Week of December 26, 2001

Dec 26, 2001 at 4:00 am
Sunday Afternoon Film Series. The Holocaust Museum and Learning Center hosts a monthly series of movies relating to the Holocaust. This month features Mark Jonathan Harris' Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. This totally absorbing feature-length documentary focuses on a little-known chapter in the bleak history of the second world war: the massive effort by Britain to get 10,000 Jewish children out of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia and into English foster homes before the start of war. England was the only nation willing to take in "the kinder" (the U.S. Congress rejected a similar proposal). Written and directed by Harris (an Oscar winner for the Holocaust-themed documentary The Long Way Home) and produced by Deborah Oppenheimer (no relation to this reviewer), Into the Arms of Strangers is an exceptional work consisting of extraordinary archival footage. Old newsreels and miraculously preserved home movies reveal prewar Germany through a child's eyes: a prosperous nation of crowded shops and busy streets, filled with ice skating and merry-go-rounds, birthday parties and family outings. The stories told by the kinder are harrowing: the little girl whose father could not bear to lose her and pulled her out of the train's window as the kindertransport left the Berlin station; the child who, once in London, marched up to Baron Rothschild's front door and begged him to get her parents out of Germany (he did). Although grateful to be taken in, the children experienced terrible cultural shock and a never-ending anguish over being separated from their families. An elderly woman recalls the day she bid her parents farewell and boarded the train. Fifty years later, she still dreams of that day. "I wake up and, as old as I am, I am still sobbing." This emotionally resonant film stands out as one of the most quietly powerful films ever made about the Holocaust. Hedy Epstein, a St. Louis Holocaust survivor of the kindertransport who is featured in the film, provides an introduction. Plays at 2 p.m. Dec. 30 at the Holocaust Museum. (JO)