Academy award winning films “Schindler”s List” and “Life is Beautiful” both told beautiful, sad and inspirational stories from the Holocaust.
While narrative Holocaust films like these have been seen by a great number of the viewing public, many remarkable documentaries concerning the same topic have not been so widespread in their audience. One of these films is the 2001 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.”
In commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, the Conference on the Holocaust and Celebration of Jewish Arts present this film tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Natural Science Auditorium. Following the film, several local community members who were saved from the Holocaust because of the Kindertransport program will speak about their experiences and take questions.
The film presents the moving and inspirational story of a humanitarian effort that saved 10,000 children from the fate 1.5 million of their peers were unable to escape.
Mark Jonathan Harris” accomplished film is concerned with the “Kindertransport,” a rescue operation that took place shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Great Britain took in over 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia in order to protect them from Hitler, and both Jewish and non-Jewish parents, did all they could to save their children from the dangers they foresaw ahead of them. These children were placed into foster homes and hostels, hoping their real parents would one day meet them in England. In the United States, Congress did not pass a bill that would have allowed similar entry to the young refugees because they decided that “accepting children without their parents is contrary to the laws of God.”
The documentary is composed of original interviews with Kindertransport participants (survivors and foster parents), old newsreels, newspaper and private photos and home movies. All footage is of the highest quality, and it is the mixture of old and new that make the documentary an incredibly moving and riveting piece of work. Academy Award winner Judy Dench”s narration is also of note, bringing a final beautiful touch.
The story of the Kindertransport is not well known, and this film brings the amazing stories to light. In addition to the importance of the subject, the documentary is also absorbing because it is not as simple as it seems. Some Kinders faced very difficult times when reuniting with their original parents after spending years away with new families.
Others were not so lucky to see their families again, and first person accounts show all sides of the War and its aftermath. One especially affecting passage comes from survivor Hedy Epstein, “I think on some level I knew my parents didn”t survive. I just wasn”t ready yet to accept the fact that I no longer had parents that I hadn”t had parents for a long time.”
Student coordinator of the event Courtney Rangen thinks that all should try and see the poignant film, especially following the tragic events of the past months: “I hope this Kristallnacht commemoration will allow our community to find comfort in one of the greatest humanitarian efforts of the past, and simultaneously be an inspiration for each of us to stand up and be counted in the future.” She also points out that the world is faced with a similar situation as the world of the film during World War II, whether “to embrace those who now and in the coming months will no longer have a place to call home or to let indifference take over.”
The film is free for students and $5 for non-students.