The Last Days: A DVD Review

We Must Never Forget

This tightly focused 1998 documentary from executive producer, Steven Spielberg and director, James Moll is extremely powerful and touching. It would be a perfect vehicle to bring home the reality of the holocaust to teenagers and young adults distanced from the tragedy by time. In a little less than an hour and a half, we are introduced to five Hungarian holocaust survivors as well as a former Auschwitz "doctor" and several liberating US soldiers who were among the first outsiders to witness the horror of the concentration camps.

The focus on only five of the survivors gives the viewer an opportunity to get to know each one and to care deeply. We see them now, seemingly recovered and happy in their homes with strong supportive family members, and then we see them returning to the site of their imprisonment, searching for the homes from which they were driven, talking with former neighbors who also remembered the days when the Jewish people were driven from their homes and their towns in Hungary.

In one very strange and puzzling scene, a survivor questions the Nazi doctor about her sister, who had undergone experiments for six months and was then killed. She asks, "Why six months?" He coolly replies, "It was the standard time. You were there. You should know that." Yet, earlier in the film - when not face-to-face with a survivor - he had explained that the reason he was not convicted of crimes was that he and those in his lab had concocted harmless experiments for the purpose of keeping the subjects from being executed. I will always wonder why he did not tell the survivor this and why his attitude was so cool.

It is of particular interest that these survivors were all from the last days of the final solution. This was the period of time at the very end of the war when Hitler knew Germany was defeated and yet, continued to funnel time, energy, money, equipment and man-power into exterminating the Jewish population. In fact, efforts to exterminate the Jews were stepped up during this time; even though, to stop would have helped both the German war effort and Germany’s post-war public image. One survivor marveled that killing Jews was more important to Hitler than winning the war.

As the survivors recount their arrests, their experiences of being lied to, stolen from, transported like abused livestock, starved, it is hard to understand how all this could have happened, and it is important to realize that it happened in increments. One survivor says that, at first the changes happened so slowly and in such little steps that they were easy to accept. Then, as they escalated, people had become used to having rights stripped away and being forbidden to do one thing and another, so they just said, "Well, it is just one more thing."

The film of the camps and prisoners is heartbreaking and wrenching. The horror of the sheer numbers of starved, suffering and dying people staggers the imagination. The people who were subjected to these horrors could not possibly have imagined what awaited them. That any human could stand by and allow this to happen or make it happen is beyond belief, and yet it is true.

This documentary and the many, many hours of testimony gathered by the Shoah Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg, must be widely viewed by all people, everywhere. We must never forget that this horrifying and tragic event in history did, indeed, happen and that it could happen again. In the face of the huge amount of documentation available, the assertions of Holocaust deniers are ridiculous, terrifying, and insane - much the description many applied to Hitler and the Nazis before WWII.

For the safety of all people the world over, we must never forget.

I give this important documentary 5 Stars.

Thanks! :)

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Comments 6 comments

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

Suzanne, that must have been very difficult to watch.

When the doctor didn't tell the survivor that he was trying to save lives by prolonging the "experimentation", maybe he was trying to avoid making excuses for himself for something there cannot possibly be any excuse for. It's very hard to understand all the ethical issues involved, and different cultures deal with them differently. Modesty and the stiff-upper lip are not common in American culture, so sometimes foreigners get perceived by Americans as "cold and unfeeling", even in a documentary such as this. Very hard to really know what is going on inside a person.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 6 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, yes, and also, maybe they just didn't show that part! It could have been edited out. His demeanor was very different when he was talking with the survivor than it was when he was being interviewed.


JBunce 5 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

I remember watching this theatrically when it came out. It still stirs up emotions as strongly as when I first saw it. Amazing film and great review. Thanks.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Oh, absolutely, and it always should. The day we become desensitized to this terrible chapter in history is the day we lose our sense of humanity altogether. We must never forget and never make less of the Holocaust than it was. Thanks for your comment!


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Suzanne, why havent I seen this, I read a lot about the holocaust and have a friend who's mother and father were survivors.

Wonder why Hitler hated Jewish people? I guess he was just evil.

These kinds of things hurt my heart.

But your hub is great and everyone needs to read it, so we never forget.

Voted up, UAI and shared.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 2 years ago from Texas Author

Hitler's mother was a servant of a wealthy Jewish family. Apparently, Hitler was the product of an illicit affair between his mother and a male member of the family, or perhaps he was the product of rape. This might explain his apparent hatred for the Jewish people; however, they were not the only group he wanted to eliminate. He essentially wanted to eliminate all non-Aryans; even though, he was not Aryan himself. And of course, he did kill himself in the end. I believe the root of his motivation for all of his actions was really self hatred.

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