Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Ninth Day

There are some movies that are "must see" for Catholics. The Ninth Day is one of those movies. Set in WWII, it accounts nine days afforded a Catholic priest "on leave" from the Dachau concentration camp. Sent to home in Luxembourg, he is challenged by the Gestapo to convince his bishop to accept and support the Nazi occupation in return for his own freedom.

Moving are the depictions of life inside the concentration camp as it recounts both the physical and mental cruelty employed the by Nazis inside of Dachau's block devoted entirely to Catholic priests. While we are all certainly familiar with the extensive genocide carried out by the Nazis against the Jewish people, many are not aware of their similar treatment to many other groups including Catholic priests. The movie also does a very good job of fairly discussing the response by the Catholic clergy during WWII with examples of both courage and cowardice as well as a historically accurate explanation of the Church and Pope Pius XII's methods of fighting Hitler's Germany. The movie does depict some very graphic violence, but all of it is in context of life in a concentration camp and in that regard, instructive for even Catholic children especially considering the strong depiction of moral courage.

While the names have been changed, the movie does actually portray the real life experience of Father Jean Bernard. His account of this experience can be found in the book, Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau.