Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport
In the twilight of 1938 Britain initiated a remarkable rescue mission, opening its doors to over 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia through the joint efforts of the government and various refugee organisations. These kinder were taken in to foster homes and hostels across the country where they waited in the hope of being reunited with their parents. The Second World War meant that the majority were never to see their families again.
Filmmakers Deborah Oppenheimer and Mark Jonathan Harris chronicle the extraordinary rescue operation and the impact it had on the lives of the children who made the journey, as well as the families who were left behind to face the wrath of Hitler and his concentration camps. Focusing on a selection of the survivors of the Kindertransport and individuals who played key roles in the mission, Oppenheimer's film is a powerful and humbling piece that concedes nothing of the horror it covers to production techniques or gimmickry.
Shot straight to camera, survivors of the Kindertransport speak of their stories, experiences and memories. Of what it was like to be eight, ten or fourteen years old, and have their worlds ripped apart as they were packed on to trains with a solitary suitcase and a name tag. Juxtaposed with Harris' own film of smoky railway platforms and ominous storm clouds is archive footage of the devastation inflicted on the communities of Austrian Jews, as Hitler and his SS annexed their country.
After this remarkable film has reached its conclusion these are the scenes that stay longest with you. As the memories are laid out the men and women of the Kindertranport become children again and watching the interviews is akin to catching stolen glimpses from their childhoods. Turbulent and at times horrific pasts, yet ones that still contained much love and dignity.
In relaying new and disturbing footage of the Nazis' devastation, whilst documenting the tremendous loss and pain of the victims, Oppenheimer also succeeds in capturing the power and survival of the human spirit and ultimately that of hope.