Crossing Borders

Volker Koepp:

Söhne (Sons)

Four sons, Klaus, Wolf, Friedrich, and Rainer, are born between 1938 and 1944 in Celbau, a small town in West Prussia, close to the Baltic Sea.
At the end of the war, their father, Heiner Paetzold, is listed as missing in action. Their mother, Elisabeth Paetzold, dies in 1998.

In 1945, she fled westward from the Red Army with the two older boys, Klaus und Wolf. After the war, she returns east to retrieve the two youngest children, whom she had left with their grandparents. The perilous journey into Russian-occupied West Prussia and the dramatic search for her now missing sons lasts two years. In 1947, Elisabeth Paetzold returns to Germany with Rainer, whom she managed to find.

The second-youngest son, Friedrich, is not located until 1955, when he is 13 years old and living under the Polish name Stanislaw Loskiewicz with a foster mother in Warsaw. Today he recalls that being told he was actually German, of all things, was a “catastrophe.” Friedrich still lives in Poland today.

Then, at the end of the 1950s, it transpires that the “son” the mother had found in Poland in 1947 was not her son at all, for the real Rainer now turns up in a foster family in Gdansk. He resettles as an adult in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1977. Now there are two brothers with the same name and the same birthday ...

A film that tells the life stories of five sons and a mother, who remains present in the form of conversations, memories, and her handwritten records of events. A journey of discovery to the German and Polish families concerned and to Celbau and Gdansk, the sites of remembrance in West Prussia.

Instants of a classical tragedy.
A film set in the divisive space of the experiences of a “forgotten generation” – Germany’s war children.
In particular, however, a film about German-Polish history that turns nationalist resentment into an absurdity.

Söhne – a film by Volker Koepp
D 2007, 111 minutes, color

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