One of the worst of many inhuman aspects of World War II were the "penalty" battalions in the German army, dramatized in this excellent film about several men serving in these units. Director Harald Phillipp spares no ounce of realism in first relating what kinds of men are conscripted, and then how they are treated. One man's crime was not returning to his unit on time, another did not follow unscrupulous orders, yet another supposedly mutilated himself in order to escape the draft. Once in a penalty battalion, the assignments and the superior officers are brutal. The men are sent to the most dangerous battle fronts, they are asked to de-mine without equipment, and no one balks at leaving them without weapons if a hasty retreat is in order. Sobering and well-photographed, the men's stories are engrossing from beginning to end.
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