Last Days

by Eszter Hargittai on May 9, 2005

Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – was just a few days ago. I thought I would post a note about one of the most difficult films I have ever seen: Spielberg’s “The Last Days”. It documents the final stages of the war when it was clear that Hitler was going to lose yet the Nazis did all that they could to continue to kill as many Jews as possible managing to annihilate over 400,000 Hungarian Jews in just two months. The movie looks at the lives of five Hungarian Jews who escaped to the U.S. and revisits the locations of their past with them. One of the people featured is California Congressman Tom Lantos. The movie is very effective. Although it is impossible to understand fully what these people experienced, this film brings you very close to the events. I did have one problem with it though. It completely ignores the plight of the thousands who returned after the war and had to start their lives over in the country that had taken everything away from them. I am surprised that the movie is rated PG13. Some of the images are among the most disturbing ones I have ever seen, certainly not for the faint of heart.

For some more personal thoughts on Yom Hashoah, check out this post over at Is That Legal?. (Be forewarned: difficult images.)

{ 1 comment }


David All 05.09.05 at 8:14 pm

Thanks, Eszter, that was a powerful piece, both in words and images. The following says more clearly then anything else I have found about the Holocaust.

“There is another reason, of a different kind, why I do not despair of …(the) future. The years I have recalled in this book showed …
the depths of evil of which human beings are capable of in their treatment of each other. But the historic record also shows that even in the worst circumstances, not only in battle but in overcrowded prisons and camps, under torture, in the Resistance, and in the face fo certain death, there was a handful-drawn from every nation-who showed to what heights men and women can rise.
In Jerusalem, the Jewish people have created a memorial museum, Yad Vashem, to remind themselves and the rest of the world of the horrors of the Holocaust. It is impossible to go round it and see the evidence they have collected without emerging overwhelmed and crushed. As you come out, however, you enter an avenue of trees known as the Avenue of the Righteous, every tree in which commemorates someone not Jewish who did not stand aside but risked his or her life to help the Jews in their distress.
I have never forgotten the juxtaposition of the Holocaust Museum and those trees. They remain for me, the double image of those years, the unbelievable cruelty AND the courage, the callousness AND the compassion – the human capacity for evil, but also the reassurance of the possibility of human nobility. More than that, they lay upon those of us who have been fortunate enough to survive an obligation not to forget and not to give up in the face of difficulties.”

-The closing paragraphs of “Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives” by Alan Bullock (1993)

Comments on this entry are closed.