The two-part documentary film "Unter schwarzem Kreuz - Der Deutschritterorden" (Under the Black Cross - The Teutonic Knights) tells the story of the Order of the Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, as it is fully known, which is also a story of relations between Germans and Poles.
Above all, the bloody, missionary crusades to the Holy Land are associated with the Crusaders. Less well known is the role of the Order in the founding of a powerful and above all economically successful state in Eastern Europe.
The first episode of the film ("The Founding of the State") therefore explores the question of how a few hundred knights of the Order managed to found a functioning state and from this to form a great power that was able to hold its own against its numerically superior neighbours for more than two centuries.
The second episode tells the story of the downfall of the Teutonic Order - the only Estates State in European history. Despite its advanced administration, infrastructure and strong army for the time, this state crumbles and leaves behind a dubious legacy. Its downfall takes place in the confrontation with a weaker neighbour, which cannot defeat it militarily, but which can offer its subjects something that the monastic order state cannot - freedom.
The two-part documentary (2 x 52 min. and 2 x 44 min.) by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pitera is a co-production (Poland, Lithuania, Germany) with the support of the Polish Film Institute for MDR and ARTE.