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Destination Unknown is a requiem for lives lost in death camps

Extraordinary documentary Destination Unknown tells the stories of those who witnessed Nazi death camps first-hand

15 June, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Ed Mosberg returns to Treblinka in Destination Unknown

Directed by Claire Ferguson
Certificate 12a

THE names Treblinka, Auschwitz and Mauthausen are now indelibly linked with evil: the towns that lend their names to Nazi death camps have become synonymous with humans’ ability to commit what seem like unimaginable crimes against their own species.

We have to thank Dartmouth Films, the Camden-based film company, for bringing to us an extraordinary documentary that tells the stories of those who witnessed first-hand these places. It is a film that deserves not just to be screened widely but kept for future generations so the stories of those interviewed are never lost and never forgotten.

Destination Unknown is made up of a series of interviews with people who survived the Holocaust. Now in their later years, it is timely that they should be given an opportunity to personalise the mass horror of the 20th century.

Producer Llion Roberts started work on the film in 2003, after meeting the son of a Holocaust survivor. He spent the next 13 years travelling the globe interviewing people who survived.

The film features Ed Mosberg, who has returned to Treblinka to try and understand and never forget what happened. He also persuaded Mietek Pemper, now well known because he helped Oskar Schindler, to talk about his experience – something he had previously not been able to do.

We are given an extraordinary sense of the horrors individuals went through – and how they have had to cope with their survival, knowing what they saw, knowing how many of their friends, relatives, community were murdered.

Some of the lines spoken are just too much to bear: men visiting the spot where they saw their mothers brutally slain, places where they saw people being taken away for the last time.

We hear from those who became partisans, or were hid by others. “Without them we would have lost all hope for humanity,” says one. “They were really angels, someone who God sent down to earth to save humanity.”

Director Claire Ferguson and Llion Roberts back up the interviews with extraordinary footage and pictures, from life in the Polish ghettoes to the world of those who managed to escape.

The utter barbarity of the Holocaust is made personal – it is a requiem for those who lost their lives, and the survivors who had to go on with the knowledge of a community that was slaughtered.

It should also act as a way of reminding us that we must never drop our guard – the Nazis and their horrific mass murder did not come from a vacuum, they did not appear from nowhere: it will steel your resolve to fight bigotry, fight racism, fight ignorance at every turn and make sure that the enduring legacy of those who were lost is that we will not let it ever happen again, to anyone.


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