Black Book

n 1944, Dutch-Jewish singer Rachel Stein is hiding from the Nazi regime in the occupied Netherlands. When the farmhouse where she has been hiding is destroyed by an Allied bomber, she goes to see a lawyer named Smaal, who has been helping her family. He arranges for her to escape to the liberated southern part of the country. Aided by a man named Van Gein, Rachel is reunited with her family and boards a boat that is to take them and other refugees to the south. However, they are ambushed on the river by members of the German SS, who kill them and rob the bodies of valuables. Rachel alone survives, but does not manage to escape from occupied territory.

Using a non-Jewish alias, Ellis de Vries, Rachel becomes involved with a Dutch resistance group in the Hague, under the leadership of Gerben Kuipers and working closely with a doctor, Hans Akkermans. Smaal is in touch with this Resistance cell. When Kuipers’s son and other members of the Resistance are captured, Ellis agrees to help by seducing local SD commander Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Müntze. At a party at the local SD headquarters, Ellis recognises Obersturmführer Günther Franken, Müntze’s brutal deputy, as the officer who had overseen the massacre of refugees on the boat. She obtains a job as a secretary at the SD headquarters while also falling in love with Müntze who, in contrast to Franken, is not abusive or sadistic. He realises that she is a Jew, but does not care.

Thanks to a hidden microphone that Ellis plants in Franken’s office, the Resistance realises that Van Gein is the traitor who betrayed Rachel, her family, and the other Jews to the SS. Against Kuipers’s orders, Akkermans decides to abduct Van Gein to expose him. Their attempt goes wrong, and Van Gein is killed. Franken responds by planning to kill 40 hostages, including most of the plotters, but Müntze, who realises the war is lost and has been negotiating with the Resistance, countermands the order.

Müntze forces Ellis to tell him her story. On her evidence, he confronts Franken with a superior officer, Obergruppenführer Käutner, who orders Franken to open his safe, expecting to find the valuables stolen from the Jews he had killed, this being a capital offence. However, the safe contains no valuables, and Franken then tells Käutner that Müntze has been negotiating with Dutch resistance “terrorists” for a truce. Müntze is imprisoned and condemned to death. The Resistance plots to rescue their imprisoned members; Ellis agrees to cooperate only on the condition that they also free Müntze. The plan is betrayed, and the would-be rescuers find the prisoners’ cells filled with German troops. Only Akkermans and one other man manage to flee.

Ellis is subsequently arrested and taken to Franken’s office. He knows about her and the bug and, knowing that the Resistance is listening in, he stages a confrontation to make them believe that Ellis is the Nazi collaborator, responsible for the failure of the rescue. Kuipers and his companions swear to make her pay for her treason. Ronnie, a Dutch woman working at the SD headquarters to whom Ellis had confided her role in the Resistance, helps her and Müntze escape.

When the country is liberated by the Allies, Franken attempts to escape by boat, but is killed by Akkermans, who takes the Jewish loot. Suspecting Smaal is the traitor, Müntze and Ellis return to confront him. Smaal states that the identity of the traitor is evidenced by his ‘black book’, in which he had detailed all his dealings with Jews. However, he refuses to discuss further, wanting to go to the Canadian authorities. When they are about to leave, Smaal and his wife are killed by an unknown assailant. Müntze chases him into the street, only to be recognised by the Dutch crowd and arrested by soldiers from the Canadian Army. The Dutch also recognise Ellis and arrest her as a collaborator, but not before she grabs the black book.

Müntze is brought before the ranking Canadian officers and finds that Käutner is helping to keep order among the defeated German forces. Käutner convinces a Canadian colonel that under military law, the defeated German military retains the right to punish its own soldiers. Due to the previously issued death warrant, Müntze is executed by a firing squad.

Ellis is imprisoned with other accused collaborators, and humiliated and tortured by the violently anti-Nazi volunteer jailers, but rescued by Akkermans, who is now a colonel in the Dutch Army. Akkermans brings her to his medical office, and says that he killed Franken when the Nazi tried to escape. He shows her the valuables stolen from Jewish victims. When informed about Müntze’s fate, Ellis goes into shock, and Akkermans administers a tranquilliser which is in fact an overdose of insulin. Ellis, feeling dizzy, sees the bottle of insulin and survives by quickly eating a bar of chocolate. She realises then that Akkermans is the traitor who had collaborated with Franken and had killed the Smaals. While Akkermans is distracted, waving to a crowd that cheers him, she jumps from the balcony into the crowd below, and runs away. He tries to follow, but is blocked by the crowd.

Ellis proves her innocence to Canadian military intelligence and to the former Resistance leader Gerben Kuipers by means of Smaal’s black book, which lists how many Jews had been taken to Akkermans for medical help just prior to their murders. Together, Ellis and Kuipers intercept the fleeing Akkermans, who is hiding in a coffin in a hearse with the stolen money, gold, and jewels. They kill the driver, and while Kuipers drives the hearse, Ellis screws down the coffin’s secret air vents. They drive to Hollands Diep where the original SS trap had been sprung, and wait until Akkermans suffocates. Ellis and Kuipers are wonder what to do with the stolen money and jewels.

The scene changes to Israel in 1956, reprising the opening scenes, and shows Rachel meeting her husband and their two children, and walking back into Kibbutz Stein, with a sign at the gate announcing that it was funded with recovered money from Jews killed during the war. In the final scene, the tranquility of Rachel and her family is interrupted by explosions heard in the distance; the siren announces an air attack and Israeli soldiers position themselves at the front of the kibbutz.