and shown on The Disney Channel

“A Friendship in Vienna”
Produced and shown on The Disney Channel

“A Friendship in Vienna” illuminates the courageous friendship of two thirteen-year-old girls, one Jewish and the other the daughter of a Nazi officer, during the Anschluss — the German annexation of Austria in 1938. This superbly written and acted film makes the subject of the Holocaust accessible to young people without overwhelming the viewer with violence and without being totally demoralizing. The story of these two girls is an inspiring example of the power of friendship and sisterhood.

The movie, shown this Fall, was filmed in Budapest, because of its likeness to pre-war Vienna. The movie vividly depicts “normal” life from the point of view of the two girls: teachers, classmates, discipline and lessons. During their circuitous walks home, they talk about the difference between right and wrong in a confusing and increasingly amoral adult world. In one scene, the Jewish Inge (played by Jenny Lewis) and the Catholic Lise (played by Kamie Harper) enact a solemn ritual of becoming “blood” sisters. We also see the girls in their laughter and play on a truant visit to an amusement park and on a birthday visit to the opera.

We become acquainted with the Dornenwalds, Inge’s family Over the dinner table, the grandfather (played by Ed Asner) and his son-in-law (played by Stephen Macht) debate incessantly whether the Jews of Austria are indeed at risk, and whether it is necessary to make plans to escape.

In secret defiance of both sets of parents, who have forbidden the girls to see or hear from each other, Inge and Lise bravely remain steadfast friends. Finally, it is their fierce loyalty and passionate idealism that save the Dornenwald family in a suspenseful denouement. Based on the autobiographical novel for young people, The Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel (New York: Viking, 1988), “A Friendship in Vienna” is intended for family viewing.