This film is a portrait of Hannelore Scheiber during her years growing up in post-war Berlin.
The story follows a linear chronology from her birth in a Berlin hospital in January 1945.
It describes her family circumstances during the war and post-war era, contact with Russian
soldiers, the Russian blockade, and the Berlin Airlift (Luftbrücke) from 1948 to 1949. The
film documents her school years from 1951 to 1967, the construction of the Berlin Wall in
1961, meeting her husband Jean Devigne, their courtship and marriage, and their crossing to
the West at Checkpoint Charlie in 1982. My intention with this documentary was to film Hannelore
at specific locations in Berlin and document her stories and memories. My goal was to
catch her emotions around the most important experiences she remembers from growing up in
I met Hannelore and her husband, Jean Devigne, in 1994; years after both of my parents had
passed away. We first established a client-artist relationship when they became interested
in my paintings. A personal friendship grew from this which now has elements resembling a
familial relationship. As I got to know Hannelore, I became interested in her childhood and
adult years in Berlin after the war. The impetus behind making this film was her stories, my
personal attachment to her, and my interest in World War II and Cold War history.
These seven vignettes of Hannelore’s life are my way of reciprocating all that she’s given me
in our friendship. I also believe very strongly that oral histories like hers are valuable
records documenting the post-war period and the Cold War years in Berlin, the epicenter of
the end of WWII in Europe. What makes these seven vignettes special is that they are so personal.
As we are confronted with war on an ongoing basis, I think there is value in narrative
historical war documentaries that deal with the real and direct impact of warfare on human
beings. Personal testimonies offer a specific, concrete means for understanding the horrors
of war. And because they are so personal and real, they avoid the abstraction and separation
that are possible when war is discussed through the language of politics, operations, or
policies. Documentaries of this nature offer a unique opportunity for understanding.
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