Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport

At the end of Into The Arms Of Strangers, Mark Jonathan Harris' moving documentary about the 10,000 Jewish children who fled to foster homes in England during WWII, the titles post a dispiriting reminder of the 1.5 million children who weren't so fortunate. The overwhelming number offers a sense of perspective, but, like Schindler's List, the film is less interested in probing the horrors of the Holocaust than in locating small, redemptive pockets of courage and humanity. Produced with the assistance of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, Into The Arms Of Strangers archives the heartbreaking testimonials of a handful of survivors, now in their 70s but each with vivid memories of the period. In 1933, after immigration laws in England loosened enough to support such an exodus, the émigrés still had a hard time leaving, forced through a bureaucratic maze of sponsorships, visas, and exit permits, all of which had to be attained under strict time constraints. Parents with the foresight and resources to take advantage of the Kindertransport would promise their children that they'd soon follow them, but nearly all the subjects talk about the pain and confusion inflicted by the process. Adjustment to their new lives was difficult, because they not only felt like their parents were pushing them away, but also often resented the adoptive homes that took them in. When the war ended, some of the children (now adults) with surviving family members had trouble reacquainting themselves. Put together in workmanlike fashion by Harris, whose previous effort was the Oscar-winning The Long Way Home, Into The Arms Of Strangers occasionally bullies the audience to tears with precious imagery and maudlin music cues. But at its heart, the individual testimonies are undeniably touching and illuminating. Among the many incredible stories, one woman talks about how her devoted father, unable to watch his only daughter leave from the platform, literally pulled her out the window of the moving train. Later, the same tracks led her to Auschwitz, which she miraculously endured. Her tale speaks to the wrenching sacrifices the parents made, and to the horrific alternative that necessitated them.