Jay Handelman, in Arts Sarasota and in Herald Tribune, April 18, 2012
Perhaps I was setting myself up for my reactions to Rob Cohen’s documentary “Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald.” I watched it just a few hours after returning from a visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, so my emotional state was already raw. It added a more personal exclamation point to the day.
Even without such a backdrop, “Kinderblock 66″ is a moving testament to
the human spirit that survived unimaginable experiences at the German
prison camp and those who went on to live relatively healthy and productive
lives. At the same time, it adds new perspective to a long line of films that
have captured the sadly dwindling voices of survivors of the Holocaust,
revealing how a large group of young men survived their time at Buchenwald
thanks to the efforts of an underground resistance movement operating at
The film, which has its American premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival April 20 and 22, is built around four survivors of what came to be known as Kinderblock 66, an area of Buchenwald that was designated for the roughly 2,000 teenage boys and young men who were separated from their families and sent to the camp. The film relates the persuasive stories of Antonin Kalina, a Czech communist prisoner, who pushed for separating the
boys as a way to protect them from the beatings and likely death they would otherwise face by guards at the camp. Though some challenged the wisdom, it turned out to be a smart move. Of the 2,000 that were sent to Buchenwald, more than 900 survived.
The four survivors — Alex Moskovic (father of executive producer Steven Moskovic), Israel Lazar, Naftali-Duro Furst and Pavel Kohn — are shown receiving small video phones to record their initial thoughts as they prepare to return to Buchenwald in April 2010 for ceremonies surrounding the 65th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. And then returning to Germany where they faced uncertain emotions and meeting fellow survivors.
We learn about their lives, their families and their memories of the camp,both through their own video recordings and well-chosen archival footage that gives you a feeling of what they experienced there. It features an impressive array of experts on the Holocaust, including Ken Waltzer, Jewish Studies director at [Michigan State University], and officials from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. It’s a film filled with personal reflections, but it also serves as convincing argument to support the inclusion of
Kalina among the Righteous Among the Nations, a list of non-Jews who have been proven to have selflessly worked to save Jews during the Holocaust at Yad Vashem. It could take years, but the voices heard clearly in this film, point to Kalina as a man worth of being included with Oskar Schindler and far less prominent but no less
Holocaust-related films can be difficult to watch for some. “Kinderblock 66″ makes its impact in gentle, if occasionally disturbing, but meaningful ways.
“Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald” will be shown at the Sarasota Film Festival” at 4:45 p.m. April 20 and 12:30 p.m. April 22. Regal Hollywood 20 Cinemas, 1993 Main St., Sarasota. “Kinderblock 66 will be shown at UM-Flint at 7:00 pm April 25, in the University Kiva…..