The Rapoports - Our Three Lives (2003)

As Jews they escaped from the Nazis, as scientists they became famous in the USA - and as Communists they had to flee from McCarthy: it was in East Germany that Inge and Mitja Rapoport found their third home. They are regarded as the founders for modern post-natal care in East Germany, and he is one of the most brilliant biochemists of our day. People who know little about the lives of these idealists, now over 90 years of age, may wonder how they manage to believe to this day in the ideals of a social form which is generally regarded as having failed miserably.

Samuel Mitja Rapoport and Inge Syllm are 32 years of age in 1944 when they meet in the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, at the time the most important children's hospital in the USA. Both escaped Hitler's Germany as Jews and have found a new home for themselves in the USA. In the early 1940s Mitja discovered a method of conserving red blood cells. Today this is accepted as the precondition for the conservation of blood, but in those days it was a sensation: American soldiers wounded in the battlefields of the Second World War could be treated immediately. Mitja is awarded the highest civilian medal of the USA for his work.
But Inge knows that there are more important things in life for Mitja. Even before their marriage she was clear about his priorities: “First: socialism. Second: science. And then, only in third place: me. In Ohio Mitja and Inge organise social get-togethers between black and white people, and they make clear their acceptance of communist ideas. In America during the late 1940s this singles them out as suspicious. In August 1950 Mitja is on a lecture tour of Europe when he is investigated by McCarthy’s Tribunal. From one day to the next Inge, in the late stages of pregnancy, is forced to flee to Vienna with her three children to join Mitja. But even in the city of Mitja’s birth the Americans are able to ensure that he does not get a new job. Applications to other countries are also in vain. For almost 2 years the Rapoports do not know where to turn. It is now that the East German government takes advantage of the opportunity: in 1952 Mitja moves to East Berlin to teach at the Humboldt University, although Inge never wanted to set foot in Germany again. But the idea of a socialist country under construction is enormously appealing to them both.

“The Rapoports – Our Three Lives” is a film about an extraordinary couple trapped between the political systems of the 20th century. Told from the perspective of two cosmopolitan people, these warm-hearted scientists express surprisingly controversial views. A wealth of historical film footage helps bring to life the stations on their journey. We hear from contemporary witnesses, friends and companions, their children and also the American folk singer Pete Seeger, whose music has accompanied the Rapoports over the decades. The film also bears witness to the great love between two people who, though over 90 years of age, give the impression of having just fallen in love.


Sissi Hüetlin & Britta Wauer

Sissi Hüetlin & Britta Wauer

Lorenz Haarmann

Berthold Baule

Claudia Bissinger

Tanja Ziegler

Selina Riefenstahl, arte

© 2024 ZIEGLER FILM GmbH & Co. KG