Anything ever told or seen about the horrors visited upon innocent Jews by the Nazis is of course difficult to watch, but hearing first-hand accounts is emotionally gruelling, but so necessary; lest we forget.
This film, made to mark Passover, told the incredible story of survival of four polish Jews who, after several feats of almost miraculous escapes from death, found themselves in the Lake District, building their lives from the physical and emotional rubble that the war left behind.
The stories of Jack, Minia, Arek and Ben were all deeply touching. There really aren’t sufficiently expressive adjectives to describe the horrors they’d overcome, the adversities they’d faced and the sheer joie de vivre that these octogenarians eventually came to know.
We heard from Jack how, on the brink of death from starvation, he’d found an old, hard, wizened pea in a bombed out engineering works building, and how he’d “split it into four portions so it would last longer.”
But he added with an innately humorous chuckle that peas weren’t, actually, his favourite food.
Minia described how, battling with tuberculosis, she’d managed to be quick witted enough – and with help from fate it would seem – to avoid the gas chambers repeatedly.
She spoke eloquently and with a depth of emotion that the passing of over 60 years belied – so fresh in her mind were the memories – so that as she spoke, I felt as though I might’ve been there with her.
But of course, no amount of description can ever relay the full story, and it’s clear that some memories caused wounds so deep, they’re never likely to fully heal.
Arek and Ben’s stories were equally as moving as they too relayed a story of remarkable survival against the odds, and the desperate tragedy that saw millions of their peers going to unspeakably horrendous deaths.
The archive footage was disturbing too, but of course there is far worse out there, and yet worse in the memories of the survivors too. However, knowing that didn’t stop my nausea as we saw black and white footage of wide eyed, emaciated children and brutalised elderly men and women.
But as hard to watch as films of this nature are, I believe it can’t do any harm to be reminded of man’s inhumanity to man. And at a time when gluttony features large as part of a celebration – as is the wont of Easter of course – it also does no harm to remember how lucky we are that our children are here and safe to enjoy that excess.
If you missed this film, you can catch it here on iPlayer, and it’s a truly valuable piece of work.