Written by the director Péter Gárdos together with Sweden’s Marianne Ahrne, the movie recounts a love story that begins in the most unusual of circumstances between two survivors of the hell that was the Holocaust. Having suffered immensely during their ordeal, these two survivors share a love that overcomes every obstacle on a road that will also lead them to cross paths with death itself. The plot is set in the Swedish rehabilitation camps between the autumn and winter of 1945.

The frame of the story is JERUSALEM.

Lili Reich, Anyu (Mother in Hungarian), is visiting her family in Jerusalem - her only daughter, Naomi, and her family. This time, somehow, the visit is different than the previous ones. This time, she dares to talk about her past, which she never liked to talk about. This time, Naomi and Lili become close than ever. Lili can't stop talking, it keeps coming out of her, and Naomi is just listening.

They are walking all around the city, going to places where they have been many times before, this time, somehow, they look and feel different.

Through Lili's eyes we can see all the beauty and glory of Jerusalem as a symbol of past, present and future.

The characters in the film are survivors of the Nazi concentration camps who are now receiving treatment in Swedish rehabilitation camps that up until now we’ve heard very little about. The story takes place over nine months from July 1945 to March 1946. Almost without exception all the men and women being nursed in the camps are aware of the fragile nature of their existence. But they have no choice. Their future is uncertain, their cure unpredictable, their recovery hinges on insignificant details. The only way they can overcome this unbearable situation is by resigned nonchalance or an insatiable will to live.

Miklós, the 25-year-old protagonist, is being shipped from a German concentration camp to the island of Gotland. Here, in the Larbro Hospital, his Swedish doctor informs him of his fatal diagnosis: he has around six months to live. Miklós, however, doesn’t seem to grasp how serious his tuberculosis is, and he starts to wage war on his own fate. He obtains the names and addresses of 117 Hungarian girls, all of whom are being treated in the Swedish camps, and writes each one a letter with the aim of eventually choosing a wife from among them. He knows none of them personally of course.

The story begins with this irrational, crazy and at the same time desperate undertaking. Whatever is the sense of this whole letter-writing mania in the shadow of death?

Two hundred kilometers away, in another Swedish rehabilitation camp, 19-year-old Lili receives Miklós’s letter, and since she is bedridden for three weeks due to a serious kidney complaint, out of boredom - and curiosity - she decides to write back.

The initially slightly formal exchange of letters becomes increasingly intimate and results in countless misunderstandings until one day Miklós decides to call Lili on the telephone. They agree to try and arrange to see each other in person.

The characters in Fever at Dawn want to live at any cost. The doctors do their best to remedy their emaciated, tormented bodies, but wrestling with their wounded souls is their own concern.

Through Lili and Miklós’s increasingly frequent and passionate correspondence, we gain insight into the everyday life of the Swedish camps: the doctors’ unending struggle against insidious diseases, the bureaucracy of local authorities as well as the lesser and graver betrayals and anxieties of the camp inmates. Emil Kronheim, the eccentric, sharp-witted rabbi, comes on the scene. He tirelessly travels about between the camps, imparting his wise advice. Lili’s friend Judit Gold is far from happy with the love unfolding between Miklós and Lili. She gradually becomes one of the leading characters in the story. She fights doggedly for Lili using a good deal of cunning – after all, she loves her like a sister. Or is that just self-deception.

In spite of all the problems caused by the demands of the camp rules and Swedish health regulations, on the first day of December 1945 Lili and Miklós eventually manage to meet. And in the course of the three days they spend together in the Eksjő hospital they fall in love with each other once and for all.

But it is at this time, once they are certain of themselves and their love, that they have to overcome the greatest obstacles. Miklós’s illness doesn’t hold out much hope for the future, and Judit Gold’s scheming seems to be reaping success.

Then, at the most critical moment of their lives, they get special help from Rabbi Kronheim…

The genre of the film is that of a romantic love story.

It is the story of passion that is made special by the location and the moment in history. Its authenticity is strengthened in particular by the fact that the letters between Lili and Miklós have been kept and are perfectly intact.

Jerusalem gives the story an air of spirituality. The power of Jerusalem inspires Lili to unfold this unusual and beautiful true story.


Péter Gárdos

Cinema Soleil- Miriam Zachar, Tivoli Filminvestment - Denes Szekeres,
Göta Film-Christer Nilson


Hebrew, Swedish, Hungarien