Film Guide Alicia McGivern

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					                             Into the Arms of Strangers

Into the Arms of
Film Guide Alicia McGivern

               Into the Arms of Strangers

Into the Arms of                            About the Director                                 The story began with producer
Strangers                                   Mark Jonathan Harris worked as a              Deborah Oppenheimer’s own mother
                                            crime reporter for the Chicago City           who had been transported but who had
Director Mark Jonathan Harris               News Bureau then as an investigative          never spoken about her experiences
UK-USA/B&W, Colour/122 mins/2000            journalist before he began making             in Great Britain and then the United
                                            films. He was co-director of The              States. When she died in 1993,
Crew                                        Redwoods, a short documentary which           Oppenheimer went in search of her
Original Music Lee Holdridge                won the 1967 Academy Award for                story. Having seen Harris’ Academy
Cinematography Don Lenzer                   Documentary Short Subject. He then            award-winning documentary The Long
Editor Kate Amend                           went on to direct three films which           Way Home about Jewish refugees, she
Producer Deboraj Oppenheimer                he refers to as his ‘Jewish trilogy’:         approached him with this project.
Director Mark Jonathan Harris               The Long Way Home (1997) dealt with                She and Harris interviewed
                                            the experience of Jewish refugees             survivors, read testimonies, diaries and
                                            after World War 11 and won the                other written documents located in
                                            1998 Oscar for Documentary, despite           Holocaust institutions around the world.
                                            condemnation by Spike Lee who                 Realising that they couldn’t tell all of the
                                            alleged that the second half of the film      10,000 Kinder (plural of Kind) stories,
                                            was propaganda for the state of Israel;       they decided to show representative
                                            A Dream no More, portrayed Israel             accounts. Focussing on the experiences
                                            more negatively but was never shown;          of twelve survivors, they create the
                                            Into the Arms of Strangers (2000) was         documentary around these survivors’
                                            the third film in the trilogy and it won      memories of leaving their families, living
                                            the Academy Award for Documentary             in Britain and surviving the war. The film
                                            Feature in 2000. Harris also won an           was completed in two years and released
                                            Emmy for writing Unchained Memories:          in US in September 2002. In Germany,
                                            Readings from the Slave Narratives.           it has been distributed to every school
                                                Harris’s approach to casting his          in the country as part of its compulsory
                                            films is to first interview many people,      Holocaust education programme.
                                            and then to choose from those whose                There have been many films based
                                            stories come across well on camera. He        on the Holocaust, but in recent times
                                            and producer Oppenheimer used this            there has been a shift from describing
                                            approach for Into the Arms of Strangers and   the horrors of camps to telling heartfelt
                                            selected twelve subjects from the many        stories of survivors or of those who
                                            people they interviewed. The director         took great risks to rescue people. Such
                                            has also written children’s books and he      films include Life is Beautiful/La Vita
                                            lectures at the University of Southern        è Bella, Roman Polanski’s The Pianist
                                            California. Recent projects include The       and Schindler’s List. Into the Arms of
                                            Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing      Strangers has no particular heroes but
                                            (2004) and a TV documentary, The              Oppenheimer and Harris have created
                                            Boomer Century (2007).                        a moving and powerful documentary
                                                                                          about this largely unknown subject.
                                            Into the Arms of Strangers – Stories of the   The Interviewees
                                            Kindertransport is a documentary film         The ‘Kinder’
                                            about the transportation of Jewish children   Lorraine Allard from Bavaria;
                                            from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia            transported aged 14. Lived with
                                            and Poland to Britain. This took place           same foster family until 18 when
                                            during the nine months before the Second         she joined the Auxiliary Territorial
                                            World War (1939-45) as part of a rescue          Service to serve during the war.
                                            operation known as the Kindertransport           Both parents died at Auschwitz, she
                                            (Kind = child in German).                        died aged 76.

                                                                                      Into the Arms of Strangers

Lory Cahn from Breslau; had boarded           they emigrated to US. Lives in            Jack Hellman from Germany;
   the train to leave but was pulled off      New York and was past president of           was sent to boarding school
   by her father. Deported with her           the KTA1.                                    aged nine and the housemother
   parents to Theresianstadt, then she     Alexander Gordon from Germany;                  wrote to Baron de Rothschild
   was sent to Auschwitz. Moved to            lived in an orphanage from age               asking him if he would take in
   different camps but released from          of seven to sixteen. Farmworker              twenty-six children, her husband,
   Bergen-Belsen weighing 56 pounds.          – planed to move to Palestine                herself and two daughters.
   Her mother died in Auschwitz but           but instead he went on the                   Jack persuaded de Rotschild to
   her father survived. Lives in US.          Kindertransport, but because of              provide a work permit for his father
Hedy Epstein from Germany; sent               age, he was arrested and interned            and they spent two years in Britain
   to London at 14, lived with two            in June 1940. Shipped to Australia           before emigrating to US.
   different families. Returned to            on Dunera, interned for a year               Died August 2001.
   Germany after the war to search            then returned to Britain to join          Bertha Leverton from Germany;
   for her parents and found out they         the Pioneer Corps and served until           the oldest of a Polish Jewish
   had died at Auschwitz. Lives in US.        1947. Lives in US.                           family. Went on Kindertransport
   Published a memoir in Germany           Eva Hayman from Czechoslovakia;                 with brother at aged sixteen.
   about her experiences.                     left aged fifteen with her younger           Was taken in by family to be a
Kurt Fuchel from Vienna; lived there          sister and spent two years in                maid along with her brother
   till seven and then transported to         boarding school before taking up             and younger sister. Organised the
   Norwich where he lived with the            nursing. Wrote wartime memorial,             50th and 60th Anniversary Reunion
   Cohen family until he was sixteen.         By the Moon and the Stars telling            of the Kindertransport. She compiled
   Parents escaped to south of France.        her story up to 1945, the day she            a collection of 250 memoirs of the
   Family reunited in 1947 and lived          learnt her parents had died. Lives in        transport entitled, I came alone.
   together in France until 1956 when         New Zealand.                                 Lives in London.

                                               Kindertransport Association 1nc

                  Into the Arms of Strangers

                                                                                         Norbert Wollheim from Germany,
                                                                                           began organising Kindertransport in
                                                                                           Berlin at aged 25. Escorted several,
                                                                                           but returned to Germany each
                                                                                           time. Deported to Auschwitz with
                                                                                           wife and son. He alone survived
                                                                                           his family of 70. Sued German
                                                                                           manufacturer IG Farben for
                                                                                           forced labour in camp. Settlement
                                                                                           established fund of 6.43m to
                                                                                           compensate other forced labourers.
                                                                                           Died November 1998 aged 85, five
                                                                                           weeks after interview for film.

                                                                                         Historical Context
                                                                                         The Kindertransport took place during
                                                                                         the nine months leading up to the
                                                                                         outbreak of World War Two. Europe
                                                                                         at this time was an unstable place,
                                                                                         still suffering the effects of World
Ursula Rosenfeld from Germany;                    County Down. Both parents              War One. Germany was particularly
   father died at Buchenwald. Lived               survived the war. He emigrated         unsettled, having to abide by the Treaty
   in orphanage in Hamburg and                    to New York after the war to join      of Versailles. The country’s economy had
   then transported with her sister.              his mother. Has written extensive      begun to recover during the 1920s, only
   Taken in by widow in Brighton, her             educational material on Jewish         to be hit again by the 1929 Depression.
   mother did not survive the war. She            history, serves on KTA Board.          It was in this climate that the Nazi Party
   remained in England.                                                                  (National Socialist German Workers’
Inge Sadan from Germany;                       Parents                                   Party), which Adolf Hitler joined in
   transported to Coventry aged nine           Mariam Cohen, foster mother to Kurt       1919, began to gather a following. In
   after her elder sister had persuaded           Fuchel; has a son John. Husband died   their rhetoric they promised to rebuild
   a foster family to sponsor her. Five           1963. Still lives in Norwich where     Germany, blaming ethnic minorities,
   difficult years with foster family,            Kurt visits regularly.                 particularly the Jews, for the nation’s
   sister and brother, till parents            Franzi Grossman, mother of Lore           ills. When Hitler became Chancellor in
   arrived. Lives in Jerusalem, edited            Segal. She and husband joined          1933, he began to dismantle democracy
   a book of Israeli Kinder memories.             Lore in England in 1939, worked as     and proclaimed himself ‘Führer’ of an
   Organised reunion.                             domestic couple during the war.        authoritarian new regime.
Lore Segal - Austrian; aged ten                   Lives in same apartment building as          The Jewish population became a
   during Anschluss and transported               daughter and has breakfast with her    target for this intolerant government.
   to Dovercourt Camp where                       every day.                             They represented one percent of
   she wrote letters to relatives.                                                       the population in Germany but they
   Eventually her parents got a                Rescuers                                  were German citizens and enjoyed
   domestic service visa. Came to              Nicholas Winton, stockbroker              equal rights. Many of them served in
   Liverpool. Wrote a novel, Other                from London. Aged 29 when he           the army during WW1. Yet despite
   People’s Houses about living with              visited refugee camps in Prague        this, anti-Semitism was prevalent
   five different British families during         full of refugees from the annexed      in Germany and in Poland where
   the war. Lives in New York in same             Sudetenland. This prompted him         over 3 million Jews lived. Then the
   building as her mother.                        to try to save children. Brought       government passed a series of laws
Robert Sugar from Austria; left aged              664 Czech children over in nine        that would restrict Jewish people from
   eight and sent to Jewish refugee               months before war. Awarded MBE,        equal participation in society. Limits
   hostel in Belfast and then to refugee          Freedom of City of Prague, Rotary      were placed on the number of Jewish
   farming settlement in Millisle,                Service above Self Award.              children who could attend German

                                                                                          Into the Arms of Strangers

schools (1933). The Nuremburg laws           The Kindertransport                             Britain and lists were made of those
(1935) followed and affected citizenship,    After a Cabinet debate following an             children who were deemed most
employment, relationships, marriage          appeal by a group of British Jewish             vulnerable such as children in camps,
and the biological designation of Jewish     leaders some days after Kristallnacht,          Polish children, children in orphanages
people. Between July and December            it was agreed Britain would accept              etc. The first transport departed from
1938, a series of discriminatory laws        unaccompanied children under the                Berlin on December 1st, 1938 and
were passed, all of which restricted         age of 17. The movement of children             from Vienna on December 10th. The
rights and access for Jewish people.         was organised and funded by a non-              last group left the Netherlands on May
These included: compulsory identity          denominational organisation called the          14th, 1940. In 1939 Senator Robert
cards for over 15’s (1938), naming of        Movement for the Care of Children               Wagner and Edith Rogers proposed a
children (1938) from a government list,      who had to ensure that children could           bill that would allow 20,000 children
a ban on attendance of theatre, cinema,      not become a financial burden on the            emigrate from Germany to the
concerts and forced payment for              state. The Movement, later known as             US. However, the bill was resisted
damages caused during Kristallnacht 2 .      the Refugee Children’s Movement set             strongly by different representatives
Jewish children were expelled from           up systems in Germany and Austria               and groups and was not passed. In
public schools and forbidden entrance        for organising the transport. Later             total, approximately 10,000 children
to German universities. These laws           trains left from Prague and Poland too.         were transported to Britain in the
contributed to the degradation of the        A call went out for foster homes in             Kindertransport.
Jewish population and their systematic
and legalised abuse.
    Not only Jews were persecuted.
Groups including Roma, homosexuals,
communists, political dissidents and Sinti
were also targeted. The Nazi Party’s goal
of achieving a ‘pure’ Aryan race meant
that groups such as these and Jews were
perceived to weaken the race.
    The appeasement policy of other
European countries enabled Hitler
to build up the army again, in breach
of the Treaty of Versailles, to annex
Austria 3 and then to march into
Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Jewish
people in these countries were then
subject to the same anti-semitic laws.
Although forced emigration did offer
a way of escape, many did not want to
leave their homes and families. They
weren’t allowed bring any valuables
with them and it was difficult to
find a country willing to take them
in. At an international conference
to discuss the problem, only the
Dominican Republic offered to accept
more refugees from all the countries
present, many of which were still
suffering the effects of WW1. Despite
the brutal events of Kristallnacht
which were reported internationally,
most countries including Ireland did
not open their doors.

                                                 Brutal anti-Jewish pogrom on night of November 9-10, 1938
                                                 The ‘Anschluss’, 1938
                   Into the Arms of Strangers

Separated Children
in Ireland
For several years now, people escaping
persecution, torture, war and other
situations have been coming to Ireland
to seek asylum. Over 4,500 separated
children have arrived here 4 from many
countries including Nigeria, Somalia,
Afghanistan, DR Congo. Separated
children are officially defined5 as
children under 18 years of age who
are outside their country of origin
and separated from both parents
or their previous legal/customary
primary caregiver. They are entitled
to international protection. Despite
Ireland’s obligations under the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child
irrespective of their status, reports
have shown that separated children              There has been a huge resurgence in the         for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11,
are often invisible and not in receipt          popularity of non-fiction filmmaking and        whose tabloid approach combined
of care equal to that of children who           what was often considered an outmoded           with his own reputation undoubtedly
are regarded as citizens. Since 2001,           and minority interest is now recognised         influenced his film’s box office appeal.
some 316 separated children seeking             as a viable product for producers and           But just when we thought the brash
asylum have gone missing from state             distributors. This current enthusiasm           filmmaker inserted into almost every
care 6, showing how easily they could           for non-fiction stands in contrast with         scene was defining the contemporary
fall between the cracks in residential          ratings-conscious TV channels who are           documentary, along comes former US
institutions. Now, new safety standards         producing less serious documentary but          presidential hopeful Al Gore with An
have been introduced in centres                 are churning out more of what is termed         Inconvenient Truth a film that resembles
housing asylum-seeking children. In             ‘reality tv’. Yet what is documentary if        a powerpoint presentation of his global
their report on Separated Children, the         it is not ‘real’? Traditionally regarded as     warming lecture. Audiences queue up
Irish Refugee Council, which is the focal       the difference between depiction of the         and the American Academy nominates
point for SCEP in Ireland, points out           ‘real’ ie. truth as opposed to the ‘unreal’     him for Best Documentary.
that Ireland has an obligation to cherish       ie. fiction, it is difficult to reach a clear        It is difficult, therefore, to clearly
all children equally.                           definition of the form when we look at          define the documentary film today.
                                                today’s ‘reality’ e.g. Big Brother or I’m a     Looking back at the history of film, we
Documentary                                     Celebrity with their staged environments        can see that filming reality has always
Into the Arms of Strangers can be               and financial incentives or today’s fiction     been an indefinite science. The earliest
categorised as a documentary film.              e.g. The Queen.                                 films shown in cinema, those of the
Typically, a documentary film would                   On the one hand, many of the              Lumière Brothers, were of workers
get a small release and be shown on             so-called reality programmes have               leaving a factory or a train arriving at a
the arthouse and film festival circuit.         borrowed from documentary. On the               station. So real did this latter episode
In recent years, however, several               other, the narrative style of some of           appear to the untrained audiences
documentary films such as Bowling               the hit documentaries has obviously             that they allegedly leapt from their
for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, An              been influenced by fiction filmmaking.          seats. In America, the travelogue
Inconvenient Truth and Touching the Void        And then there’s Michael Moore,                 defined the non-fiction film for some
have enjoyed major box office success.          director of the award-winning Bowling           time and perhaps this echoes the

                                                  Report: Irish Refugee Council, December 2006
                                                  The Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) which was established in 1997 in
                                                  response to the increased arrival of separated children in Western Europe
                                                  The Separated Children in Ireland,

                                                                                           Into the Arms of Strangers

enthusiasm for the nature documentary        (i) ‘Lecture style’ – a disembodied             Columbine, Michael Moore was criticised
today. Pioneering filmmaker Robert                voice directs our attention to what        for obviously harassing Charlton
O’Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922)           is important, such as Judi Dench in        Heston to prove his own point, and
and Man of Aran (1935) were regarded              Into the Arms od Strangers. Producer       for manipulatively quoting statistics,
as groundbreaking in their use of film            Oppenheimer and director Harris            often out of context. Yet his films
for ethnographic and anthropological              wanted a voice that would be               made a powerful impact and raised all
purposes. Yet the issue of reality arose          recognised as ‘English’ and safe.          kinds of questions about the American
in relation to his work when it was               Dench’s status as a well-known             gun lobby or the elections, which he
subsequently revealed that he staged              and respected actor adds to the            continues to tackle on his website.
certain events such as seal-hunting with          seriousness of the material. Similarly          When reality TV programme,
spears, a long-outdated practice among            the use of Morgan Freeman’s voice          Big Brother, provokes race questions
the Inuit, for his documentary Nanook             in The March of the Penguins brings a      in Westminster, we might rightfully
of the North. Russian filmmaker Dziga             certain gravitas to the story of the       question the nature of the ‘reality’
Vertov inserted an aesthetic and                  penguins’ journey as well as adding        which such programmes purport to
political sensibility into his filmmaking         to the film’s appeal.                      represent. Technology has made it
with Man with the Movie Camera (1929),       (ii) Observational, ‘fly on the wall’           possible for us to film or see all aspects
again prompting questions about the               – the camera observes with as little       of life – ‘live’. Filming the ‘real’ has never
‘reality’ that he was showing. The work           intrusion as possible. Originating         been so easy or accessible but it has
of British filmmaker John Grierson                in the 1960s as Direct Cinema, it          also never been so potentially abusive
offered social commentary on life in              was facilitated by the development         of privacy and human rights. Perhaps in
Britain during the 1930s and 40s and              of new lightweight cameras.                these days of ‘reality’ overkill, the job
aimed to educate the people in political          Nowadays, mobile phone cameras             of the documentary filmmaker to reveal
democracy. In Ireland, the Radharc                make this a readily available form of      truth has never been more crucial.
team created many documentaries                   documenting.
for television that offered viewers an       (iii) ‘Reflexive’ – The filmmaker               Kindertransport as
insight into various social issues both at        makes the audience aware of the            Documentary
home and overseas.                                actual process of filmmaking – in          Unlike some of the highly successful
     Television channels today are filled         other words ‘how’ the documentary          documentaries mentioned, Into the
with various versions of ‘reality’, which         is constructed. To this definition         Arms of Strangers is a fairly conventional
have merged aspects of documentary                could be added the performative            film, combining news footage and
filmmaking making definition even more            mode, made familiar to us through          photography with interviews. Harris
difficult. Consider a TV programme                the work of Michael Moore and              and Oppenheimer’s aim was to reflect
such as The Office: it may look the same          also Nick Broomfield (Biggie and           the full range of Kinder experience.
as a docu-soap (documentary soap)                 Tupac, In this World). Both of these       Obviously with limited time, they had
on office conditions but it relies on             filmmakers insert themselves               to make choices from among the many
the viewer’s interpretation to identify           very obviously into the film and           people they spoke to for their film so
its mockumentary status. Or take the              comment directly on the material           they endeavoured to select stories that
ubiquitous docudrama, in which real               they are filming or presenting to us.      would be representative. They used no
events such as crimes or miscarriages                                                        actors. The film is logically sequenced
of justice are recreated for the             Ethics                                          around interviews that follow a ‘before’
purposes of illustration or argument.        One of the key questions that arise             ‘during’ and ‘after’ transportation of
In choosing to represent reality, the        frequently in relation to documentary           the Kinder. However, compiling the
film and programme makers carefully          filmmaking is that of ethics – both in          series of interviews with footage and
select what to show, how to edit, and        terms of the viewer but also in terms           documentation was not just a matter
what techniques will contribute to the       of the interviewees or the presentation         of editing them together. Through
particular reality they wish to convey.      of material. RTÉ’s programme series,            skilful editing and the use of voiceover
     But despite these variants, as the      Asylum, received praise but also                and soundtrack, they create a certain
documentary form continues to evolve         censure for its representation of               mood and atmosphere which may
we can observe certain methods and           the realities of Portrane Hospital in           evoke feelings in the viewer. They also
styles that prevail in the portrayal and     which residents were often depicted             add some cutaways and digital video to
representation of reality:                   in a very vulnerable way. In Bowling for        illustrate particular points.

                    Into the Arms of Strangers

                                                 like the sky one might see from a train       horrific nature of events of that night,
                                                 window – each interviewee is shown            November 9th 1938, is conveyed.
                                                 against a different shade of blue. The film   Actions such as marching are shown,
                                                 continues to cut between interviews and       but incompletely. Certain subjective
                                                 footage creating the effect of a window       items such as stairs, boots, clock are
                                                 onto their childhood. When the third          picked out as the camera moves around
                                                 interviewee tells us that she did not         the rooms. A photo of synagogue
                                                 know what she and her father were             objects reminds viewers who the
                                                 protecting their other family members         victims were. To add to the power of
                                                 from, the film cuts to footage of Hitler,     this scene, colour footage of looted
                                                 accompanied by a roaring crowd.               shops destroyed with the ‘Jude’ sign
                                                      This combination of footage, stills,     is added and the voiceover recounts
                                                 colour photography merging with               the worldwide revulsion that was felt
                                                 black and white, voiceover, orchestral        following newspaper reports, revealed
                                                 and choral soundtrack and to camera           through headlines.
                                                 interviews all combine to establish
                                                 the mood of memory and nostalgia              Final Note
                                                 that underlies the complete film. The         Into the Arms of Strangers is a powerful
                                                 sequence is fast-paced, we are offered        film that delves into the collective
                                                 glimpses of memory just as they might         memory of a group of children spared
                                                 crop up. Despite the quantity and             the horrors of the Second World War
                                                 range of images, however, the sequence        due to the far-sighted intervention
                                                 is carefully structured so that the           of some well-meaning adults.
Style                                            ‘beginning’ of the documentary and the        Individual eyewitness accounts in this
Opening Scene                                    Kindertransport is firmly established.        documentary build up a picture of the
From the opening scene of the film,                                                            initial difficulties facing Jewish families in
which is in colour, it is clear that this is     Kristallnacht                                 Germany and Nazi-controlled Europe,
a film of memory, from a child’s point of        This scene begins with the voiceover          the journey to sanctuary in another
view. The camera tracks over artefacts           telling us about the Nazi pogrom              country and the time spent in these
from a German childhood: books and               against a background of marching Nazis        host countries. The film allows us to
toys that evoke a sense of nostalgia.            and street scenes, on which buildings         question our own attitudes to refugees,
Piano music plays in the background.             are covered in Nazi flags and banners.        our responsibilities to children and
An adult voice speaks: ‘I still have             Sound is distorted and sound effects          young people and to all vulnerable
dreams and certain things come back’             exaggerate the marching and crashing          group fleeing persecution at home.
which reinforces the idea that we                of glass. Footage is slowed down to
are seeing and hearing recollections.            create a more ominous impression,             Further Information
When a train is shown pulling into a             then with use of digital video, the           Into the Arts of Strangers:
station, it changes to black and white.          camera swirls around a spiral staircase       Stories of the Kindertransport:
Children’s voices can be heard singing           moving upstairs to reveal a skylight.
above a montage of childhood photos. A           A voice over reveals ‘I had a dream’
voiceover then interjects commentary             and recollections of fathers’ actions         Kindertransport Association:
about the period. Then, to confirm this,         are narrated against photographs of 
the first interviewee appears, speaking          different men, desperate to save their
to camera against a blue background.             families from the Nazi’s brutality. In        United States Holocaust
The filmmakers’ intention with the               this, one of the more stylised scenes         Memorial Museum
background was that it would appear              of the film, a sense of the chaotic and


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