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A Movie Review of the Long Way Home

From Liberation to the Founding of Israel


Group portrait of Jewish youth in a displaced persons camp.

Group portrait of Jewish youth in an unidentified displaced persons camp. Among those pictured are Moshe Braunfeld (lower left) and Leibish Braunfeld (right). They sent this photograph to their sister Elissa in Palestine to prove they were still alive.

(Photo courtesy of the USHMM)

In 1997, the documentary film Long Way Home, narrated by Morgan Freeman, was released. Covering the three-year period following World War II, the film follows the trials and tribulations of Holocaust survivors from liberation to displaced persons camps to the founding of Israel. In 1998, the Long Way Home won an Oscar at the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.

The End of the Holocaust

We have all seen film clips of the Holocaust - seen the gruesome reality of the camps, shuddered with disgust at the piles of dead bodies, grew angry at the inhumanity, and then cheered at liberation. Those that had survived the Nazis' brutality and persecution had been freed - we saw the film clips. All will now be well in the world - right? Wrong.

The story of the Holocaust and its survivors does not end with liberation in 1945. Actually, for survivors, the Holocaust has never ended. This movie, The Long Way Home, continues the story of the survivors during the harrowing, yet heroic and inspirational, period of 1945 to 1948.

The Story

Real film footage and narration opens the long forgotten period of 1945 to 1948. The Long Way Home begins its story at the liberation of the camps. The long awaited day had come; however, their liberators were unprepared both for the sight of so many emaciated, sick people and caring for them.

Giving the freed prisoners access to food, accidentally meant that many prisoners ruptured their stomachs from overeating. Typhus and tuberculosis also spread like wildfire in the freed camps. Thousands died from these ailments after liberation and were buried in mass graves.

Those that survived liberation traveled across Europe, hoping to find their loved ones. Rarely seen images of masses of people show the chaos created by World War II. The population of Europe had been uprooted and millions of people tried to get back to their homes. Jews, however, had no homes to go back to.

The Allies, unable to accommodate so many homeless people, set up displaced persons camps. These were in many ways all too similar to the Nazi's concentration camps. Jews once again found themselves living in barracks and surrounded by barbed wire.

Conditions within these displaced persons camps were deplorable. Hygiene was non-existent and morale was extremely low.

While the world seems to forget these Jewish refugees, Jews around the world rallied in an attempt to create a Jewish state. The Irgun in Palestine was formed. Resistance fighters used guerrilla tactics against the British. The Haganah began to help smuggle Jewish refugees out of Europe. Zionism began to give the Jewish refugees hope.

The struggle to get to to Eretz Israel begins, which was truly a "long way home" for these refugees. They had to convince the world that this was the right place for them to be.

When some Jewish refugees made it to America, many were made to feel shamed about surviving. Most were not able to share their stories of hardship.

Finally in 1948, the struggle against the forces of world politics culminated in the creation of the long-awaited Jewish State.

Who Made the Long Way Home?

The Long Way Home was written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and produced by Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

This outstanding film won the 1998 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. While the film is narrated by Morgan Freeman, much of the audio are clips of actual writing by survivors, read by the voices of Edward Asner, Sean Astin, Martin Landau, Miriam Margolyes, David Paymer, Nina Siemaszko, Helen Slater, and Michael York.

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