Return to Reichenbach

(Canada, 2012, 56 mins, Digital Betacam)
In English, German with English subtitles
Introduced by filmmaker Maureen Kelleher and author Lisa Birnie Koerner (In Mania’s Memory).


Return to Reichenbach weaves the story of two women from opposite sides of Hitler’s Third Reich, who accidentally met in Toronto in 1977 when Mania, orphaned by the regime, hired a cleaning woman. Mania recognized the German woman, Johanna, as the guard who had protected her as a child in the Reichenbach concentration camp.

Through a delicate dance of conversations seeking closure, the film intimately explores their war experiences and witnesses their reunion on the site of the abandoned camp near the German-Polish border more than 50 years after the war.

When Director/Producer Maureen Kelleher first heard about the incredible coincidence of Mania and Johanna meeting in Toronto, her mind overflowed with questions. Was she really that guard? And if so, did she protect young Mania as a political act of resistance against a murderous regime, a moral awakening from the straightjacket of duty? Or was it something more personal— perhaps a reminder of a child she lost in the war?

Return to Reichenbach is the first documentary to capture together the experiences of a Jewish girl and an everyday German woman during Hitler’s reign — a survivor searching for closure over half a century later and a German woman who paid a huge price for ideals she supported or was too terrified to rebel against. A short discussion with the director will follow the screening.