On Feb. 28, the Explorers of the Past hosted a movie showing of “The Scarlet and the Black” in Trinity Hall, fostering both community and awareness of an often disregarded aspect of history.
While the club had originally intended to avoid screening yet another World War II film in favor of a lesser-known era, the attendees were grateful this movie won out in the end. While many films focus on the battlefront or home-fronts, “The Scarlet and the Black” is unique for its depiction of Nazi-occupied Rome and the heroes of the Vatican.
“The Scarlet and the Black” recounts the story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, whose work saving and hiding refugees, Jews and prisoners of war from the occupying Nazis in Rome earned him the nickname “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.” Despite the opposition from Col. Herbert Kappler, the Nazi commander in Rome, O’Flaherty was directly responsible for saving over 4,000 lives, and when Kappler confined O’Flaherty to Vatican City on pain of death, the monsignor adopted disguises worthy of Sherlock Holmes, masquerading in turn as a street sweeper, religious sister and even an S.S. officer.
The organizers were pleasantly surprised by the turnout, and besides the film and cookies, the attendees also enjoyed joking around, pointing out minor historical inaccuracies and general comradery.
As junior Caroline Luehrmann said, “This is a really fun kind of event because it gives a theater-like experience with an older film” and is “a great opportunity to nerd-out with other history and film fans!”
The film itself left the audience inspired and encouraged attendees to learn more about the characters and events portrayed. The vice president of the Explorers of the Past club, junior Katie Hugo, appreciated that the “movie … dove deep into how the Vatican helped people survive the Nazi oppression, which is an often overlooked topic.”
This sentiment was echoed by senior Grady Stuckman, who said that “the movie really portrayed well a forgotten area of history. I would love to read more and watch more on Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and other people in Rome who did similar resistance tactics against the Nazis.”