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The Seventh Cross

The Seventh Cross(1944)

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In the fall of 1936, seven prisoners from a Westhofen, Germany, concentration camp escape into the night: wise Ernst Wallau; schoolteacher Pelzer; Bellani, a once-renowned acrobat; Aldinger, an old farmer; Jewish grocery clerk Beutler; Fuellgrabe, a novelist; and rugged George Heisler, the victim of repeated torture. Before separating, Wallau and Heisler make plans to meet in Mainz at the home of Wallau's friend Rudolf Schenck. Wallau is soon caught, however, and interrogated by the camp's commandant, Overkamp, but reveals nothing. After the badly beaten Wallau is affixed to a crudely made crucifix, Overkamp declares that the remaining six escapees will suffer the same fate. As Wallau dies, his spirit leaves his body and sees George, in whom he has great faith, making his way across a field. On his way to Mainz, George enters a farming village and cuts his hand on some glass shards that have been imbedded in the village walls. He then steals a coat out of a shed and is forced to hide in a wood pile after police storm the streets in search of him. The police instead find Pelzer, who quickly becomes Overkamp's second victim. Exhausted and hungry, George arrives in Mainz the next day and, unable to continue to Schenck's address on the other side of town, rests in a church. Elsewhere, Franz Marnet, an old friend of George, who until recently had been living in Berlin, meets with Leo Hermann, the leader of the local resistance movement. Aware of George's plight, Marnet solicits Leo's help in getting him money and a passport, but neither man knows how to contact the fugitive. George is sure that all of his known friends and associates are being watched, so he goes to see Leni, the woman with whom he was romantically involved prior to his arrest. Although Leni once swore to wait forever for George, she is now married and refuses to help him in any way. Despondent, George wanders into the street, where he sees Bellani being pursued across some rooftops. As a bloodthirsty crowd watches, Bellani is shot and cornered, then proudly jumps to his death. After George staggers away from the gruesome sight, he notices the Marelli Theatre Shop and goes inside. Recalling that Bellani was planning to get new clothes from costumer Mme. Marelli, George explains that the acrobat is not coming but would like him to take the items. Sensing George's situation, Mme. Marelli not only gives him the clothes but slips some money into his coat pocket as well. Mme. Marelli also advises him to have her neighbor, Dr. Loewenstein, look at his hand. Like Mme. Marelli, Loewenstein, a Jew, deduces George's situation, but tends to his badly infected hand. The feverish George then sees that Overkamp has printed his photograph in the newspapers and grows increasingly nervous. When George finally arrives at Schenck's apartment, he learns from a neighbor that Schenck was arrested by the Gestapo the previous day. In total despair, George returns to the street and is followed into a courtyard by a suited man, who turns out to Fuellgrabe. After revealing that they are the only two escapees still alive, Fuellgrabe declares that he is turning himself in and suggests that George do the same. George refuses to give up and, while the police broadcast his current description, which has been provided by Schenck's neighbor, over a public address system, he makes his way to Paul Roeder, the only friend he knows with no anti-government background. Unaware that George is a fugitive, Paul, a factory worker, and his wife Liessel welcome him into their home. The big-hearted if politicially naïve Paul soon deduces that George is in trouble and insists that he stay the night. The next morning, Paul goes to see Bruno Sauer, an architect who once pledged to help George if he were ever in special need, but Sauer turns Paul away without learning his name or George's whereabouts. Later, however, a contrite Sauer, whose wife Hedy has condemned him as a coward, visits Marnet and Leo, and tells them about Paul's visit. From Sauer's description, Marnet deduces Paul's identity and inquires about his address at a local market. Before Marnet, who has arranged passage for George on a Dutch boat the next night, arrives at the Roeders', Liessel reveals that a stranger was asking about them at the market. Sure that the police are on to him, George insists on leaving the Roeders' and is taken by Paul to an inn where Fiedler, Paul's trusted co-worker, has arranged a room for him. When Fiedler reveals that he may have seen Marnet with mutual friend Wilhelm Reinhardt, Paul offers to drop by Reinhardt's the next morning and discreetly inquire about Marnet, who he hopes can help George. As Paul is leaving home the next day, however, he is picked by the Gestapo. Although Marnet, who witnessed Paul's arrest, tells Leo that he will "crack," Paul is released that night, having revealed nothing. Paul then goes to Reinhardt's and happily discovers Marnet there. Later, at the inn, George receives a passport and sailing instructions from delicatessan owner Poldi Schlamm, a resistance volunteer sent by Marnet. George is then warned by Toni, a sympathetic maid with whom he has fallen in love, that the Gestapo are at the inn. Toni hides George in her room until the Gestapo leave, and while he is waiting for his departure time, she confesses her love for him. Although he insists that he will return for her, Toni knows she will never see George again. When Toni asks him what he plans to do in Holland, George says that he wants to repay all the people who helped him. Declaring that he finally understands what Wallau tried to teach him about faith in "the souls of men" and their "God-given decency," George kisses Toni goodbye and boards his boat to freedom.