Film Review: Love It Was Not

A photograph of Helena Citron

Films about World War II, and particularly the Holocaust, tend to be very black and white. The Nazis were the bad guys and everyone else was just an innocent victim. While this is obviously true to a large extent, it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Indeed, casting it as a battle between good and evil ignores the complexities of human beings and power dynamics. We’re animals, our survival instincts are strong and it’s easy to judge harshly from the safe position of hindsight.

Helena Citron was one of the first thousand women to be transported to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The Jewish teenager faced the same hardships and deprivations as everyone else until her beautiful singing voice captured the heart of a young SS officer, Franz Wunsch. He fell in love with her and the pair began a relationship which would put both their lives at risk. Thirty years later she faces a difficult decision. Her story is captured in Love It Was Not.

Love It Was Not is a thoughtful and empathetic investigation of their relationship. Using interviews with fellow inmates, imaginative imaginary and archive footage, director Maya Sarfaty pieces together a complex portrait of a relationship which would have repercussions for both of them in decades to come. There are no easy answers here and their story is one of many. Love It Was Not focuses on two unusual individuals drawn together through need and necessity.

Love It Was Not opens in movie theatres, including New York’s Quad, on 5 November.

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