Ethan Bensinger’s award-winning documentary focuses on personal testimonies of six Holocaust survivors living at Chicago’s Selfhelp Home, a residence for senior citizens. All six of the individuals came of age during the rise of Nazism and the outbreak of World War II, and each was an eyewitness to a distinctive aspect of this tragic era, including the disenfranchisement of German Jews via the Nuremberg Laws, the violence of Kristallnacht, the unlikely refuge offered Jewish refugees in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, the concentration camps at Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, and the ultimate liberation by the Allied forces.
Some of the individuals interviewed were fortunate to arrive in America before the war began – one of the men in the film served as a German-language interrogator in the U.S. Army during the 1940s – while others were only able to emigrate from Europe years after the war ended. Historic still photography and newsreel footage, including very rare color film of a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in pre-war Poland, illustrates each survivor’s personal history.
Although this production does not provide historical insight that has not been previously detailed in the extraordinary surplus of Holocaust-related documentaries, it nonetheless offers an invaluable video record of personal histories by the last generation of Holocaust survivors. As a result, this film is a poignant celebration of the will to survive.