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Documentary Review: Destination Unknown

Destination-UnknownAs the years march on, the voices of Holocaust survivors continue to dwindle and fade. Destination Unknown offers a resounding rebuke to the growing silence, by sharing the stories of those still able to tell them. The narrators' faces may be aged, but their anguish is still fresh, adding an extra dimension of poignancy to humanity's greatest horror.

In this documentary, produced in association with the USC Shoah Foundation, we meet a dozen survivors. A few you may have heard of, such as Helen Sternlicht, the concentration camp housemaid whose rescue was famously recounted in the movie Schindler's List. Most of the people profiled, however, are unfamiliar, which doesn't make their tales any less gripping.

There's Eli Zborowski, who gasped for air in a cellar hideout, and Frank Blaichman, who left his family to their deaths and became a partisan fighter. ("Did I do the right thing or not?" he asks the camera—and himself.) Eddie Weinstein slipped out of Treblinka on a train, hiding under a pile of plundered clothing. He is one of only a handful known to have escaped the camp, where some 870,000 people perished.

'Escaped,' however, is a relative term here. Many of the survivors admit to being haunted, if not tortured, by the horrors they witnessed and the losses they endured. "I could forget what I had for breakfast this morning," admits former Mathausen internee Marsha Kreuzman, now in her 90s, "but I will never forget what happened for the five and a half years [I spent] in the concentration camp." Ed Mosberg, a fellow Mathausen survivor, resignedly shares that "the pain is wherever I am, because I feel the pain every single day."

Yet there are uplifting moments too, such as when Helen Sterlicht remembers Oscar Schindler's heroism and reminds us that "we have a choice." Eli Zborowski, recalling those who risked their lives to hide him, marvels, "These people were really angels and not human beings." Eddie Weinstein offers up his own answer to Hitler—the smiling face of a beautiful granddaughter.

The film had its theatrical debut in New York on November 10th.

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