Broken Promise is a superb offering from the expanding universe of Slovak film production. Based on the true story of teenager Martin Friedman’s escape from deportation—several times between 1938 and 1945—the film lays bare choices that people made as Hitler’s power fomented hatred with impunity.
Despite the pleading of Martin’s prescient elder brother, their father refuses to leave his village for Palestine at a critical juncture before transports begin moving masses of human cargo to unseen camps. Meanwhile, the local soccer club forbids Jews to play in mixed teams; Martin forms a Jewish team, only to have it attacked by a mob when they win a match. For many Jewish youth and their families, this marks the end of bewilderment, the beginning of terror and destruction of their communities. Yet innocence is an unyielding birthright. From work camp to Catholic infirmary to a monastery, Martin wins deliverance from mandated extinction by hiding his identity, through naked chance and with aid from sympathizers. By 1943, as Martin Petrasek, he joins the social-nationalist Partisan resistance to take up arms against the Germans. But not even the Partisans are immune from viewing Jews as “other.” With unusual candor, Broken Promise explores collective and individual anti-Semitism among invaders and liberators alike.