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Trailers from Hell: Joe Dante on World War II Drama ‘The Seventh Cross,’ Starring Spencer Tracy

Trailers from Hell: Joe Dante on World War II Drama 'The Seventh Cross,' Starring Spencer Tracy

Spencer Tracy Week! kicks off at Trailers from Hell with director and TFH creator Joe Dante introducing Fred Zinnemann’s “The Seventh Cross,” starring Tracy as a concentration camp escapee.

Vienna-born Fred Zinnemann’s first major MGM directorial
assignment is an uncommonly intelligent and well researched  anti-Nazi film. Spencer Tracy plays an
embittered escapee from a  concentration
camp whose faith in humanity is restored when others help him reach the Dutch
border. Adding authenticity is the unbilled presence in the cast of several
actual German refugees, including the wives of Bertolt Brecht and Max

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Many years ago my Uncle, by marriage, Herbert Fiedler, told me this story about him and 6 of his medical students in Germany who were trying to earn a degree to practice medicine. The War, under Hitler, was in the earlier years but the recruiting of the youth had begun long before, consequently his entire class was approached to become supporters of the Reich but the "7" were not interested in the WAR. They were visited several times and eventually they were dismissed from class and sent to a "camp!" From that camp they were separated when some joined one group or another but Feidler escaped only to be returned eventually several times to camp. He had become a major embarrassment to the Reich therefore they were looking for him because of their refusal to join the Hitler Youth they had vowed to hang each one of the "7" on a cross in their hometown as a warning. The SS had found and "crucified" "6" and need the "7th" to complete the mission. The last time he escaped he took 17 prisoners with him. He found his way to Italy where he stowed away in a ship heading for New Orleans. When he got to New Orleans he married, had two children and made a living by becoming a Physical Therapist in a doctors office since he could not practice as a doctor in the US because he was not a citizen nor had he completed is Medical training. Before the US entered the war a German Ship docked in the harbor of New Orleans the ship's captain was heard to shout out that Herbert Fiedler would be caught and crucified. His marriage was over and for fear of his life he was given instructions to disappear therefore the alligator infested swamps of Louisiana was his home for some time, with his only support being a old store keeper on a lonely road who would walk, row and creep to a broken down cabin in the middle of "no man's land" to bring Fiedler supplies and news. When he came back into society when the war was over he married my Aunt, moved to Los Angeles, had two children and lived in fear that the "war" would never be over until that "7th" cross was completed. Even in his old age, when his life centered around supporting a family with a "magic shop" where he taught children how to make things disappear, he was plagued with the realization that someone was trying to kill him by running him off the narrow road up to Lake Tahoe, consequently he was forever looking beyond this immediate circle. He would rarely look you in the eye, but behind you, in the background. He told me he had managed to escape many times by the diversion of "magic tricks" he was able to hold the crowds attention and he would disappear. He also told me he had gone to MGM to sell them his story, but they didn't listen to him, but within a short time the movie, "The Seventh Cross" was written, filmed and was in movie theaters, and, yet he didn't get a dime for the initial story. He knew what had happened to all his friends; none lived but him. Uncle Herbert was not a Jew, but a German who wanted to finish his education, get his degree, become a doctor, and live in a peaceful homeland. He never managed any of that, but he escaped the cross.

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