Two soldiers in their late teens are part of a last-ditch effort to protect the East German border as World War II draws to a close. Werner Holt (Thiele) initially is full of boyish enthusiasm for the Nazi ideals he has been taught. His best friend and commanding officer Gilbert Wolzow (Karge), raised in a military household, never wavers from his commitment to the cause. As Russian forces encroach, Werner reflects on his experiences and his increasing awareness of the unspeakable depravity behind the Nazi rhetoric. Confronted with one final grievous injustice, Werner has to decide whether conscience is more important than duty.
With its unblinkered stance toward war — especially the devastation it wreaks on its young recruits — Werner seems cut from the same cloth as American anti-war classics like "All Quiet On The Western Front" and "Apocalypse Now." At the same time, this remarkable film manages to make us sympathize with the rank and file of one of the world's most reviled military forces. Part of the DEFA Collection from the East German government-run movie studio founded in 1946, "Werner" is nearly three hours long but always riveting. This powerful and important film deserves a wider audience.