None Shall Escape
|None Shall Escape|
Original US 1944 poster
|Directed by||André de Toth|
|Produced by||Samuel Bischoff|
|Screenplay by||Lester Cole|
|Story by||Alfred Neumann
|Music by||Ernst Toch|
|Edited by||Charles Nelson|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
None Shall Escape is a 1944 war film. Even though the film was made during the Second World War, the setting is a post-war Nuremberg-style war crimes trial. Alexander Knox plays Wilhelm Grimm, a Nazi officer who is on trial, and the story unfolds through the eyes of several witnesses, including a Catholic priest, Father Warecki (Henry Travers), Grimm's brother Karl (Erik Rolf) and Marja Pacierkowski (Marsha Hunt), a woman whom he was once engaged to.
The film centres on the trial of Grimm as a war criminal. Each character witness provides a flashback scene to a previous part of Grimm's life.
In the trial, it is revealed that Grimm (Alexander Knox), who fought for Germany in the First World War and lost a leg in battle, returns after the war to the small German village of Litzbark (now in newly independent Poland) where he had been a teacher. Despite the recent hostilities, he is welcomed back into the community and resumes his teaching. He also resumes his relationship with Marja Pacierkowski, a local Polish girl to whom he had become engaged before the war.
He is bitter about Germany losing the war and it is obvious he has been changed by the experience. He treats the villagers with disdain, and his upcoming marriage is cancelled. He calls his fiancée a "peasant" only interested in her wedding dowry.
Taunted by the school's pupils, who say he is not fit to marry any Polish woman, he rapes one of them, Anna a young girl. The rape is blamed on her young male friend, Jan Stys, but Wilhelm's fiance accidentally stumbles on the truth from Anna. The girl subsequently drowns herself in the lake. A mob gathers seeking vengeance, but a trial is required. However, a thrown stone causes Wilhelm the loss of his left eye. After the trial fails to convict him, he returns to Germany after borrowing money from the priest and the rabbi.
In Germany he goes to Munich to the house of his brother Karl, who is married with a young family. Karl clearly despises the Nazis, calling to Hitler as "that Hitler creature". Karl cannot dissuade Wilhelm though, and Wilhelm joins the Nazi Party, and rises through the ranks of the party. In 1929 he is sought by the police as the Nazi Party is made illegal. His nephew keeps the police at bay and Wilhelm rewards him with a swastika badge. As the Nazis grow in strength Karl decides he has no option but to leave Germany and go to Vienna. He says he will reveal Wilhelm's part in the Reichstag fire unless he joins them. But instead of joining them, he turns them over to the authorities, and he sends his own brother to a concentration camp. He then organises that Karl's son enters the Hitler Youth.
When the Second World War starts, Grimm becomes the commander of the occupying force of the same village where he had previously lived. He treats the villagers brutally. He forces Marja, now a schoolteacher, to burn the children's books, saying they will be replaced by German books. He cruelly says that time has not treated her well. He taunts her for rejecting him due to his leg injury. His nephew Willi is now serving under him. He admits that he treats him as his own son. Willi pursues Marja's daughter, Janina.
Wilhelm, who is now a Reichs Commissioner, next becomes involved in the large scale deportation of the Jews and other minority groups. He allows the rabbi to quell the crowd as they are placed on the trains. The rabbi knows they are going to die. The rabbi asks that the crowd rebel. However, as soon as a movement is made, the machine guns are turned on the crowd. Wilhelm kills the rabbi with his pistol. Father Warecki exchanges final words with him as he dies.
Willi finds Marja and Janina hiding Jan Stys, who is injured, but he leaves without Jan when Marja lectures him. Willi is seen to soften in his attitude. Wilhelm sends Janina to work at the "officers' club", their name for enforced prostitution. Willi begs that she be released to no avail. When Janina also dies, his nephew renounces his Nazi allegiance, and realises the evil path Wilhelm has led him on. While Willi is praying at the side of Janina's body in the church, Wilhelm shoots him in the back.
We return to the courtroom. Wilhelm refuses to accept the authority of the court and continues to spout Nazi propaganda. The judge leaves it to the people to decide the fate.
- Alexander Knox as Wilhelm Grimm
- Marsha Hunt as Marja Pacierkowski, Grimm's fiancée
- Henry Travers as Father Warecki, the village priest in Litzbark
- Elvin Field as the young Jan Stys
- Kurt Kreuger as Lt. Gersdorf
- Richard Hale as Rabbi David Levin
- Shirley Mills as Anna Oremska, the raped girl
- Ray Teal as Oremski, Anna's father
- Billy Dawson as Willi, Wilhelm's young nephew
- Richard Crane as Willi as a young man
- Frank Jaquet as Dr Matek, mayor of Litzbark
- Dorothy Morris as Janina
- Trevor Bardette as Jan Stys as a man
- Art Smith as Jan's father
Columbia Pictures' in-house producer Sam Bischoff got the idea to make a film about a war crime trial after having heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt declare on August 21, 1942 that the Allies were collecting information about the Nazi leaders responsible for war atrocities, in order to bring them to court after the war. (The prosecution of war criminals was ratified by the Allies in the Moscow Declarations in 1943). To ensure the war crimes depicted in the film conformed to actual Nazi atrocities, the script was submitted to the U.S. State Department for review.
Production began August 31, 1943 and finished October 26, i.e. more than eighteen months before the war in Europe ended.
The director, André de Toth, had seen the war up close already in 1939. He was filming newsreels in Hungary when the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and was immediately sent to cover the fighting on the German-Polish front.
- Jewish Virtual Library: Franklin Roosevelt Administration: Statement on Punishment of War Crimes Linked 2015-06-05
- New York Herald Tribune, October 10, 1943
- AFI Catalog of Feature Films: None Shall Escape Linked 2015-06-05
- None Shall Escape at the American Film Institute Catalog
- None Shall Escape at the Internet Movie Database
- None Shall Escape at AllMovie
- None Shall Escape at the TCM Movie Database