From time to time throughout ''We Were So Beloved,'' Manfred Kirchheimer's fine, poignant documentary about Jews who escaped Germany before the Holocaust, stories are told of ''ordinary'' Germans who risked all to help Jewish friends. His subjects are members of his family and friends who were among those able to leave Germany before 1939 and who settled in Washington Heights. There, on the upper tip of Manhattan, they created a solid, prosperous middle-class community, sometimes known as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson, while millions of others were being herded into the death camps.
Though ''We Were So Beloved'' is mostly about those who escaped the immediate effects of the Holocaust, it is a harrowing examination of conscience. Those interviewed remember humiliations, incredible cruelties and sudden, unexpected kindnesses. In the limited, quite commonplace landscape of Washington Heights, Mr. Kirchheimer finds ghosts not always visible to the naked eye.