Tomorrow Belongs to Me

A few months ago I attended a private screening in Pasadena of the 1972 film Cabaret, which lost the Academy Award for Best Film to The Godfather, and yet still put an Oscar on the mantel of director Bob Fosse, not to mention ones for Liza Minnelli, Joel Gray, and five others. The screening was hosted by film buff Alex Kozinski, whose day job is chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and whose parents are both Holocaust survivors. His friend, Cabaret producer Manny Wolf, was on hand to treat us with cinematic anecdotes and to answer questions afterward.

The first time I saw Cabaret I was too young to really appreciate the dark undercurrent of the story’s historical context. In the film, based on Christopher Isherwood’s book The Berlin Stories, the performers and patrons of a 1930s Berlin nightclub indulge in a raucous, desperately carefree decadence against the ominous backdrop of a growing National Socialist Party presence and increasing hostility directed at Jews.

In perhaps its most infamous scene, a fresh-faced young man captivates the patrons of a biergarten with a beautiful tenor rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” The song is bursting with youthful idealism for a radiant future. But when the camera pans down to reveal the swastika armband on his Hitler Youth uniform, the scene’s tone suddenly turns chilling. The song gathers disturbing momentum as the Aryan patrons leap to their feet to sing along fervently:

Now Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign

Your children have waited to see

The morning will come when the world is mine

Tomorrow belongs

Tomorrow belongs

Tomorrow belongs to me!

The song peaks with the young Nazi’s arm rising in the martial Hitlergruss, the stiff Hitler salute that is the very symbol of genocidal fascism.