Emo­tional re­call of the Holo­caust

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - — Robert Abele

You can’t en­cap­su­late the hor­rors of the Holo­caust in 80 min­utes, but what the 12 in­ter­viewed sur­vivors ac­com­plish in the doc­u­men­tary “Des­ti­na­tion Un­known” is nev­er­the­less a vivid por­trait of geno­cide put into prac­tice, and its ev­er­last­ing ef­fects on the living.

Direc­tor Claire Fer­gu­son, who edited to­gether the tes­ti­mo­ni­als, which were filmed over 14 years by pro­ducer Llion Roberts, man­ages to con­vey a broad can­vas of ex­pe­ri­ence from the mostly Pol­ish sub­jects. All were young when Adolf Hitler’s evil spread, and they range from es­capees and a par­ti­san who fought along­side the Rus­sians to camp pris­on­ers lib­er­ated by Amer­i­cans.

Fam­i­lies wiped out is a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, but in one in­stance, a sur­vivor mi­grates from city to city af­ter the war ends look­ing for any sign of a rel­a­tive, only to make a star­tling dis­cov­ery in south­ern Italy. In an­other in­stance, a cou­ple sep­a­rated is mirac­u­lously re­united.

The Oskar Schindler story is also emo­tion­ally re­told by some of those he saved, as well as by the in­dus­tri­al­ist’s right-hand man, Mi­etek Pem­per, who helped com­pile the fa­mous list of Jewish work­ers sent to Schindler’s enam­el­ware fac­tory, shrewdly re­con­sti­tuted to be made in­dis­pens­able to Ger­many’s war pro­duc­tion ef­fort. (Pem­per in­spired the Ben Kings­ley char­ac­ter in “Schindler’s List.”)

Sur­vival may con­nect these sto­ries, as does pain and sor­row, and yet the home movie col­lage of post­war wed­dings, cel­e­bra­tions, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren at the end sig­ni­fies some­thing too: hu­man­ity’s in­trin­sic need to bal­ance re­mem­brance with re­newal. “Des­ti­na­tion Un­known.” Not rated. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 21 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle Mu­sic Hall, Bev­erly Hills.

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