March of Millions
|Title:||March of Millions|
|Original title:||Die Flucht|
|Format:||2 x two hours|
Gabriela Maria Schmeide
Angela Winkler (THE TIN DRUM, THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM)
Max von Thun (THE CROWN PRINCE)
|Directed by:||Kai Wessel|
|Produced by:||Produced by teamWorx Television & Film in coproduction with ARD Degeto, BR, WDR, SWR, HR, ORF, Arte and EOS with backing from FFF Bayern, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Nordmedia and MEDIA+ in association with Beta|
March of MillionsA flight from horror... A journey into uncertainty... A trek towards a new life...
The story of an unparalleled mass exodus that cost untold lives and displaced 12 million people
Summer 1944. Countess Lena von Mahlenberg returns to her ancestral home in East Prussia to make peace with her gravely ill father, who still resents her abrupt departure eight years ago. Back then, she had fled to Berlin to raise her illegitimate child alone instead of marrying Count Heinrich von Gernstorff, whom she was promised to but didn't love. To win her father's forgiveness, Lena not only re-enters the genteel world of the East-Prussian nobility, but also assumes responsibility for the estate. And she even agrees to marry Heinrich, now a high-ranking Nazi officer. But their marriage is postponed by a tragic event: disillusioned by the futile prolongation of a war that cannot be won, Heinrich's younger brother takes his life.
Lena tries to ignore the signs of impending doom as the stream of refugees grows and the front draws ever nearer. But she is constantly reminded of the approaching catastrophe by François Beauvais, a French prisoner-of-war working on the estate. As the two become better acquainted, Lena feels drawn to the sensitive man, and a tender but socially unacceptable romance blossoms between them...
By January 1945 even Hitler's death threats can no longer keep the population of East Prussia from fleeing. Unable to tear himself away from his old, aristocratic world, Lena's father stays behind. Taking charge of her family and the estate's dependents, Lena leads them on a risky trek into an uncertain future through biting cold, gusting winds and blinding snow. Worst of all, however, is the naked fear gnawing at every man, woman and child. When the roads become impassable, the refugees are forced to cross the frozen lagoon, where they become open targets for enemy bombers, and where wagons break through the ice and are swallowed up by the deadly sea.
Lena manages to lead her remaining charges to safety. But during the long journey, her relationship with François has taken a life-threatening turn and she is forced to give him up. Upon her arrival in Bavaria, she encounters a society where there are no more class distinctions, a dissolving social order that will pave the way for a new era. Lena now feels free to move on with her daughter and begin a new life.
The mass exodus of millions of people from the German Reich's easternmost provinces in the winter of 1944/45 is a direct result of Hitler's strategy in the final phase of the war: East Prussia and the other German lands were declared human fortresses, bulwarks against the Soviet forces; whoever fled was a traitor and punishable by death. After the total collapse of the social order, there was no time to plan a retreat. The population of East Prussia was left alone to organize its departure and head west through German lines, always just a few steps ahead of the Soviets. The trek was a great equalizer: the only differences were between the healthy and the sick, those who had a horse and cart and those who didn't. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives. Many families were torn apart. The exodus involved not only refugees, but also displaced persons, soldiers, evacuees, orphans from the many children's homes, former forced laborers, survivors of concentration camps and returning immigrants. Altogether about 12 million people in search of their families, their homes and their future.