Five Jewish Hungarians, now U.S. citizens, tell their stories: before March, 1944, when Nazis began to exterminate Hungarian Jews, months in concentration camps, and visiting childhood ... See full summary »
Claude Lanzmann directed this 9 1/2 hour documentary of the Holocaust without using a single frame of archive footage. He interviews survivors, witnesses, and ex-Nazis (whom he had to film ... See full summary »
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Five Jewish Hungarians, now U.S. citizens, tell their stories: before March, 1944, when Nazis began to exterminate Hungarian Jews, months in concentration camps, and visiting childhood homes more than 50 years later. An historian, a Sonderkommando, a doctor who experimented on Auschwitz prisoners, and US soldiers who were part of the liberation in April, 1945, also comment. Most telling are details: Renée packing her bathing suit, Irene swallowing the diamonds her mother gave her to buy bread, Alice's memorial for her sister Klara, Bill escaping police by jumping into a line of Jews going to Buchenwald, and Tom told by a US soldier to have "all the damn bananas and oranges you can eat." Written by
There is one thing that has troubled me and has troubled the world, that the Germans dedicated man-power and trains and trucks and energy toward the destruction of the Jews to the last day. Had they stopped 6 months before the end of the war and dedicated that energy towards strengthening themselves, they may have carried on the war in London, but it was more important to them to kill the Jew than in winning the war.
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I was fortunate enough to see this film at an advance screening hosted by the National Archive of Jewish Film at Brandeis University. This screening was full of professors and experts in the field of Holocaust study. Also present was one of the interviewees of the film.
This film effected me in ways that no other Holocaust documentary has. I have been learning about the Holocaust for many years, and I naïvely thought that I understood the magnitude of this disaster. What I realized during this movie was that no one can understand the experience of such a tragedy. Some of the most poignant moments were when the survivors walked through the camps with their children, recalling details along the way. Their children stood dutifully beside their parents the entire time, never understanding what their parents experienced.
The film bills itself as "the story of five remarkable people whose strength and will to live represent the extraordinary power of the human spirit." I don't feel that the movie followed this path, but took a different, much more intriguing journey. The audience left the theater understanding that the Holocaust is not something that can be summed up in a movie. Though the movie posed the question "why did it happen?" it never gives an answer. Instead, it shows that there is no way to reach a conclusion when one is faced with such a tragedy.
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