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Swiss Historical Drama ‘Labyrinth of Peace’ Shatters The Myth of Switzerland’s Neutrality in WWII

It’s Switzerland in 1945 and the war has just ended. A group of deeply traumatized, ragged-looking Jewish teenagers recently liberated from Buchenwald have been sent to live in a former Swiss school building.

A young Swiss woman named Klara cares for them, while her new husband, Johann, runs her family’s textile business, whose success is dependent on the work of unrepentant Nazis living in comfort in Swiss exile. Johann’s brother, Egon, home from the war after five years working as a Swiss border guard, is wracked by guilt for having to turn away Jewish mothers and children at the frontier. His new postwar job in the attorney general’s office: hunting down ex-Nazis.

This is the premise of “Labyrinth of Peace,” an engrossing Swiss drama set in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust that is now available exclusively on ChaiFlicks, the Jewish streaming service in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Shot in Switzerland and released in the country to great acclaim in 2020, the six-episode series is fraught with drama, romance and moral struggles.

“Labyrinth of Peace” is the brainchild of award-winning Swiss-Italian screenwriter and director Petra Volpe, who wanted to tell the compelling story of a little-known chapter of postwar history while also spotlighting the morally questionable role Switzerland took during and after the war.

“Switzerland wanted to show that they were on the right side of history, since they knew they had failed the Jews by locking down the country” during the Holocaust, and therefore took in Jewish refugees after the war, Volpe said in an interview from her home in Brooklyn. “When actual refugees arrived and they weren’t cute children younger than 12, and someone asked where the little boys were, the rabbi said of the youngest ones, ‘They were all gassed.’ Switzerland wasn’t happy when teenagers showed up. They didn’t treat them as nicely as they should have.”

The Buchenwald Boys, as they were called, had lost their childhoods and most of their families during the war years. More than 60,000 Jews died in Buchenwald — including my great-grandfather, after he, my grandfather and uncle were arrested on Kristallnacht and sent to the concentration camp. But some 900 youths survived and were among those liberated by U.S. forces.

Jewish refugee agencies came to their rescue, and they were sent to various sites in France, England and Switzerland for rehabilitation. “Labyrinth of Peace” turns the story of a group sent to Switzerland into an absorbing historical drama that belies the myth of Swiss neutrality and demonstrates how guilt and moral conflicts ran through families even after combat ended.

Source: Cleveland Jewish News



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