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Europa Europa
Europa Europa french poster.jpg
French theatrical release poster
Directed byAgnieszka Holland
Screenplay byAgnieszka Holland
Based onI Was Hitler Youth Salomon
by Solomon Perel
Produced byArtur Brauner
Margaret Ménégoz
Music byZbigniew Preisner
Distributed byOrion Pictures (US)
Release date
14 November 1990 (France)[1]
Running time
112 minutes
Box office$5,575,738 (domestic)[4]

Europa Europa (German: Hitlerjunge Salomon, lit. "Hitler Youth Salomon") is a 1990 historical war drama film directed by Agnieszka Holland. It is based on the 1989 autobiography of Solomon Perel, a German Jewish boy who escaped the Holocaust by masquerading as a "Nazi" German. The film stars Marco Hofschneider as Perel; Perel appears briefly as himself in the finale. The film’s title refers to World War II’s division of continental Europe, resulting in a constant national shift of allegiances, identities, and front lines. The film is an international co-production between the German company CCC Film and companies in France and Poland.

The film is not be confused with the 1991 Lars von Trier film Europa, which was released as Zentropa in the United States to avoid confusion. Europa Europa won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1992.


The plot unfolds in an episodic nature, beginning with a newborn Solek (a Polish nickname for Solomon) undergoing a circumcision as part of his brit milah ceremony. The film proceeds to Solek's life as a young boy living in Nazi Germany with his family.

Nazi Germany

In 1938, thirteen-year-old Solek is taking a bath on the eve of his bar mitzvah when Kristallnacht occurs. He escapes his house naked and hides in a barrel. At night, he asks an acquaintance to bring him clothes from his house. She refuses but throws him a leather jacket with a swastika armband. He returns home to his family, to find that his sister Berta has been killed by the Nazis. His father decides the Perel family will move to his birthplace of Łódź in central Poland, as he believes it will be safer there.[5]


The Perel family (Solek, his parents, and two brothers David and Isaak) now live in Łódź. Less than a year later, World War II begins with the German Invasion of Poland. David, who was conscripted into the Polish Army, returns home to the family, informing them he deserted and the Polish have been defeated by the Germans. Solek's family decides he and his brother should flee to Eastern Europe. Isaak and Solek head for the eastern border of Poland, only to find that the Soviets have invaded. The brothers are separated and Solek ends up in a Soviet orphanage in Grodno with other Polish refugee children.

Soviet Union

Solek lives in the orphanage for two years, where he joins the Komsomol, receives Communist education and learns Russian. He takes a romantic interest in Inna, a young and attractive instructor who defends him when the authorities at school discover Solek's class origin is bourgeois. Zenek, a Polish Catholic boy whose father was captured by the Soviets, antagonizes Solek for being a Jew and accuses him of being a Stalinist. Solek receives a letter from his parents informing him of their imprisonment in the Łódź Ghetto.

Nazi-occupied Soviet Union

Solek is captured by German soldiers during the German invasion of the Soviet Union and finds himself amongst a group of Soviet prisoners. As the German soldiers single out the Jews and commissars for execution, Solek hides his identity papers and tells the Germans he is "Josef Peters", a Volksdeutscher (ethnic German) from a Baltic German family in Latvia. The soldiers deduce that "Josef" was in the orphanage because his parents were killed by the Soviets and promise him vengeance. The unit adopts Solly (whom they nickname "Jupp") as their interpreter due to his fluency in the German and Russian language. Accompanying the unit for several weeks, Solly sees the horrors of war, including murdered civilians, as the Germans seek to crush Soviet resistance.

Solek cannot let anyone see him bathing or urinating, as his circumcised penis would expose him as a Jew. Robert, one of the soldiers, sneaks in on "Jupp" when he finally manages a private bath. Robert reveals he is gay and will not inform on Solek's identity, as both of them have secrets the Nazis would kill them for; the two become friends.

During combat, Robert is killed and Solek, the lone survivor of his unit, attempts to reach the Soviet lines. As he crosses a bridge, the unit charges across behind him and the Soviet troops surrender; "Jupp" is hailed as a hero. The company commander decides that "such a fine young German" should be properly educated. The childless commander tells "Jupp" he plans to formally adopt him and will send him to the elite Hitler Youth Academy in Braunschweig to receive a Nazi education, much to Solek's consternation.

Nazi Germany

At the school, "Josef Peters" is introduced to the other boys as a heroic combat veteran. Gerd, one of the Academy pupils, is assigned to help "Josef" get acquainted and the two become roommates and friends. Solek tries to disguise his circumcision with string and rubber bands in various painful ways to simulate a foreskin. He evades a medical examination by feigning a toothache and endures a tooth extraction from the dentist without anesthetic.

Leni, a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth) who serves meals at the Academy, becomes infatuated with "Jupp." He returns Leni's affections, but does not consummate their relationship for fear of his "exposure." Leni tries to goad "Jupp" into becoming more intimate and hints she would also happily bear his child, but after she makes a particularly venomous anti-Semitic remark, "Jupp" angrily slaps her. Leni calls him a Schlappschwanz (limp-dick) and the two part ways.

A less serious threat is the visit to the Academy by a Nazi "expert" in "racial science", who claims particular skill in detecting Jews. The Nazi selects "Jupp" as his subject for a demonstration and carefully measures his head and face. He then calculates "Jupp"'s anthropometric indices and pronounces him mixed but of "pure Aryan stock", to Jupp's relieved surprise. Soon after, while working in a factory for the war effort, Jupp and his classmates learn the German 6th Army has been defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad.

During his leave from the Academy, Solek travels to Łódź to find his family; however, the ghetto is sealed off and guarded by the Feldgendarmerie. Solek rides a tram that travels through the ghetto to the other side of town. Through a small gap in the blocked-out windows of the tram, Solek manages to see horrific sights of tortured, starved people. He spots an elderly woman that resembles his mother, but the tram passengers prevent him from calling out to her. On the returning tram ride, he sees another elderly woman being beaten by a German policeman, but is unsure if the woman is his mother.

After several weeks pass without seeing Leni, Solek visits Leni's mother, who does not sympathize with the Nazis. She tells him Leni is pregnant and intends to "give the child to the Führer", in the Lebensborn program. Solek realizes the child's father is his friend and roommate Gerd. When Leni's mother presses Josef on his identity, he breaks down and confesses he is Jewish; she tells him she had suspected but promises not to betray him. He does not see Leni again.

Solek is summoned to the Gestapo offices and is nearly exposed when he is prodded about his supposed parentage and is asked to show a Certificate of Racial Purity. When Solek claims the certificate is back in Grodno, the Gestapo official says he will send for it and then rants about how the war will be won by Hitler's Wunderwaffen (wonder weapons). As Solek leaves to meet with Gerd, the building is destroyed by Allied bombs; Solek's relief is tempered by Gerd's death in the bombing.

Soviet-occupied Nazi Germany

As Soviet troops close in on Berlin, the Hitler Youth at the school are sent to the front. Solek deserts his unit, whereupon his former squadmates try to fire at him. Solek manages to make it safely to the Soviets to surrender. His captors are initially doubtful Solek is a Jew and accuse him of being a traitor. When a Soviet officer angrily shows Solek photos of murdered Jews from death camps they had liberated, Solek explains he was not aware of the extent of the death camps. They are about to have Solek shot by an elderly Communist political prisoner (wearing a red triangle on his camp uniform) when Solek's brother Isaak, just released from a concentration camp, recognizes Solek. Isaak reveals to Solek that their parents were killed when the Łódź Ghetto was "liquidated". Before leaving the camp, Isaak tells Solek to never reveal his story to anyone, saying it would never be believed. Shortly thereafter Solek emigrates to the British Mandate of Palestine, the future state of Israel, where he embraces his Jewish heritage. The films ends with the real Solomon Perel, as an older man, singing a Jewish folk song taken from the Book of Psalms ("Hine Ma Tov," Psalm 133:1).


  • Marco Hofschneider as Solomon Perel
  • Julie Delpy as Leni
  • Hanns Zischler as Hauptmann
  • René Hofschneider as Isaak
  • Piotr Kozlowski as David
  • André Wilms as Robert Kellerman, soldier
  • Ashley Wanninger as Gerd
  • Halina Łabonarska as Leni's mother
  • Klaus Abramowsky as Solomon's father
  • Michèle Gleizer as Solomon's mother
  • Marta Sandrowicz as Berta
  • Nathalie Schmidt as Basia
  • Delphine Forest as Inna
  • Martin Maria Blau as Ulmayer
  • Andrzej Mastalerz as Zenek
  • Solomon Perel as himself


Box office

The film was released in the United States on 28 June 1991 and grossed $31,433 in its opening weekend in two theaters. Its final gross in the US was $5,575,738.[4]


Europa Europa received widespread acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 95% based on 19 reviews.[6] Writing for the Los Angeles Times, critic Michael Wilmington lauded the film's multifaceted structure, calling Europa Europa "a tense suspense story, an ironic romance and a truly black comedy—all driving toward a dark crisis of identity".[7] In a positive review, Janet Maslin of The New York Times said it "accomplishes what every film about the Holocaust seeks to achieve: It brings new immediacy to the outrage by locating specific, wrenching details that transcend cliche".[8]

Hal Hinson of The Washington Post praised the direction, saying "Holland isn't a dour moral instructor; she's an ironist with a deft ability to capture the absurd aspects of her material and keep them in balance with the tragic".[9] Hinson commended the film for its "[awareness] of the toll [Solly's] shape-shifting compromises exacts".[9] Desson Howe, also of The Post, was more critical, citing the film's "emotional distance,"[10] and similarly to Maslin, said the film did not fully probe Solly's conscience.[10]

Best Foreign Film controversy

As it won four major "best foreign-language film” prizes from American critics’ groups of the 1991 awards season, Europa Europa was strongly regarded as a contender for a Best Foreign Film Oscar for the 64th Academy Awards ceremony.[7] However, the German Export Film Union, which oversaw the Oscar selection committee for German films, declined to submit the film for a nomination.[11] The committee reasoned the film did not meet certain eligibility criteria, such as not qualifying as a German film.[7][11] However, the film was a co-production between Germany, Poland, and France,[7] in addition, much of the film is spoken in German, while the film's producer and much of the cast and crew is German.[11] Export committee members reportedly called the film "junk" and "an embarrassment."[11][12] The film's unconventional use of black comedy, as opposed to full tragedy, in a Holocaust film has been speculated to be a main cause for the committee's omission.[13][14][15] The omission prompted leading German filmmakers to write a public letter of support for the film and its director Agnieszka Holland.[16][17] The letter signees included Werner Herzog, Wolfgang Petersen, and Wim Wenders.[7][16]

Despite the film’s omission, it went on to be a critical and commercial success in the United States[7] where it became the second most successful German film after 1981's Das Boot,[16] and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.[18]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Academy Awards[18] Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Agnieszka Holland Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[19] Best Foreign Language Film Won
British Academy Film Awards[20] Best Film Not in the English Language Artur Brauner, Margaret Ménégoz and Agnieszka Holland Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[21] Best Foreign Language Film Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards[22] Best Foreign Film Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[23] Best Foreign Language Film Runner-up
Best Music Score Zbigniew Preisner Won
National Board of Review Awards[24] Top Foreign Language Films Won
Best Foreign Language Film Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards[25] Best Foreign Language Film 3rd Place
Best Screenplay Agnieszka Holland 3rd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[26] Best Foreign Language Film Won
Political Film Society Awards Human Rights Nominated
Viareggio Europa Cinema Awards Best Screenplay Agnieszka Holland Won

Home media

The film was released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on March 4, 2003.[27] The Criterion Collection released a special edition Blu-ray of the film on July 9, 2019.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Hitlerjunge Salomon". (in German). Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  2. ^ "Europa Europa". British Film Institute. London: BFI Film & Television Database. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  3. ^ "Europa Europa". (in French). Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Europa Europa at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ "Monthly Polish Film Screening:Europa, Europa-a film by Agnieszka Holland – Austin Polish Society". Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  6. ^ "Europa, Europa", Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ a b c d e f Wilmington, Michael (18 February 1992). "'Europa' at Center of Oscar Storm : Commentary: Debate over  why  the film won't be a foreign-language nominee reveals inequities of process". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (28 June 1991). "Reviews/Film; A Boy Confronts His Jewish Heritage as a Hero of Hitler Youth". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  9. ^ a b Hinson, Hal (9 August 1991). "'Europa Europa'". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ a b Howe, Desson (9 August 1991). "'Europa Europa'". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ a b c d Weinraub, Bernard (14 January 1992). "The Talk of Hollywood; 'Europa' Surfaces In Oscar Angling". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  12. ^ Fisher, Marc (20 February 1992). "A MESSAGE ON 'EUROPA'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  13. ^ Iannone, Pasquale (October 2011). "Europa Europa". Senses of Cinema.
  14. ^ Taubin, Amy (9 July 2019). "Europa Europa: Border States". The Criterion Collection.
  15. ^ Hornaday, Ann (5 December 1993). "FILM; For Foreign Films, the Rules For an Oscar Are Set in Sand". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  16. ^ a b c Weinraub, Bernard (28 January 1992). "German Film Makers Express Support for 'Europa'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  17. ^ Thomas, Kevin (29 January 1992). "Germany Divided on 'Europa' : Movies: German filmmakers protest the German Export Film Union's decision not to enter 'Europa Europa' for best foreign-language film in the Academy Awards". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ a b "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  19. ^ "BSFC Winners: 1990s". Boston Society of Film Critics. 27 July 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  20. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1993". BAFTA. 1993. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Europa Europa – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  22. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners – 1990-99". Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  23. ^ "The Annual 17th Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  24. ^ "1991 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  25. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  26. ^ "1991 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". Mubi. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  27. ^ "Europa Europa DVD". Amazon.
  28. ^ Lybarger, Dan (26 July 2019). "Europa Europa deserving of its Criterion status". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Archived from the original on 14 February 2021.

External links

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