While its title refers to the successful evacuation of some 7,000 Jews from Denmark to neutral Sweden on the eve of their arrest and deportation by the occupying Nazis in 1943, A DAY IN OCTOBER focuses on the plight of one particular family as they face this historic event.
Denmark would seem to be an exceptional case in occupied Europe. First, it was ruled not by the German Army or the dreaded SS, but by the officials of the Foreign Ministry who ruled with kid gloves for some time. The country also did not have a deep tradition of extreme right-wing politics like
France or of anti-Semitism like Poland. There is also a hint of links to high-ranking anti-Nazis in the complex realm of German officialdom. Most of this material is missing from A DAY IN OCTOBER, which rather suggests that the rescue operation was improvisational, though one would think that the
arrival of several thousand refugees on Swedish shores practically overnight would involve some preparation.
The Kublitz family appear well-off Danish Jews: father Solomon (Daniel Benzali) works as a bookkeeper at the local radio-parts factory while his young daughter Sara (Kelly Wolf) works at a nearby cinema. That cinema becomes the site of the prankish act of a group of saboteurs when they jam a
genuine Nazi newsreel and substitute a looped version of a sequence from TRIUMPH OF THE WILL that has Storm Troopers and SS men marchingn backwards and forwards doing the "Lambeth Walk." Headed by Niels Jensen (D.B. Sweeney), the saboteurs quickly advance to more ambitious projects.
They prepare a primitive bomb disguised in a box of beer bottles. Unfortunately a thirsty worker triggers the bomb prematurely and in the ensuing shootout with German troops, a number of the saboteurs are shot and wounded, but Niels gets away despite a bullet in his shoulder. Sara discovers his
unconscious body and drags him into the family shed. Solomon, meanwhile, frets about the senselessness of the bombing and the possible retaliation by the Germans. Sara's mother, Emma (Tovah Feldshuh), discovers her with the wounded Niels and decides to use her nurse's skills to help him.
At the factory, Solomon witnesses the arrest of the two surviving saboteurs and sees them apparently kept locked in a wing of the plant. Later, in conversation with Sara, he admits that the factory is making weapon parts and agrees to try to contact the pair of prisoners. Feigning a need for
supplies, he gains acccess to the factory wing and discovers that they are already dead and have been propped up as bait in a prepared trap for their comrades.
That realization and Sara's influence persuades Solomon to plant the new bomb Niels has made in a place where it will destroy the weapons production wing. This sabotage coincides with the report that the seizure of all Danish Jews is being planned, so that the Kublitzs' fate now lies in the hands
of Niels Jensen's resistance group. Unfortunately, a local Danish Nazi, Larsen (Ole Lemmeke), whose anti-Semitism has fuelled his suspicion of Kublitz, has taken it upon himself to follow the bookkeeper. Larsen soon confronts Sara in the hiding place she shares with Niels.
Despite very good performances from Benzali and Lemmeke, as respectively the unwilling saboteur and the quiet racist, A DAY IN OCTOBER is a competent collection of cliches. The sly obstruction of German security troops and the occasional unwillingness of troops to insist on the arrest of the odd
Jew was better depicted in George Seaton's THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR some thirty years ago. (Violence, adult situations.)
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