Documentaries: After Auschwitz (2017) - Reviewed

After Auschwitz (2017), directed by Jon Kean, is a poignant and emotionally moving documentary that narrates the lives of six women who survived the Nazi concentration camps focusing on their lives following liberation from the camps.

The six women are Eva Beckmann, Rena Drexler, Renee Firestone, Erika Jacoby, Lili Majzner, and Linda Sherman. The narrative of their lives are juxtaposed against their backstory, their experiences following liberation, their decisions to leave for the United States, their assimilation and integration into the fabric of American society, and experiences as public educators giving talks about their experiences as camp survivors.

The filmmaker knits together many visual elements which include first person interviews of the six women, home movies, family photographs, voice-over narration, diverse editing techniques and angle shots to create a compelling film where the past meets the present. The filmmaker brilliantly weaves first-person interviews juxtaposed against archival material spanning their liberation from the death camps to contemporary times which frames and contextualizes the experiences of the six women within an historical context which gives the documentary a depth and complexity. Scenes alternate between the six women reflecting on their liberation from the camps, the return journey home, fending for themselves, and finding nothing was the same, their decisions to leave for America, their experiences integrating and assimilating into American society, having and raising a family, and coming to terms with their traumatic experiences.

It’s a balanced documentary juxtaposing their lives in America against their lives pre and post-liberation in Europe. Their experiences collectively shine a light on the experiences of many survivors of The Shoah and is a painful reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. Some scenes were difficult to watch, leaving me emotional and teary eyed, but my discomfort couldn’t light a match to their lived experiences of the death camps and experiences following liberation. The documentary will leave you speechless, angry, and at a loss for words.

Kean has not only created intimate portraits of these six remarkable women who have triumphed over evil but has created a visual legacy, a painful reminder, to educate future generations in perpetuity of the Nazi genocide committed against European Jewry during World War II.

The documentary has tremendous educational value and can serve as a vehicle to promote social awareness and understanding. I recommend this well-crafted documentary which is deserving of your attention. 

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-Stefan Chiarantano