Lotte’s Journey – extended synopsis

Extended Synopsis

Based on the diary of Lotte Glucksmann, written between 1932-1936

Lotte Glucksmann

Berlin, winter 1932. 16-year-old Lotte Glucksmann is ice skating on a frozen lake. Her younger sister calls out to her from the shore, reminding her that she has a private English lesson scheduled, and informing her that the new tutor is waiting for her at home. Flustered, Lotte quickly returns home and introduces herself to her tutor, Emmi Kroner (27). The lesson is held in English, although Lotte’s English is poor.
The Glucksmanns, a wealthy Jewish family, are hosting relatives who emigrated to Palestine in the 1920s. The two families talk about emigration and the experience of settling into a new country. Heinrich Glucksmann, a successful and well-respected lawyer, talks about his dream of starting a farm in the Land of Israel. His wife Erna bursts out laughing – what does a lawyer have to do with farming?
At her prestigious all-girls school, Lotte hangs out during recess with her Jewish and Christian friends, eating and gossiping together in the schoolyard. A girl comes by with her friends and makes an insulting remark about one of Lotte’s friends; Lotte wants to retaliate but her friends calm her down.
It is a bright, sunny day, and Lotte is on her way from her suburban neighborhood of Schlachtensee (an upscale area with large villas) to the city center. She arrives at her tutor Emmi’s house. Emmi’s husband Lutz opens the door. He is polite and leads her into Emmi’s study. After a thorough lesson, Lutz brings some refreshments and the two talk about literature. Emmi is attentive and respectful, and Lotte is flattered that her tutor takes an interest in her opinions. When they come out of the study to drink tea in the living room, Emmi remarks casually and with some amusement that her husband is helping the beautiful neighbor because he is in love with her. Lotte is fascinated by the Kroners’ home, which strikes her a space of broad-mindedness and worldly bohemian culture, very different from the humdrum bourgeoisie air of her parents’ house.
Lotte takes the tram to her father’s office. The tram delays when a fight breaks out in the city center between Communists and Nazis. The police intervene and the tram moves on. Lotte arrives at her father’s elegant offices. She evidently feels like a princess there. Heinrich and Lotte talk in the family’s luxurious Buick on their way back home. Heinrich asks Lotte to watch out for increasing hooliganism on the streets.
Lotte, Erna and Kette (Lotte’s younger sister) take care of the plants in the greenhouse on the house grounds. Erna, Lotte’s mother, a beautiful and dignified woman, points out that the greenhouse was Heinrich’s idea, but that he never has time for it. When Heinrich finally joins them, he notes that the German economy is in trouble again, and that the family may soon suffer the consequences.
After school, Lotte and her friends go to a department store in the city center and spend some time trying on clothes. They are cheerful and happy. Later, they sit in a café, and one of them is startled when a disabled beggar comes by and asks for a handout. Lotte gives him some money and speculates that he was injured in the war. The girls share stories about relatives who were injured or killed in World War I.
Lotte continues her regular lessons with Emmi Kroner. The lessons are relaxed, a pleasant routine of study and conversation. Emmi suggests that next time they might replace their regular lesson with a trip to a new exhibition of the painter Max Liebermann, but that they should speak English for the entire first hour. Lotte responds with enthusiasm.
Back at the Glucksmanns’ family home, Lotte takes pride in her improved English grades, a result of her studies with Emmi. Her parents are pleased. A conversation develops about the Zionist youth movement, of which Kette, Lotte’s younger sister, is a member. Lotte is skeptical; she considers herself too rational for Zionist romanticism. Her father thinks she should still show some interest.
Emmi is late and in a bad mood when she meets Lotte for their special lesson at the museum. She says she is suffering from migraines, but bounces back when Lotte offers to help her. Forgetting all about the English lesson, Emmi takes Lotte’s arm and leads her through the exhibition, talking at length about the painter.
Lotte comes home very late from her lesson, still excited about the museum visit. Erna, her mother, is angry and upset. She is unhappy about the changed venue for the lesson, and reads to Lotte some headlines from the newspaper about violence and fights breaking out on the streets of Berlin. Lotte becomes angry, and declares that she is not willing to give up her freedom of movement. Heinrich demands that she always inform them of her whereabouts, so that they do not have to worry.
At school, Lotte is called to the gate. Emmi is waiting there and suggests that they go for a walk after school and hold the English lesson outside again. Lotte agrees excitedly.
Lotte and Emmi go to the flea market. When a religious Jew passes by, they get to talking about their respective ties to Jewish tradition and heritage. Emmi explains that she has no attachment to religion but is very appreciative of the developments in Palestine. She promises Lotte to introduce her to a young Zionist pioneer friend who is visiting Berlin as part of a fundraising campaign for the nascent Jewish community in Palestine. She buys Lotte an amulet at a Jewish trinket stall.
Sabbath at the Glucksmanns. Lotte shows the amulet Emmi gave her, triggering an animated family discussion. Erna is annoyed that Emmi is buying Lotte presents.
A couple of days later, after their private lesson, a party is held at the Kroners’, to which Emmi’s pioneer friend is invited as well. Emmi calls Lotte’s parents, asking if Lotte can stay late and meet some Zionist activists. Lotte’s parents agree. The party is lively, and Emmi behaves liberally, flirting with the pioneer. To Lotte’s surprise, Emmi’s husband Lutz does not seem at all upset. Lotte drinks a little too much. When she returns home with the Glucksmann’s family driver, her parents are horrified to find her drunk. Erna tells Lotte that she cannot study with Emmi anymore. Lotte protests and they fight.
Jewish New Year’s Eve, September 1932. The Glucksmanns go to Berlin’s Neue Synagoge. There is clear tension between Lotte and her parents. In the synagogue, the hymns and liturgy are accompanied by an organ playing music by Handel. After a holiday dinner with the extended family at the Glucksmann home, a small group of relatives and friends stays over to sit and talk in the living room. Lotte sneaks off to call Emmi and tell her about her parents’ harsh reaction. Emmi promises that she will talk to them and smooth things over. In the meantime, Lotte’s parents talk to their friends, who convince Erna and Heinrich that any attempt to restrict Lotte would only make her more rebellious.
Emmi calls Erna and takes responsibility for what happened. Erna tells Emmi that Lotte has been suffering from heart problems after being sick as a child, and Emmi invites Heinrich and Erna to dinner so they can get to know each other better. After giving it some thought, Heinrich and Erna accept her invitation.
Erna and Heinrich go to dinner at the Kroners’. Erna is reluctant at first, but is won over by the Kroners’ good taste and the hypercultural atmosphere of their home. Lutz tells them about starting the paperwork for obtaining an immigration certificate to Palestine, and Heinrich is impressed. Emmi points out to Erna that they have also applied for a visa to America. She adds that New York is the real capital of the world and that with all due respect to the revival of the Jewish nation, they are actually more cosmopolitan than they are Zionist activists. Dinner goes well, but Erna drinks a little too much and confesses that she envies Emmi’s university education, which she herself never obtained. Erna and Heinrich are impressed by the Kroners and decide that Emmi can be trusted.
Saturday morning. Lotte is working peacefully in the greenhouse. She is enjoying a moment of quiet and beauty by the window when she overhears a conversation between the neighbors’ gardener and maid that is laced with folk antisemitism. Hurt, she leaves the greenhouse to find Erna and Kette sitting in the living room, having tea and cake and listening to Bach cantatas. She says nothing about what she has heard.
Lotte goes back to studying with Emmi and spending time with her.
Some time later, at the end of one of their English lessons, Emmi suggests that Lotte go on a skiing vacation with her, ski being their favorite hobby. She promises to convince Lotte’s parents to agree.
Lotte’s friend Eva seems confused and upset about Lotte’s close relationship with Emmi and their plans to spend winter vacation together. Lotte praises Emmi and strongly defends her to her friend.
On the train to a ski resort in Austria, Emmi and Lotte seem as happy and cheerful as two teenagers. They arrive at the luxurious hotel where Emmi has rented a room for them both. Lotte is thrilled by the splendor of the hotel. They enjoy skiing very much, feeling young, beautiful, strong and independent. They constantly compliment each other. At dinner, they decline the invitation of two men to join them. Back in their room, the question arises as to who should sleep where. In the morning, they wake up together in the double bed, and it is obvious that they were intimate with each other. On the train back to Berlin, they overhear conversations about the political situation in Germany that bring them back to reality.
Lotte wakes up to a beautiful morning and finds out that Hitler has been appointed Chancellor of Germany. Nazi flags are flying everywhere. The atmosphere at school is chaotic. A girl who has been bullying Lotte teases her again, and when Lotte snaps back the girl says that soon all the Jews will be taken care of. Brigitte, Lotte’s Christian friend, tries to cheer her up.
The Nazi victory is visible everywhere in public and Hitler seems to be widely popular. Lotte arrives at the Kroners’ and protests that all anyone can talk about is politics. Emmi is angry and scolds Lotte for living in a bubble and being childish, and Lotte is hurt. Lutz helps them reconcile and then says that there will probably be no choice but to emigrate to Palestine.
Lotte attends a meeting of the Zionist youth movement with Kette. She is fascinated by a slide show of Palestine landscapes, but is repelled by the patriotic and nationalistic speech of the group leader. She then tells Emmi and Lutz about the meeting, which again sparks a discussion about emigration. Emmi insists on New York, while Lotte proclaims that Palestine seems to her a more practical destination and also more historically and ideologically appropriate. Emmi says she might be persuaded if Lotte emigrates with them. Lotte is unsure whether the offer is serious.
Back at school, Eva and Lotte share stories about antisemitic incidents and fears and seem equally concerned about the future. When their Christian friends join them, an argument breaks out about the legitimacy of the Hitlerjugend, which a brother of one of the friends has joined. At morning parade, the principal gives the Nazi salute and all the students and teachers join in. Lotte grabs Kette’s hand and leaves the schoolyard. In a conversation with their parents, the four discuss the girls’ future, and it becomes clear that they will no longer go to school. Heinrich suggests that Lotte train as a drafter in an architectural firm run by acquaintances of his. Lotte agrees.
Lotte and Emmi are sitting around listlessly in the Kroners’ living room, and Lotte is having a drink. Emmi had forbidden her to drink after the incident that upset Lotte’s parents, but with the creeping sense of doomsday, she allows it this time. Lutz comes in and informs them that the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz, which transferred all government powers from the German Reichstag to Hitler’s cabinet) has been passed and that all is now lost. Emmi tries to suppress her fears by being overly cheerful.
When Lotte comes home, Heinrich informs the family that he is no longer allowed to represent clients in court. To make ends meet, the family will be forced to rent out rooms to tenants. Lotte begins her training as a drafter.
At the Kroners’, Lutz puts on a record, and Emmi and Lotte dance in the living room and kiss in front of him. He is unperturbed, and even seems happy about their relationship. A conversation develops about non-traditional family structures, in which Emmi speaks passionately against the fixation on the bourgeois family unit. She lends Lotte several books on the subject.
Lotte goes home, books in hand. A large crowd has gathered at the Opera Square (Bebelplatz). A young man approaches her and asks if they are books to be burned, explaining that they are setting fire to books by Jews, communists, perverts, and traitors. Lotte rushes home and on the way hears fragments of Joseph Goebbels’ speech at the book burning resounding from loudspeakers in the streets. When she gets home, her parents seem extremely anxious. Later that night, Heinrich asks Lotte to vacate her room, which has been rented out to tenants who will soon move in. Lotte moves to sleep in her father’s study.
The new tenants can be heard upstairs as the family discusses their options over dinner. Heinrich supports moving to Palestine, but only if they are able to transport their household goods and money, which at this time does not seem possible.
At the Kroners’, Lutz, Emmi and Lotte are doing their best to distract themselves from all that is going on. They treat themselves to a fancy dinner. A commotion can be heard from the street. Lotte phones Erna and tells her that she is afraid to go home, and that she would actually feel much more comfortable in Emmi’s study, where she would not disturb her father’s work in his own study back home. Reluctantly, Erna accepts this.
Lotte practically moves in with Emmi and Lutz, and starts taking on household chores. Emmi and Lutz are starting the process of emigration to Palestine. Emmi is irritable and frustrated, and when she goes to a cabaret performance with Lotte, they meet Bruno – a handsome but gruff friend of Emmi’s. During a visit to her parents, Lotte learns that Kette is being sent to a Zionist training camp, which would prepare her for emigration to Palestine; however, Heinrich and Erna’s situation remains unclear.
Back at the Kroners’, Lotte finds Emmi and Bruno scrambling to get dressed and realizes that they are having an affair. Emmi does not try to deny it, but asks Lotte not to tell Lutz. Lotte feels miserable and decides to return home. Out in the street, she witnesses Nazi violence and bumps into her friend Elsie’s brother. She confronts him and he threatens her to stay away or else they will “take care of her”. She feels chest pains.
At the Glucksmanns’, Lotte worries her parents when she brings up the idea of traveling to Palestine with the Kroners. Back at Emmi and Lutz’s, Bruno is also present, and the four of them argue about what to do, with political anxiety masking personal tensions. Bruno leaves, but the argument goes on, and Lutz suggests that Lotte join the couple when they move to Palestine. Emmi retires to bed with a migraine and Lotte goes to take care of her. Emmi tries to send her to Lutz and tells her that she needs to be alone. Lotte gets angry and they fight. Emmi tries to mollify her, and they end up sleeping together in the double bed.
Lotte’s parents still hesitate about whether they should let Lotte emigrate to Palestine with the Kroners.
Lutz and Emmi talk to Lotte’s parents about the specifics of Lotte’s emigration with them to Palestine. Lotte’s parents are worried about how she might cope there, and Lotte reminds them that she will soon turn 18. Their sense of urgency decides the matter, and they give their consent. Lutz urges Heinrich to speed up whatever needs to be done so that the rest of Lotte’s family can leave Germany as well.
The Kroners’ home is in disarray and the couple is eagerly selling furniture and art. Emmi is struggling to cope with the pressure and distress. She badgers Lutz, makes secretive phone calls and ignores Lotte.
Lotte meets with her Christian friend Brigitte and tells her about her decision to leave. Brigitte tells her that her father talks about leaving too, after the newspaper he worked for is shut down.
Lotte and her sister Kette are talking in the now run-down greenhouse. Lotte swears Kette to do everything in her power to get herself and their parents out of Germany as soon as possible.
Lutz and Emmi sit dejectedly in their empty apartment. Lotte comes in looking more mature, her hair cut shorter in a style reminiscent of Emmi’s.
Lotte says goodbye to Heinrich, Erna and Kette at the train station. She is terribly distraught, and Emmi tries to comfort her by saying, among other things, that it was hard for her, too, to leave Bruno.
On board the passenger ship MS Vulcania, Emmi and Lotte lie on deck chairs and chatting on sun loungers. Lutz is suffering from seasickness, and Lotte goes inside to check on him. She takes care of him while Emmi stays behind to sunbathe. At night in the dance hall, Emmi and Lotte dance intimately and kiss in public.
While the seasick Lutz stays in his cabin, Emmi and Lotte enjoy themselves in the next cabin – eating cake, having sex.
The ship docks in at Haifa. The British immigration officer asks them if Lutz and Emmi are related to Lotte, and when Lutz answers in the negative, the officer sends Lotte back to line up behind them. The three rent a one-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem’s Rechavia neighborhood.
Lotte and Emmi are in the kitchen, Emmi is cooking dinner while they practice Hebrew together. Lotte does better than Emmi, who is amused at first but soon loses patience. Lutz comes in with a surprise – a gramophone and records. Emmi is indifferent, Lotte is thrilled.
Turning in for the night, Lotte pulls out the sofa bed in the living room. Emmi is distant and Lotte feels hurt. Emmi assures her that she still loves her, but says that she feels lost in Palestine. She rejects Lotte’s sexual advances and retires to her own bed.
Lotte and Lutz go to buy groceries in the marketplace. Lutz finds it hard to communicate in Hebrew, so Lotte takes charge and handles the rest of the shopping herself.
Lotte receives a letter from Heinrich, in which he tries to sound light-hearted and carefree. But we see that the family has left their beautiful home and moved into a small temporary apartment in Berlin while trying to arrange for their emigration. Their entire life is packed into boxes and full of uncertainty. Their dog is dying, and the streets outside are violent and chaotic.
Lotte goes to Erich Mendelsohn’s architectural offices at the Rechavia Windmill in Jerusalem. After an interview with Mendelsohn, he hires her as a drafter. Back home, Lutz reads Lotte and Emmi Joseph Goebbels’ speech about removing the kid gloves in the treatment of Jews. Emmi rebukes him, and reminds Lutz that Lotte’s parents are still there. Lotte is afraid for them.
Heinrich writes Lotte another letter from the Berlin apartment, saying that things are complicated and will take a while longer because the British are limiting the number of immigration certificates issued. Going out to send the letter, he hears one of Hitler’s speeches booming from loudspeakers in the street.
Back in Jerusalem, Lotte finds out that Emmi is having another affair, this time with a man named Joseph Levi. She feels unneeded and lost. Emmi, on the other hand, seems enthusiastic, almost hyperactive. Showing Lotte renewed affection, she again asks her not to tell Lutz about her new affair. Lotte and Emmi’s closeness and intimacy is restored.
Lotte feels at home at the architectural firm and attends a planning meeting for the upcoming Levant Fair in Tel Aviv. After work, she meets with a small group of young colleagues, most of them ex-Germans. The conversation revolves around the state of their families and those who made it out of Germany. Lotte notices that a local cigarette peddler is her former cardiologist from Berlin.
Lotte and Lutz stay in most nights, while Emmi goes out and returns very late. Their relationship becomes more intimate, and they even have sex now and then; but Lotte’s great passion and love are still reserved for Emmi.
Emmi tells Lotte about the good times Joseph Levi is showing her in Tel Aviv. Lotte invites her to go with her to the Levant Fair so they can spend time together, but Emmi evades. Eventually Lotte goes with Lutz, and after the Fair they go to the beach. Lutz tells Lotte that he admires her, and they kiss. On the bus ride back to Jerusalem Lutz, falls asleep and Lotte is sad.
Emmi becomes increasingly distant from both Lotte and Lutz. She spends very little time with either of them, and when she is in the apartment, there is considerable tension and alienation.
Lutz and Lotte lie naked in the living room. Lotte urges Lutz to get dressed. Feeling rejected, Lutz retires to the bedroom.
Lotte writes in her diary, then feels weak and takes a pill for her heart problems. She goes to sleep on the sofa and leaves her diary on the living room table. When Lutz returns from work in the evening, he sees the diary and starts reading it. When Lotte wakes up, she finds a note from Lutz saying that he has gone and doesn’t know when he’ll be back. She breaks down crying.
Emmi comes home and finds Lotte in bed. Lotte tells her that she has been sick for three days and that Lutz has been gone for two. Emmi is filled with remorse. She tells Lotte that Joseph Levi has left for London and that she is pregnant. Lotte is shocked and asks her if she knows whose child it is. Emmi is not sure.
Lotte tells Emmi about the incident with the diary, and that Lutz is gone. Emmi does not seem worried at first, but then asks to read the diary. When she finishes reading it, she is upset and angry and accuses Lotte of trying to come between her and Lutz. A terrible fight ensues, at the end of which Emmi leaves, slamming the door behind her.
Lotte awaits her family at the port of Haifa. Their reunion is very emotional. Heinrich suddenly appears behind the wheel of their Buick; it turns out that they were able to bring it along. They drive to Jerusalem.
Emmi and Lutz return to their apartment and receive Lotte lovingly. They made up in Tel Aviv and are both happy about Emmi’s pregnancy.
A short time later, in a spacious but empty apartment in Jerusalem, Erna asks Lotte if she would like to move back in with the family. Lotte declines, saying she has to help the Kroners with the coming baby, but promises to help her parents in any way she can.
Emmi, Lutz and Lotte spend an evening together, “just like old times”, with music and drinking and dancing, and talk about how the newborn will be the child of all three of them.
Heinrich struggles to find himself and starts talking again about his dream of owning a farm. Lotte tells him that she saw an ad in the newspaper about farmland being offered for sale in Gedera.
Lutz and Lotte sit together with Emmi and the newborn in the maternity ward. They are very excited, and Lotte cradles the baby in her arms.
The Glucksmanns go to Gedera to see the area. They fall in love with the place, and Heinrich asks Lotte if she would like to design their house. She is delighted by the offer. When they turn to go back to Jerusalem, they discover that their car has been stolen. Discouraged, they take a bus back to Jerusalem. Lotte leads the way, playing the role of the responsible adult.
At the Kroners’, Lotte tries to concentrate on the designs for her parents’ house, but the baby keeps crying. Lotte goes over to him and takes him in her arms. When she checks the other rooms, she finds that Lutz is asleep and Emmi has gone out.
Lotte is at the construction site in Gedera. She gives instructions to the workers, directing them with confidence and German precision.
Lotte arrives at the Rechavia apartment and finds Emmi sitting on the sofa and rocking the cradle. Emmi is happy to see Lotte and inquires about the progress of construction in Gedera. Some time later, Lotte comes out of the bedroom and tells her that the baby is asleep. Emmi finishes her makeup, tells Lotte that she’s an angel, and gets ready to go out. Lotte is deeply disappointed.
Lotte and Lutz are sitting on a bench in Rechavia. They reminisce about the past, share plans for the future, and are obviously about to part ways.
Lotte is unpacking boxes in a small Jerusalem apartment, taking out a gramophone to which a loving note from Lutz and Emmi is attached. She puts on a record and continues to unpack.
A little more time has passed. Lotte is visiting her parents on their farm in Gedera. Their house in on a hill, overlooking grapevines, flowers, and a chicken coop. Heinrich takes care of the flowers and Erna takes care of the chickens.
In her new apartment, Lotte has Emmi as a guest for the first time. Emmi is delighted and sings Lotte’s praises. They seem sympathetic and even friendly, but are obviously no longer lovers. They say goodbye, and Lotte stands at the window watching Emmi walk away. A young tzabar (Israeli-born) man calls up to Lotte from the street and asks her if she would like to join him to meet some friends at the local café. She replies in a friendly tone, saying that perhaps some other time. Her gaze lingers on Emmi walking away. Lotte smokes a cigarette with acceptance, contentment, and a sense of independence.


Closing text:

Lotte married Hans Eberhardt in 1941 and had two children against the advice of her doctors. At the age of 41, she died of cardiac arrest in front of her children. 50 years later, her daughter Margalit found her diary.
Emmi and Lutz divorced a few years after parting ways with Lotte. In her later years, Emmi went back to Germany. She died in 1998. Lutz remarried, stayed in Israel and died in 1975. Their only son Michael Yehuda died in 1985.
Heinrich and Erna kept their farm in Gedera until Heinrich’s death in 1952. When Lotte died, Erna took over the upbringing of Lotte’s children.

The Glucksmann family
Lotte and her mother Erna just before Lotte’s departure to Palestine
Lotte in Palestine