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World War II and the Holocaust: Multimedia Resources

The Stranger


poster for the Stranger

"The Stranger" - a 1946 film by (and starring) Orson Welles - is believed to be the first post-war movie to include newsreel clips of Nazi concentration camps.  It received an Academy-Award nomination for best screenplay.

The story features Franz Kindler, a former high-ranking Nazi (presumably modeled after 
Martin Bormann) who has escaped Germany.  Since no photos of him exist, Kindler is able to elude capture (and trial) by the War Crimes Commission.  Leaving Europe, he travels to America where he settles in a small Connecticut town.  As part of his new life, Kindler has a new name (Charles Rankin) and a new job (professor at a prep school).

Putting down his roots, Kindler/Rankin is about to marry the daughter of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  Mary Longstreet, of course, has no clue about her fiance's background.  

Mr. Wilson - a member of the War Crimes Commission - is keen to find Kindler.  With no idea where his prey has gone, Wilson decides to allow Konrad Meinike to escape from prison.  Kindler's former colleague, Meinike (Wilson hopes) will lead authorities to the real criminal on the loose.  Thus begins the chase.

Among various themes in this film, Orson Welles explores whether it is possible for evil to penetrate small-town life.  The question is no longer whether the "wolf is at the door."  The question is what happens when a small town opens the door, then lets the wolf in?  How could resident evil  so effortlessly move into, and become part of, the fabric of small-town life?  

And ... what of love?  Does evidence of horrific crimes against humanity, likely committed by a loved one, compel a turn-in of the perpetrator?   Or ... which emotion is stronger for a criminal seeking to elude capture:  love of a wife or the instinct of self-preservation?

Radio Links

Photographs

Kristallnacht damage

Kristallnacht damage.

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