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This two-part documentary "The Knights with the Black Cross" tells the story of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem – the formal title of an order that is tied to the history of the Germans and Poles. 

The knight’s crucifixes and bloody crusades to the Holy land are legendary. What is much less known is the Order’s role in establishing a powerful and economically successful state in Eastern Europe. Thus, the first episode of the film ("The Founding of the State") questions how a few hundred knights could build a state that held itself up as a great power against the numerically superior neighbors for over two hundred years.

The second episode shows the decline of the Teutonic Order, which was, in actual fact, the only corporative state in European history. Despite its advanced administration, infrastructure and a strong army, it disintegrated and left a dubious legacy behind. Its downfall came with the confrontation of its neighbors. Though militarily weaker, they could offer something which the monastic order could not – freedom. 

The two-part documentary (2 x 52 min and 2 x 44 min) by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pitera is a coproduction (Poland, Lithuania, Germany) with the support of the Polish Film Institute for MDR and ARTE.

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