Daniel Nelson

It sometimes seems as though there's nothing left to say about the Holocaust, but of course there always is. Destination Unknown is the latest proof.

Twelve survivors tell their stories and though individually I have heard and seen some of them before - Ed Mosberg, for example, is a persistent campaigner to keep memories alive, dressed in his concentration camp clothes - cumulatively they make a moving, powerful film.

How can it be otherwise? Each story has remarkable elements, of chance, bravery, cruelty, betrayal, generosity, heartbreak, horror, desperation, persistence. To listen to these experiences, see the faces, hear the words, is to wonder at human beings, at our unbelievable capacity for inflicting and resisting suffering.

To survive they hid in Polish forests, fought as partisans or endured forced labour and death camps. And liberation didn't end their problems, as lives were rebuilt in the midst of personal trauma and political chaos.

Even where a story has been previously publicised, like that of Oskar Schindler, listening to the account of a woman who found herself on Schindler's list is still an eye-opener, bringing a startlingly vivid perspective to the rescues.

Film archives, newsreels, old and new interviews, visits to death camps and to villages that were once home, family photos and back-garden Super 8 footage bring the memories to life in this simple film. There's no commentary or explanation beyond the words of the survivors themselves. Their words are devastatingly eloquent but occasionally a context is missing: many of today's children, for example, are aware of Nazi atrocities but know little of the complicity of some of the conquered peoples and nothing of the confusion at the end of the Second World War as peace triggered huge, chaotic movements of people. In addition, the film does not contain new historical evidence or present challenging interpetations of events. Nonetheless, the 14 years of research it took to compile, record and edit these testimonies have not been wasted: it's fascinating and intensely moving.

As Branko Lustig, producer of the film Schindler's List

Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

Image by Destination Unknown

, has said: “This film is the best response to the Nazi solution of the annihilation of the Jewish nation.” 

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