“Swing Kids” is a 1993 film release that takes place in Hamburg, Germany in 1939. Teenagers, who called themselves Swing Kids, rebelled against the Nazis by refusing to join the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), better known as the HJ. They wore their hair long, liked American movies, dressed in British fashion, and listened to swing music. They used the salute “Swing Heil” as a mockery of the “Heil Hitler” salute with each other.
The movie follows three Swing Kids: Peter Muller (Robert Sean Leonard) Thomas Berger (Christian Bale) and Arvid (Frank Whaley). Peter ended up joining the HJ because he was forced to join it. Thomas joined the HJ after Peter because he believes that the Nazis cannot split up both him and Peter. Each one will be deeply affected by the Nazi movement.
In an early scene, Willi (David Tom) told his brother Peter and Peter’s friends that the HJ were beating up a swing boy. The rescued the victim of prejudice wand connected with a religious minority when the learned the truth. “Looks like a swing boy to me. How was I supposed to know?” Willi said after finding out that the “swing boy” was Jewish.
Throughout the movie, prejudice is evident, especially with doors spray painted with the German words for Jew or traitor on them. In one scene, Peter was asked to deliver three packages and he delivered two packages. When he delivered the second package to a woman, he heard her scream. He later opened the third package and found ashes and a wedding ring in a box labeled with the German word for traitor and the death symbol of skull and crossbones. Peter dropped the box and ran because he found out that he delivered the ashes of those that the Nazi government deemed as traitors. In another scene, in the boxing ring at the HJ school, Thomas and Emil (Noah Wyle) fought each other and Thomas called Emil a traitor for believing in the Nazi propaganda.
The Swing Kids had to listen to swing music in secret. During the scene when Peter and his friends were listening to the music, Arvid made the comment, “Maybe you should not listen to this, maybe they will listen to your ears” after Peter refused a cigarette because the Nazis will smell his breath. If the Nazis found out about it, they were forced to go to a work camp, as Peter was later sent to. Many were also forced to join the army and did not survive the war. There was another Swing Kids movement that saw the end of the Nazi regime.
When Willi saw Peter being taken away, he yelled “Swing Heil” and a small group of people joined in before the HJ stopped them. Even Thomas yelled “Swing Heil” to Peter, even though he was with the HJ when they broke apart the party and got into a fight with Peter.
This movie was directed by Thomas Carter and filmed in Prague, Czech Republic. It is rated PG-13 because of the language and violence. It is based on the actual Swings Kids movement in Nazi Germany. Kenneth Branagh has an uncredited role in the film. It is currently out on video in both VHS and DVD.
I think that “Swing Kids” is a really good movie. I would recommend it to anybody, especially to those who have an interest in swing music and German history.