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Craig T. Nelson
"I Have Never Forgotten You" is a comprehensive look at the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter and humanitarian. Narrated by Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman, it features interviews with longtime Wiesenthal associates, government leaders from around the world, friends and family members--many of whom have never discussed the legendary Nazi hunter and humanitarian on camera. Previously unseen archival film and photos also highlight the film. What was the driving force behind his work? What kept him going when for years the odds were against his efforts? What is his legacy today, more than 60 years after the end of World War Two? Written by
The documentary, "I Have Never Forgotten You," explores the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, the concentration camp survivor who became known as the "Conscience of the Holocaust" for his tireless efforts at tracking down Nazi war criminals and for making sure that the memory of that shameful event would - as the title declares - never be forgotten.
Written and directed by Richard Trank and narrated (very effectively) by Nicole Kidman, "I Have Never Forgotten You" is a moving tribute to a man who turned an inconceivable personal tragedy - the loss of nearly 90 of his own family members, along with millions of fellow Jews and countrymen to the Nazi death machine - into a lifelong search for justice. And, indeed, it was this compelling need to see justice done - rather than any sense of personal vengeance - that motivated Wiesenthal's actions. Luckily for Trank, Wiesenthal, who died at the age of 96 in 2005, left behind a treasure trove of interviews for the director to cull from in composing his portrait of the man. Thus, thanks to the miracle of film, we have Wiesenthal's relating the story of his life in his own words, often with tears welling up in his eyes. We learn of his childhood growing up in Buchach, his early days at school, his budding career as an architect. Then came the dark years of the Nazi horror as he was shipped from one concentration camp to another until he was finally rescued, on the brink of death, by the Americans at Mauthausen. Almost immediately upon his liberation, Wiesenthal realized that he could never return to any semblance of a "normal" life, and, thus, dedicated himself to tracking down those responsible for the holocaust, many of whom - most notably, Adolph Eichmann, the "architect" of The Final Solution - had long since fled to the Americas (mainly Brazil, Argentina and Chile), where they were leading lives of peaceful anonymity under assumed names.
Perhaps his greatest legacy has come in the form of the Simon Weisenthal Center, an organization dedicated to not only preserving the memory of the holocaust for future generations but fighting to eradicate racism, bigotry and prejudice wherever they may rear their ugly heads in the world (Weisenthal was the first person to honor all the non-Jews - i.e. gypsies, homosexuals - who likewise perished in the camps). It is through the efforts of an organization such as this one that any future genocides and holocausts can, hopefully, be averted.
"I Have Never Forgotten You" offers not only a compelling story of a man's life but a fascinating glimpse into the history of the 20th Century, with much of the Nazi-hunting scenarios containing all the suspense and excitement of good detective fiction. Yet, the movie doesn't sugarcoat its subject. It gives voice to some of the people who had challenged Weisenthal over the years, mainly on some of the methods he had employed in tracking down Nazis (interestingly, some felt he had been too relentless, others not relentless enough).
Yet, Weisenthal never saw himself as a hero and intensely disliked having that label applied to him. He always knew that he was just an ordinary man forced to live an extraordinary life by virtue of the role fate had mapped out for him. Haunted by what he had seen and experienced in the death camps, he knew he would never be able to live at ease with his conscience if he had turned his back on the millions of less fortunate individuals who didn't make it out alive and would otherwise have no other voice to speak for them. Thus, despite his own personal modesty and all his protestations to the contrary, he was an extraordinary and inspirational man by any possible measure, a true giant among men. This moving documentary does full justice both to the man and to the giant.
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