Thursday, May 3, 2018

Movie with Abe: After Auschwitz

After Auschwitz
Directed by Jon Kean
Released April 20, 2018

One of the best ways to ensure that history does not repeat itself is for those who have experienced terrible things to continue telling their stories. Many films have been made about the Holocaust, and as even those who were young children during the Holocaust are now approaching their eighties, it’s more important than ever to capture as much testimony as possible on film and share it with a wide audience so that the expression “never forget” holds true, keeping the memory of those many lost during the Holocaust alive and inspiring the next generation to prevent such atrocities from being perpetrated again in the future.

“After Auschwitz” follows six women who are liberated from concentration camps at the end of World War II, charting their time in Europe immediately afterward, their journeys to the United States, and their eventual settlement in Los Angeles. Each step is a crucial part of their transformation from prisoners all but certain to be forgotten to a life that involves a degree of liberty and happiness that never seemed possible along the way. Through it all, processing what they went through is a never-ending challenge, one that manifests itself in different ways as they try their best to move on and live their lives.

The glamour of life in the United States contrasts sharply with the lack of dignity and inhuman conditions faced by Jews in Nazi Germany, and those comparisons are made frequently throughout this insightful documentary. One survivor, a term that the subjects of this film reject because it doesn’t adequately define their experience and state of mind, recalls the much-covered news story of a three-year-old girl who fell down a well and expresses shock at how much effort was put into saving just one child when everyone turned a blind eye to what was going on during the Holocaust. These women rarely discussed their experiences for years, and only later when it became clear that they needed to educate a new generation did they ease into speaking up about traumatic memories that continue to haunt them.

The use of archive newsreel footage mixed with intimate interviews with all six of these women – Eva Beckman, Rena Drexler, Renee Firestone, Erika Jacoby, Lili Majzner, and Linda Sherman – proves to be extremely effective, allowing them to speak for themselves and to share what they went through, coming from different countries to end up in the same place, achieving remarkable things and sharing what they have learned through it all. The fact that half of them have passed away in recent years makes this film all the more poignant, an important and touching film that truly captures these women and their individual lives.


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