A Friendship in Vienna

A Friendship In Vienna is a 1988 Disney Channel film based on Doris Orgel's popular children's book The Devil in Vienna. The film starred Jane Alexander, Stephen Macht and Edward Asner[1] and premiered August 27, 1988.


Lise Mueller (Kamie Harper) and Inge Dourenvald (Jenny Lewis) are 13-ish-year-old best friends in Austria of 1938, in the weeks before and during the Anschluss. Lise is Catholic and Inge is Jewish. Trouble comes since Lise's father is a Nazi sympathizer who travels to and from Germany getting ready to join the paramilitary Nazi SA upon the upcoming Anschluss, bringing Lise's mother, who is helpless to do anything about it, and her older brother, Heinz, who himself is already a Nazi sympathizer like his father.

Heinz and another boy are handing out Nazi-written leaflets that make claims about the "evil Jews". Inge's mother Hannah is handed one, and, infuriated at boys of that age handing out such messages, confiscates the leaflets. Heinz follows her home and, to retaliate, later causes an "accident" at the Dourenvald's home that results in Inge's mother spraining one of her ankles.

Lise's mother has bought a book for Lise, recommended by Inge's father Franz at the store where he works, but the girls were sealing their friendship using a ceremony Lise read in the book. Lise's parents arrive home to find the two girls with wine. Lise's father forbids Inge to visit them anymore. Inge's parents, on hearing Inge humming the tune of a Nazi song, forbid Inge to visit Lise again.

The girls keep meeting, now in secret, for example at the large cathedral in Vienna. Despite his opposition to Inge's friendship with Lise, Franz refuses to believe Hitler would annex Austria and heed Grandfather Oskar's warnings to apply for immigration quota visas for himself and his family to get them safely out of Austria and out of Europe.

Austria is going to have a referendum in March 1938 on the issue of joining Germany, and Inge becomes aware that some of her classmates are clearly pro-Nazi. However, Nazi mobs harass and attack pro-independence rallies and marches, and eventually cause so much trouble that the Austrian government is besieged and unable to maintain order. The schools are suddenly closed. Chancellor Schuschnigg capitulates and the Anschluss does happen. Lise's father becomes a high ranking Nazi SA officer and requires Lise to join a girls' Hitler Youth organization, wear its uniform, attend the upcoming welcoming procession of Hitler into Vienna and give the Sieg Heil salute.

The Nazis start implementing their bigoted laws. These laws include destroying books and other arts materials with non-Aryan characters and publicly humiliating Jews by making them wash pro-Schuschnigg pro-independence posters and slogans off of walls and sidewalks with only their toothbrushes. Jewish teachers and all schoolbooks with Jewish characters in them are removed from schools and all Jewish students are required to sit in the less desirable back seats of classrooms, a hint towards their eventual expulsions from schools altogether. Lise decides to sit next to Inge after being told not to and is sadistically beaten by her father for it.

Franz waits long hours in line outside the U.S. embassy to get the quota numbers for the three of them.

Oskar, who already had his quota number before the Anschluss, gets his visa for Yugoslavia and leaves. Hannah is fired from her 14-year editing job through messenger boy Gustl, now a Hitler Youth member himself, under the claim of "needed cutbacks" and is sure the "Aryanization board" will eventually keep Jews out of all employment to further isolate them from society. Franz, after catching Inge talking to Lise in public after he previously warned Inge not to see her again, warns Inge that Lise's father is high up in Nazi Party ranks and could end the embarrassment of his "Aryan" daughter's continued friendship with a Jew by having the entire Dourenvald family arrested. Hannah confronts Inge with the picture Lise sent from Germany of her posing with her brother Heinz, who Hannah says tried to kill her with the soapsuds "accident".

Franz is told by the Yugoslav consul in Vienna that despite his father-in-law's telegraphed offer of a position being available for him in a Zagreb bookstore, the consul refuses them visas on the grounds that native Yugoslav unemployment is already high and might make things worse if foreigners are seen as threatening to take already hard to find jobs from its natives.

Afterwards, Franz is threatened by Gustl with blackmail of false accusations of "indecorous" (improper) behavior with their Aryan maid, Mitzi, which Gustl says he saw while delivering Hannah's manuscripts and that he'll "forget" this only if the Dourenvalds pay him 10,000 schillings, an amount they don't have despite all Nazi propaganda claims that Jews are rich money hoarders.

Mitzi still enjoys working for them despite the new laws that will soon make such employment illegal, whether she wants to leave or not. She offers to deny these charges herself to the block warden, but is told that it won't work and that she'll be called a "Jew befriender" and cause trouble for herself and maybe her family too.

When Hannah tries to get visas to Yugoslavia by claiming that their family wants only temporary ones because of a medical problem of hers that her doctor recommends a week's vacation by the Adriatic Sea as a cure, she is told by the consul that it is now required to have been a baptized Christian since 1936 or earlier to enter Yugoslavia at all, and to provide baptismal certificates as proof. The Dourenvalds are now at a loss since even if they could "transform" themselves into Christians, they wouldn't be able to find a priest that would baptize them and predate their certificates to 1936, never mind any earlier, until Inge tells them about Father Bernard at the cathedral.

Bernard hesitates on respective spiritual and legal laws that such a ritual and certification would violate. But Lise convinces him that leaving innocent people in danger would be an even greater violation. The baptism occurs, the Dourenvalds get their visas, and the next day, bid Mitzi farewell and tell her she can have whatever possessions of theirs that she wants, as they can't take them with them. The Dourenvalds board a train for Zagreb, with Gustl and his friends on their trail. Inge says her last goodbye to Lise and gives her a golden Jewish star. Jean Simmons' voiceover ends the film by saying that she (Inge) wrote to Lise often after leaving Austria but never received any responses and didn't know if it was because Lise's father destroyed the letters when she got them or kept her from writing back and that she (Inge) knew then that it would be the last time she would ever see or hear from Lise again.


  1. ^ Baron, Lawrence (2005). Projecting the Holocaust Into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 173.


  1. ^ Orgel, Doris (1978-01-01). The Devil in Vienna. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780671699536.