When the last battle has been fought, the last bomb exploded, the world could have turned into a desert. On the left lies an overturned military truck, from the right a tank rattles through the picture. Behind it is a woman with long black hair and a knee-length black dress singing: “Tell me where the flowers are”.
The flowers are gone, as are the girls who picked the flowers, the men who took the girls, the soldiers the men had become, and the graves where the dead lay. What remains is the desert and the singer who sighs and asks: “What happened, when will you ever understand?”
A close-up shows her pale face, false black eyelashes, and hands with white-painted fingernails, which she raises plaintively. The singer’s name is Belina, and the television scene, which looks as if it had been moved from a Parisian existentialist basement to the blazing sun of North Africa, dates from 1963.
In his documentary “Belina – Music For Peace”, which can be seen at the Jewish Film Festival Berlin Brandenburg, director Marc Boettcher tells the amazing story of this woman who rose to stardom in the post-war period and was later forgotten. tell me where the songs are
With her melancholy and the dark timbre of her voice, Belina didn’t really fit into the optimism of the economic miracle. But the message she offered was attractive: reconciliation. “Apart from a lot of bad memories, do you also have a few good ones?” moderator Wolf Schneider asked her on a talk show in 1982. Her evasive response: “Everyone’s been through something, that’s clear.”
Belina had gone through and survived the Holocaust. Lea-Nina Rodzynek – that’s her real name – was born in 1925 in the Polish village of Sterdyn. When her Jewish family was about to be deported by the German occupiers, they fled together into the woods. Her mother was shot, her father and her brother later died in the Treblinka extermination camp.
Lea-Nina hid in a cave for weeks, went to Germany with false papers and was arrested. She had to do forced labor in a Hamburg armaments factory, was denounced as a Jew, was imprisoned, was able to escape from a hospital and was hidden by a pastor in Lübeck until the end of the war.
Belina told her cousin, one of the contemporary witnesses with whom Boettcher spoke, that she hadn’t been a child since the Germans marched in. “I was old, very old.” According to her cousin, she was traumatized, but didn’t talk about it in public. Instead she said: “I have forgiven – forgive you too!”.
Before Belina has her breakthrough as a folk singer, she goes through the school of German hits. Moderately moved, she sings lines like “Why did you stay away / why didn’t you ever write?”, appears as a bar singer in the crime film “The Secret of the Black Widow”, dances Cha-Cha-Cha with Dietmar Schönherr. In a shockingly derogatory television report, it is said that Belina came “from the milieu in Paris”.
The only truth is that she has French citizenship and released a record of Yiddish ghetto songs in Paris. She is best known for a television show in which director Truck (anagram for Kurt) Branss translates her songs into formally bold black and white images. Second stroke of luck: At an award ceremony, she met the Berlin guitarist Siegfried Behrend.
With the support of the Goethe Institute, Belina and Behrend went on a world tour for the first time in 1965. They saw themselves as “musical diplomats” and completed 150 concerts in 252 days. Before take-off, they pose with “the longest pilot’s license in the world”, which is more than ten meters long. The demure Belina and the buddha-like, but firework-like quick and chain-smoking Behrend form a striking pairing.
The film shows them in hotels and at airports and collects anecdotes. In Saigon there is a war with shootings and bomb explosions, in Pakistan bottles are thrown onto the stage because they are playing Jewish songs. Even after Behrend got married, they go on another concert tour, this time as a threesome.
Interest is waning in Germany, where the folk music wave has arrived in the hit mainstream with hits like “Fiesta Mexicana” (Rex Gildo). And an Israeli singing duo runs Belina
Marc Boettcher has already made films about Bert Kaempfert, the pop star Alexandra, who died tragically early, and the jazz singer Inge Brandenburg. His documentary “Belina – Music For Peace”, whose protagonist died in 2006, has a message: music is a universal language, it can bring about peace. It would be nice if that were the case.