Where Hands Touch ending explained & the true story

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World War II and Nazism were such complex and multifaceted events that they can be explored and analyzed in multiple ways. And it’s a good thing that many decades after, there are still artists willing to research and discover new perspectives that need to be told. It’s what Amma Asante made with her 2018 movie Where Hands Touch, a production that took years to take form, describing the unknown story of “black Germans” surviving Nazism. The movie is based on the true story of those people, and the ending has explained to us what happened in those years. Let’s discover it.

You can watch the official trailer for Where Hands Touch here on Youtube.

Where Hands Touch: the plot and ending explained

Leyna is a German girl with black skin. She belongs to the small group of “black Germans,” mixed-race individuals born from German mothers and black fathers, most of them coming from France as soldiers who occupied Germany after World War I. In 1944, Leyna is 16, and her mother struggles to protect her: she’s considered a disgrace by Nazi Germany, and she’s supposed to be sterilized so “her blood won’t be mixed with pure Germans.”

Between 1944 and 1945, things escalate quickly in Germany. Leyna’s family moves to Berlin, believing it’s safer, but it makes no difference, and soon Leyna’s mother is arrested. Before that, though, the plot of Where Hands Touch has the chance to show how humanity still has the opportunity to prove that good things can come even in terrible conditions: Leyna falls in love with Lutz, the son of a SS officer who has just started his military training. They are both confused by what is happening around them, but they are sure they love each other.

After Leyna’s mother is arrested, she leaves her little brother to her aunt, then tries to escape and gets captured as well. She’s brought into a labor camp, where every day, she tries not to get killed. She also discovers she’s pregnant from Lutz, something that must be hidden: Leyna is alive only because she said she was sterilized.

Lutz ends up in the same labor camp. For a short time, we witness Lutz’s conflict: he believed he needed to fight for his country, but he ended up as a soldier in a labor camp, where the environment demands him to kill the Jews and the other “disobedient” prisoners. After he discovers that Leyna is pregnant, he has a reaction: they need to do all they can to escape, or Leyna will die. Meanwhile, the war is close to the end, as the Russian and French armies are approaching the camp.

The day Lutz discovers the Germans are leaving the camp, he finally gets the courage to react to his father & commander, refusing to leave. He runs through the camp screaming Leyna’s name, and once he finds her, we see him dying, shot by his own father. Leyna is shocked and remains there, watching his dead body, until the French army rescues her. 

At the ending of Where Hands Touch, the movie has explained a symbolic example of how black Germans survived Nazism: the liberation soldiers helped all prisoners reunite with their relatives and start a new life. Although Lutz is dead, Leyna can consider herself lucky: she’s alive, she finds her mother and brother again, and she will be able to give birth to her child.

Is it a true story?

The director Amma Asante explained the true story behind Where Hands Touch on her official website. You can read the whole story here: it’s true, in Nazi Germany there were about 25.000 Black Germans, who tried to survive the persecution. They were considered enemies of Germany and many of them ended up in labor camps and died. As the movie explains, Hitler’s intention was to “clean” Germany from all black people, aiming for the “purity of race.”

Amma Asante collected multiple testimonies of the Afro-Germans who survived Nazism: Leyna is not directly inspired by a real person, but her story is based on the real experiences of people like her in Nazi Germany. Where Hands Touch tells a fictional story, but all elements inside it are true, and really happened in those years in Germany: the sterilizations, the murders, the labor camps, kids taken away from their mothers, and arrested on arbitrary decisions. A love story between a black German and a Nazi man would have been possible, although there is no evidence that this part of the movie Where Hands Touch is inspired by a true story.

The movie production took more than 10 years, and Amma Asante found it very hard to collect all the necessary information and then find the budget for the movie to start. As the story behind the movie explained, she kept working on her other films, and only the success she had with her works helped her unlock the budget for Where Hands Touch: the movie was finally presented at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018

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