After the death of her husband, Ruth (Jutta Lampe), a non-observant Jew, shocks the rest of the family by beginning a strictly Orthodox mourning period. Especially upset and mystified is her daughter Hannah (Maria Schrader) whose non-Jewish fiancé Luis (Fedja van Huet) is treated shamefully. Then a cousin reveals that her mother was cared for by an Aryan women named Lena Fischer during World War II in Germany. Hannah decides to explore this event that her mother has never bothered to tell her about.
She locates the 90-year-old Lena (Doris Schade) living alone in Berlin and listens intently to her accounts of 1943 when the Nazis arrested Jewish men who were married to Aryan women and locked them up in a building on Rosenstrasse street. As a young woman, Lena (Katja Riemann) enrages her aristocratic father by marrying Fabian Fischer (Martin Feifel), a Jewish violinist. When her husband is taken from her, she convinces her brother Arthur (Jurgen Vogel), a Nazi, to see what he can do for her. Meanwhile, she joins a group of women who are holding a vigil outside the building on Rosenstrasse.
Based on true events, this engaging German drama is directed by Margarethe von Trotta (Rosa Luxemburg, The Lost Honor of Katharine Blum) who co-wrote the screenplay with Pamela Katz. This serious and sensitive filmmaker has created another morally rich study of women and their special brand of friendship and heroism. It is interesting to watch the changes that take place in Hannah as she learns more about her mother's story and of Lena's compassion. It is this personal dimension of the story that connects with our hearts.