There have been many Holocaust movies on both the big and small screen through the years but Plan A is a very different film.
We’ve all heard of Marvel’s Avengers but once upon a time, there were the Jewish Avengers. They were a group of partisans formed during the Holocaust under Abba Kovner’s (Ishai Golan) leadership. Their plan after the Holocaust was to get their revenge and kill six million Germans. Members infiltrated the water companies in hopes of poisoning the water supply in large cities such as Nuremberg, Munich, Cologne, Weimar and Hamburg. The plan takes it roots in the following commandment in Exodus 21:23-27:
But if there is a fatality, you shall give a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise. And if a man strikes the eye of his manservant or the eye of his maidservant and destroys it, he shall set him free in return for his eye, and if he knocks out the tooth of his manservant or the tooth of his maidservant, he shall set him free in return for his tooth.
We see Plan A told through the eyes of Max (August Diehl), a Holocaust survivor. As he searches through Europe in hopes of finding his wife and son, the Jewish Brigade takes him under his wings. With nothing left, he joins them in getting their revenge against the Nazis. The Jewish Brigade was under the supervision of Britain at this point. Eventually, the British caught wind of their executing leading Nazis and sent them away. While they were doing things their way, Abba Kovner and his Avengers had their own style of revenge. Max meets Anna (Sylvia Hoeks) and then joins them in Nuremberg, where they realize that revenge will not happen anytime soon. Eventually, the Avengers would get their revenge by building up the Jewish State of Israel.
How did the Zionist leadership react at the time? David Ben Gurion and Zalman Shazar were not on board. Chaim Weitzmann does offer his help. Kovner was on a ship with the poison but he dumped it overboard when the British arrested him.
If you would like to learn more about them, feel free to check out Israeli historian Dina Porat’s book, Nakam: The Holocaust Survivors Who Sought Full-Scale Revenge. Some of their story started coming out in the 1980s but Porat’s book is probably the most definitive biography on the subject. As for the film, it’s an introduction to Nokmim but it’s a narrative feature. This is not to say anything bad against the film but if you’re wanting to learn more, you’ll get answers in books. Films can only do so much, especially indie films on a budget. You’re not getting a Hollywood blockbuster but that’s okay.
If you ask me, the best way to get revenge is to live and raise a Jewish family. The basis for many Jewish holidays is that we survived even when we didn’t think we had a chance. This film is certainly a different survival story and I don’t know what I would have done if I were in their shoes. I only learned recently that my 2nd great-grandmother perished in the Shoah. My great-grandfather lost a sibling and nephews. In this way, it’s very personal but I don’t know what I would have done. In any event, both Haganah and Nokmim had their own methods. At the end of the day, Kovner’s plan was foiled. But for a few minutes there, we get a what-if on the screen.
It’s through Max, Anna, Abba, and Michael (Michael Aloni) that the film explores revenge. Is revenge living or killing Nazis? Nazi hunters existed with Simon Wiesenthal being the most legendary among them. The question is, do you outright execute Nazis before placing them on trial or not? Do these Jewish Avengers wish to become the very thing that sought out to destroy them? What about those Germans who did try and help Jews escape from the Nazis? Should they have been killed by a poisoned water supply? The actions taken in Plan A provoke many questions to ask when it comes to revenge, justice, and morality.
Where Defiance explored life for partisans during the Holocaust, Plan A is such a different film that it’s in a league of its own. Well, Munich comes close although the Steven Spielberg thriller took place in the early 1970s.
DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Doron Paz & Yoav Paz
CAST: August Diehl, Sylvia Hoeks, Michael Aloni, Nikolai Kinski, Milton Welsh, Oz Zehavi, Yoel Rozenkier, Ishai Golan
Menemsha Films released Plan A in theaters on October 7, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5
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