Do We Really Need a Nazi Romance Film Right Now?

The premise of a new film, Where Hands Touch, is as following:

WHERE HANDS TOUCH is a coming of age story set in the most brutal of times: Germany, 1944. Leyna (Amandla Stenberg), the 15-year old daughter of a white German mother (Abbie Cornish) and a black African father, meets Lutz (George MacKay), a compassionate member of the Hitler Youth whose father (Christopher Eccleston) is a prominent Nazi soldier, and they form an unlikely connection in this quickly changing world.

As Leyna’s mother strives to protect her from the horrors that she could face as a mixed-race German citizen, Leyna is forced to forge her own path as the war goes on and the Nazis increase their atrocities over the Jews and all dissidents. Can she find an ally in Lutz, himself battling a fate laid out before him that he is hesitant to embrace?

The trailer just came out, and the film will be released on September 14.

We, like many others, have a lot of questions. Where are the Jews? Why are we romanticizing Nazis? Who thought this movie was okay?

When the first picture from the film was released in February 2017, there was a ton of backlash.

Amma Asante, the filmmaker, defended the film in response to the initial backlash. She wrote on Instagram that she is not romanticizing Nazis, but rather wants to “shine a light on the existence of the children of color who were born and raised under Hitler. These children were also persecuted and my wish has been to explore how black and bi-racial German identity was perceived and experienced under Nazi fascist rule.” For Asante, she wants to focus on “the existence of the other ‘others’ who suffered during the Holocaust,” but “this does not mean that the Jewish experience is not also key to our story.”

Amandla Stenberg also defended the film, explaining, “We lack a range of the experience of black people throughout history, let alone a story about someone who is biracial.” She says her character “is not living the Jewish experience. She is experiencing racism and persecution… where she lives an experience parallel to that of Romani people or disabled people or mentally ill people… those who were not Jewish and were not sent to extermination camps.”

Further, Amandla said, “It’s challenging for people to conceive of a story about the Holocaust that is not centered around the Jewish experience, but the experience of someone else.”

However, that’s not the issue. The main discomfort around this film doesn’t focus on telling stories of others who suffered during the Holocaust, but making the love interest a Nazi and giving him a redemption arc.

As a Hypable article points out, “The narrative of ‘the good Nazi’ or a romance that focuses on a young woman who is targeted by Nazis — the narrative most commonly features a Jewish woman, like 2016’s The Exception — falling for a Nazi soldier isn’t anything new. However, it’s a narrative many deem harmful, especially in today’s political climate. In a time where there are Nazis holding rallies with their rhetoric is being whitewashed under the more palatable (though still as dangerous) moniker of ‘white nationalism,’ is now really the time to show how a love story that, in essence, humanizes a Nazi?”

Twitter feels similarly.

Some choice tweets on the issue:

1. The Final Solution should not be your romance backdrop

2. Stop 👏 romanticizing 👏 Nazis 👏

3. Seriously. It’s not the time.

4. We won’t like the film unless there is a twist ending.

5. Again: the concern is not that it’s focusing on a biracial girl.

6. Don’t center it on a Hitler Youth!

7. Rage.

8. What if she fell in love with a Jew?

9. TBH… 

10. Seriously.

11. What if?!

12. This just made us laugh:

13. It’s deeply hurtful to the victims.

14. It’s not a meme…

15. A. wet. fart.

16. No, thank you.

17. Go see Operation Finale instead! 

As an article in the Root succinctly put it: “By positing romantic love as a cure to Nazism, and by making a black girl the key to a white racists’ humanity, yet again, dehumanizes everyone else.”

Basically: this could’ve been a story of a biracial girl living in Nazi Germany. Just, don’t have her fall in love with a Nazi. Please.

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