The Last Days

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What happened to Hungarian Jews in 1944 only emphasises the hatred that fuelled the Final Solution. German troops were retreating, as the Allies advanced through Southern Europe. The Nazi response was to hasten deportation. "It was more important to them to kill the Jews than winning the war," one of the survivors said.

James Moll's Oscar-winning documentary concentrates on three women and two men from different backgrounds, all of whom prospered in the US after the war.

They articulate to interpreters a shared memory. Moll takes them back to their homes, or where their homes once were, and to the camps, which have been preserved as historic sites. It is a deeply emotional experience.

They tell their stories in a clear, pragmatic manner. The horror has dissipated over the years, as more recent examples of attempted genocide dominate TV screens. The Last Days brings it back with a vengeance, because Moll's treatment is so personal.

Two or three trains a day arrived at Auschwitz. The victims were packed so tight into gas chambers that their bodies stayed upright when the doors opened. The burning pits were fuelled by human fat and the crematoriums never stopped. Those who were not gassed, starved. Some preferred to end it themselves. The guards hated that. "For every suicide they took 100 people and killed them in front of us."

It was beyond understanding. One of the survivors remembers thinking, "What is happening here? Where is God?" Anger is futile. There are no answers. Even forgiveness rings hollow against the enormity of the crime. A film such as this bears witness and for that alone, as well as the achievement of four years work, deserves to be seen.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The Last Days packshot
Documentary talks to Hungarian Jews about the Holocaust.
Amazon link

Director: James Mol

Year: 1998

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Fateless
The Holocaust Tourist
KZ