Made at a time when the last thing that the happy stupid American victors wanted to see was a film depicting the incomparable suffering that all Germans—both good and bad, as well as young and old—experienced during the Second World War, A Time to Love and a Time to Die is certainly not a work that exonerates Germany for National Socialism, hence why it has been somewhat rightfully dubbed All Quiet on the Eastern Front, but it does make the Normandy Invasion and other oftentimes cinematically depicted events that yanks cry about seem totally petty and insignificant by comparison as far as human tragedies are concerned. Set during a virtual Aryan apocalypse of scorched earth chaos when entire families were crushed and burned alive in a split second via Allied bombing raids and where fallen countesses pawned their pussies to any boorish beer-chugging bastard who had an extra crumb to spare, A Time to Love and a Time to Die is a father’s first and final attempt at mourning a prodigal son who, like so many of his generation, was cheated out of a full and potentially artistically prolific life after unwittingly making a Faustian pact with a movement that promised a Teutonic utopia but ultimately delivered a hellstorm of the apocalyptic sort. The totally tragic tale of a young German soldier who has the priceless opportunity to escape the savagery of the Eastern Front for three weeks after being furloughed and experiencing all extremes of the emotional spectrum after going back to his bombed out hometown where he ultimately falls in love and gets married, only to be killed by a swarthy untermensch Soviet partisan after sparing the ingrateful man’s life just moments after learning via letter from his loving wife that he will become a father, this uniquely dejecting war movie attempts to comprehend the completely incomprehensible while at the same time damning the German people for allowing the Nazis to takeover and for supporting a war effort that not only resulted in the deaths of 7-10 million German soldiers and civilians (yep, you probably didn't know that more krauts than kikes died in WWII), the total destruction of every major city/town and countless irreplaceable ancient landmarks/buildings/sculptures, and the complete eradication of some of the greatest ancient Teutonic bloodlines, but also secured the end of Germany's once prestigious reputation as one of the greatest producer culture-bearers in human history. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the heebs in Hollywood and the media use any chance they can get to bring up the holocaust or perpetuate some obscenely outmoded WWII era stereotype, as if they are still waging an agitprop war with Herr Doktor Goebbels.
As an inter-tile reads at the beginning of A Time to Love and a Time to Die, it is the “Russian-German Front 1944” and a German soldier named Immerman (Jock Mahoney) remarks that it “looks like spring is coming” because frozen German corpses are starting to thaw out of the once-rock-hard snow. A rather effeminate novice soldier named Hirschland (Jim Hutton) who is having a hard time adjusting to the war remarks regarding the freshly thawed out corpse of a German officer that “he looks like he is crying,” but as a comrade tells him, “his eyeballs were frozen.” When Hirschland is forced to take part in the execution of a group of Soviet partisans, which include hysterical middle-aged Ruski women and elderly geezers, he cannot live with himself, so he blows his brains out and the head German officer has his less than honorable death officially recorded as a “Death by Accident.” Before Hirschland commits suicide, a comrade named Ernst Graeber (played by John Gavin of Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) and Hitchock’s Psycho (1960), who, as a dark-haired McLatino of half-Mexican extraction, probably does not fit the Aryan ideal) berates him and his “big baby eyes” for acting like a whiny little wimp and not partaking in vodka-chugging with the rest of his comrades. Luckily for him, Herr Graeber, who has seen action everywhere from North Africa to Paris and has not had a single vacation from battle in over two years, has been furloughed and has the opportunity to spend three weeks hanging around his hometown where he plans to, “get deloused, take a hot bath, sleep in a clean bed, and forget for three weeks that there is a war.” Of course, Little does Graeber realize that during those three weeks he will fall in love, get married, and develop a progressive hatred for all things Nazi and all things war.
Upon arriving in the quaint town where he was born and raised, Ernst’s initial rather enthusiastic nostalgia is completely destroyed when he discovers that his entire neighborhood, including his family home, has been reduced to rubble as a result of Allied bombing raids, with his parents being nowhere in sight. It does not take long for Ernst to realize that the Nazi bureaucracy machine will be of no help in his seemingly hopeless search for his family. Ernst also learns that the local citizenry is not exactly supportive of his and his comrades service, as an eccentric old fart complains to him, “six raids, six raids since you damn front-line soldiers have been running away out there” and then more or less blames him for the death of his wife and kids via a bombing raid. During his search for his family, Ernst befriends a typically boorish kraut soldier named Hermann Boettcher (Don DeFore) who is rather sad about the fact that his 200-lb “solid muscle” blonde beastess of a wife is missing. Upon speaking with Boettcher, Ernst gets the idea to visit his mother’s physician Dr. Kruse, as he figures that he would probably know whether or not his parents are still alive, but when he arrives at the doctor’s house, the only person he discovers is the doc's insufferably bitchy young daughter Elizabeth Kruse (Swiss actress Liselotte Pulver of Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961) and Kurt Hoffman’s The Haunted Castle (1960) aka Das Spukschloß im Spessart), who is perennially pissed off over the fact that the Gestapo took her daddy away and that her family home has been turned into a virtual boardinghouse for exceedingly bitchy busybody housewives whose husbands are Nazi party members. Despite the fact that she is an impenetrable bitch with a gigantic chip on her delicate shoulder, Ernst becomes almost immediately enamored with Elizabeth’s entire being and unlike many soldiers, he is interested in more than just a wartime fling. Although Elizabeth acts like an inhospitable cunt and tries to kick Ernst out of her home ASAP, a bombing raid temporarily forces her to seek safety with the gentlemanly soldat at a local bomb shelter. When Ernst later walks Elizabeth back to her home and attempts to give her a care package full of food that was given to him by the army when he was furloughed, she flips out and less than subtly accuses him of attempting to ply her into giving up her pussy. At this point, Ernst has had enough of Elizabeth’s brazen bitchiness and incessant ingratitude, so he stoically states to her, “I’m sorry, fighting is not my idea of fun, not even with you” and leaves. On his way back while walking through the rubble-ridden streets, Ernst is approached by a super Aryan-looking lady of the night who he baffles by handing the care package to for free and walking off without getting a piece of feisty Fräulein pussy in return. Of course, little does Ernst realize that he turned on Elizabeth with his random display of hotheadedness, as she likes a real mensch who can rightfully put her in her place.
The next day while walking down the street, a Hermann Göring-esque Nazi leader in a fancy convertible yells to the protagonist, “Ernst…don’t you recognize your friends anymore?” in a most unintentionally ironic fashion. The National Socialist fat cat is Oscar Binding (Thayer David of Dark Shadows (1966-1971) and Rocky (1976)) and his days as a pre-Third Reich era Hitler Youth member have certainly paid off, as he is the humble son of a milkman who went on to become the Nazi ‘District Leader’ of his town and he invites Ernst, who is a former classmate of his, to come by his lavish multistory home for some cognac so he can show off his hedonistic life of luxury that includes, among other things, expensive bath salts, looted art, countless taxidermy animal head mounts, and an unlimited supply of starving women who will do just about anything for a mere bread crumb. Indeed, Binding makes sure to brag to Ernst about the fact that the day before a “beautiful creature from the old aristocracy with long hair and a superb figure” came by his humble abode begging from him to free her hubby from a concentration camp. Of course, Binding is not greedy and even offers Ernst a literal orgy a women if that is what his heart desires, but the protagonist is not even interested in one woman, let alone a brothel full. While hanging out with his old comrade, Ernst is also somewhat perturbed to discover that one of his favorite teachers, Professor Pohlmann (source writer Erich Maria Remarque in a supporting role in what would be the first and last time he acted in a film), had a temporary internment at a local concentration camp as a result of Herr Binding’s insistence at getting back at the educator for giving him a hard time in the past when he was a student for being a Hitlerite. More of an opportunist than a sadist, Binding eventually freed Pohlmann, who now lives in a bombed out church where Ernst intends to later pay him a visit, but it is not until later that he will have a good reason to. While Binding offers Ernst the opportunity to stay at his luxurious home for as long as he wants and partake in practically any form of hedonism, the grunt soldier turns him down, but he does take him up on his offer for a warm bath involving expensive bath salts, a bottle of wine, and a search mission for his parents. While the bath salts prove to be beneficial, the bottle of wine and search mission prove to be totally worthless.
After talking her into going on a romantic walk with him after she becomes noticeably aroused by the lilac bath salt scent on his freshly bathed body, Ernst finally manages to get Elizabeth to shed her seemingly indomitable frigidness and the two kiss passionately under a half-burned tree that prematurely bloomed as a result of the heat of a nearby fire making the perennial plant think it was already spring time. Of course, as a result of their nation being both literally and figuratively in flames, Ernst and Elizabeth's love affair will also prematurely bloom into something quite beautiful but ultimately doomed. From there, Ernst concocts a plan for an intricate romantic evening at a fancy underground restaurant called ‘New Germania’ involving fine wine and French food, but first he must borrow an officer’s uniform from a wisecracking gentleman named Reuter (played by McJew Keenan Wynn of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)), who is such a refined and cultivated cosmopolitan ‘man of the world’ that he has been hospitalized as a result of the “rich man’s disease” aka gout, thus he has had the distinguished luxury of sitting the Second World War out. While their romantic evening gets cut short after ‘New Germania’ gets caught up in a bombing raid that spoils their dinner and results in a woman getting burned alive after her fancy dress catches on fire, Ernst and Elizabeth have a hell of a time, as they love one another and thus can have fun doing anything, no matter how dangerous or tragic, so long as they are together. Of course, Ernst soon proposes to Elizabeth and while she initially hesitates and launches one of her signature bitch-fests, she ultimately says yes. Of course, not long after being married, problems arise. For one, Ernst intercepts a summons from his new bride from the Gestapo and suspects it might be bad news since Elizabeth’s father was arrested for talking shit about the war effort. Luckily, Ernst also receives a letter from his parents telling him that they’re still alive. Needless to say, Ernst is in for quite a scare when a bombing raid completely demolishes the factory where his wife works. On top of that, upon looking for his beloved at their home, Ernst finds the building burning down, though he manages to save a small plant and a portrait of Elizabeth’s father before the place completely burns down. Naturally, Ernst is rather relieved when Elizabeth eventually shows up outside of their burned down home, though he does not have the heart to tell her that she has received a summons from the Gestapo. Ultimately, the two decide to seek sanctuary in a bombed out museum next to Professor Pohlmann’s ruined hideout and they have an almost magical storybook time living among ruined statues, with Elizabeth remarking that it has always been her dream ever since she was a little girl to live in such a romantic fashion.
Undoubtedly, director Douglas Sirk was probably not the only one who was feeling a tad bit guilty as a result of his (in)action after fleeing the Third Reich, as A Time to Love and a Time to Die star/source writer Erich Maria Remarque’s sister Elfriede Scholz was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and beheaded via guillotine not long after the novelist fled to the United States, with infamous Nazi judge Roland Freisler—a show trial maestro who, upon becoming president of the People’s Court, was responsible for approximately 90% of all proceedings concluding with sentences of death or life imprisonment—somewhat sinisterly stating to her during her trial, “Your brother is unfortunately beyond our reach—you, however, will not escape us.” To add insult to injury, Remarque’s other sister Erna was forced to cover the cost of Scholz’s prosecution, imprisonment and execution. While both Remarque’s novel and Sirk’s film were probably at least partially inspired by each creator’s respective post-WWII guilt, German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder noticed an important difference between the two creations, writing in his essay 1971 essay Imitation of life: On the Films of Douglas Sirk regarding A Time to Love and a Time to Die, “You can’t make a film about war. How wars come about—that would be important, and what effect they have on people or leave behind. This isn’t a pacifist film, either, because you never for a minute say to yourself, without this gruesome war everything would be so beautiful or whatever. Remarque’s novel, A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO DIE, is pacifist. Remarque says that without war this would be an eternal love; Sirk says that without war there wouldn’t be any love here.” Indeed, aside from the fact that Remarque was, like virtually all pacifists, a delusional idealist and true blue coward who did not want to accept the fact that people are naturally aggressive and tend to kill one another under the right set of circumstances, he seemed to conveniently overlook the fact that people seem not to fuck around during quite deadly serious times (i.e. during total war) where the next day or hour could very possibly be their last. Indeed, with all the superlatively stupid, petty, and pathetic problems that people concern themselves with nowadays, there would be almost something quite liberating about the virtual hell-on-earth depicted in Sirk’s film and sometimes I even think that the best thing that could happen to America is if a war came along that inspired people to set their priorities straight and cleansed them of all the worthless bullshit in their lives. As an admirer of Remarque's literary nemesis Ernst Jünger and someone who thinks that the Hollywood agitprop piece All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) directed by kraut-hating Hebrew Lewis Milestone (born Leib Milstein) and produced by his kosher comrade Carl Laemmle, Jr. is one of the most obscenely overrated and maliciously manipulative so-called ‘anti-war’ films ever made, I was honestly surprised I mostly enjoyed A Time to Love and a Time to Die, even if it glaringly tainted by obnoxiously phony pseudo-German accents, classically contrived Hollywood studio sets, mediocre melodrama, and second-rate acting performances from the lead actors. Although an uneven work that suffers from many of the banalities and conspicuous crappy contrivances typical of Hollywood WWII films from its era, Sirk's film is important because it not only uncovers the intentionally deeply buried suffering of the Teutons during the Second World War as mercilessly inflicted by the Allies, but also because it features the filmmaker at his most conflicted, haunted, and forlorn in a rare cinematic work from the perspective of a German father who faced the most terrible and irrevocable of losses; the death of his long lost son. As to whether or not Sirk regretted giving up his sole son and heir for kosher cunt, one can only guess.