Tag: holocaust survivors

No Place on Earth

April 11th, 2013 — 6:30pm


No Place on Earth – sp Just as you think that you have seen every type of Holocaust film, a movie such as this one comes along. It not only tells the story of the survival of a group of Ukrainian Jews who hid for 511 days in the world’s deepest caves in the Ukraine but it will push all your buttons when several of them, including a 91 year old energetic gentleman, return with their grandchildren 67 years later to visit the their old, darkened, dingy home which in some places was over 50 feet underground. Film maker Janet Tobias, who has been a producer for 60 Minutes and Prime Time Live, learned about this story when a colleague showed her a National Geographic article that Chris Nicola, a New York State Investigator who has a serious hobby of exploring caves all over the world, had written. Nicola, during one of his vacations, explored this unusual deep gypsum cave in the Ukraine and came across some human artifacts, which included a shoe, a cup, and some buttons. He returned to the area for the next couple of years asking the local people if they knew about where they had come from. Most did not, but one person said it might have something to do with the Jews. Nicola embedded key words in his web sites meant to attract people searching for their genealogy related to the Holocaust and these specific caves.. This ultimately led him to make connections with the actual survivors, most of who were living in Canada. This included Esther Stermer who wrote a book about her experience titled “We Fight to Survive” She said she wrote this book so her grandchildren would know about what they had been through during World war II. Little did she know, thanks to Ms. Tobias and this film, she would actually accompany her grandchildren back to this hidden cave and watch her granddaughter descend into the deepest depths to visit this special place in her family history. This film is actually a modified docu-drama. Part of the film includes getting know several of the survivors as they narrate the film in an articulate at times emotional manner giving us a feel for their fortitude, determination and even their sense of humor. We see how the decision is made by the family matriarch to pack up as much of their belongings as possible and flee to avoid deportation (which would have ultimately led to their extermination). We feel the experience through the eyes of a 70-year-old woman as a 4 and 5 year old. Interspersed with this narration, we witness a reenactment by Hungarian/Ukrainian actors, adults and children as they crawl through barely lit crevices and help us understand what it was like to live there, interacting with each other and risking their lives to bring food to their hiding places. There is one close call after another along with heroism, good luck but most of all the will to live. This combination of a documentary with actual actors was quite an accomplishment to effectively pull off. We knew the people narrating the story survived, but we were still on the edge of our seats. We didn’t quite anticipate the emotional reaction we would have when we saw this band of elderly people return to these caves with their families and could show their grandchildren a place that was truly like no place on earth and their most remarkable survival experience. (2013)

Postscript:  If you are interested in some of the untold stories of survivors of the Holocaust I recommend that you consider reading a remarkable  book which I reviewed about a year ago in my Psychiatry Blog as well as in BookRap.net

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, History, War

Four Seasons Lodge

January 16th, 2010 — 2:51am

Four Seasons Lodge* *
Four Seasons Lodge
– rm – We were drawn to the subject matter and sought out the one theatre showing this movie. It is a documentary about a  group of elderly Holocaust survivors in their 80s and 90s who come together each summer for a vacation in bungalow colony in the Catskills .They greet their old friends with such warmth as they are so glad to see each other once again. They dance to a small live band playing their kind of music. They feel a special kinship for each other for good reason as they share the special experience as survivors. There aren’t many details described about their experience in the camp but the men seem more willing to bring up the subject. One man mentions that the infamous Joseph Mengale experimented on him when he was a child. Another notes how he could never get sick when he was in the camp because that would mean he was sent off to the ovens. He then adds he has continued never to be sick a day of his rather long life, almost as if he is still afraid of the fate that would await him if he slows down. One man became a very accomplished professional soccer player in Germany after the war but felt that his achievements were underplayed in the press because he was Jewish. Two women note that after the war they had no family but each other. They continued to be soul mates during their marriages and now into their old age as widows are dear friends. The aging bungalow colony is facing extinction as the people in charge are planning to sell it but there is a protest from the lodgers. Their determination to see their reunion home be there for whatever additional summers they may have is a metaphor for their ability to survive. The Holocaust and Jewish museums will deliver much more in depth stories and information then was presented here about the Holocaust experience. The people here will probably remind you of relatives you have known. It is important and worthwhile that this slice of the latter part of their lives has been captured. It would be most likely cherished by their families. It is something that the rest of us are glad we have in the closet but probably would not feel a need to recommend that others watch it. (2009)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary

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