Over the years, the story of Jewish concentration camps and the atrocities of the Nazi regime have been rich fodder for cinema, in both fiction and documentary filmmaking. It’s a fascinating chapter of human history, and one that rightfully should never be forgotten, especially now as the remaining survivors enter their last years and religious and racial tensions continue to plague global society.
Destination Unknown, a beautiful documentary by Claire Ferguson, reminds us of the very human consequences of The Holocaust. It breaks past iconic associations and events, and exposes with intimacy the private experiences of twelve remarkable survivors. It also highlights with its candid interviews and its title, the fact that for the individuals who lived through the Holocaust, their journey didn’t end with their freedom. As silent witnesses to the worst in human nature, these folks lived with memories and inner demons that haunted them for the rest of their days. The touching interviews and testimonies offered by the twelve survivors in the film truly brings this point home.
The film is kicked off with a charismatic survivor and public speaker, Ed Mosberg who has dedicated himself to passionately spreading awareness of the Holocaust with his wife Cesia. Then it moves on to illuminate the stories of eleven other survivors through first person accounts. We meet a woman who was personally saved by Oskar Schindler, as well as a Jewish rebel who camped in the wilderness to avoid being captured and later fought in a militia. Another survivor tells of his ordeal of being hidden away in the basement and attic of a kindly family throughout the war. Another soul shares his account of being operated on by Nazi doctors while awake. Each story carries a rare perspective, as each of the featured survivors capture a different point of view of the events surrounding the Nazi’s attempt at genocide.
The stories are interwoven with a poetic hand, creating a gorgeous, if heart-breaking tapestry of human suffering and persecution, interrupted by hope, love, and the triumph of living to see the end of the war. Some of the survivors recognize the beauty of the human spirit as they share their love for those who helped them through the ordeal, or in the miracle of finding a loved one still alive after the end of their nightmare. Others share their struggle with the endless psychological damage and guilt of being the ones who lived, when so many died before their eyes. The filmmakers capture a variety of perspectives not just in the differing events that each survivor lived through, but in the contrasting coping mechanisms that each person adopts. Some are joyous of their lives, while others quietly carry a burden of unspeakable pain despite the decades that have passed. One can tell in some of the interviews, that barriers of silence were broken for the first time about particularly heinous incidents. Be warned that there are extremely disturbing recounts of murder and torture in these candid testimonies that are hard to hear.
Captivating and respectful, this documentary is a must see for everybody in our times. Brilliantly crafted and fine-tuned for impact, it leaves the viewer with a strong affection for the twelve people who bravely speak up. By sharing their tales in Destination Unknown, they allow others to help shoulder their burden, at least in spirit and understanding. They are shining beacons that remind us of our responsibility to stand up against hatred and bigotry.
Thank you to all the filmmakers and survivors involved in Destination Unknown.
Thank you for reading,
The Diva Del Mar