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Out of Europe

Distributed by SISU Home Entertainment
Produced by Richard Lerner
Directed by Richard Lerner
DVD, color and b&w, 55 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Jewish Studies, European Studies, History

Reviewed by Charles Burkart, Media Bibliographer, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 10/21/2010

Out of Europe covers the escape of one Jewish family, the Lernerís, from Nazi occupied Europe. The Lerner family, originally from Galicia in modern day Poland, migrated to Antwerp to work in the diamond cutting and haberdashery businesses. Living a happy upper middle class life in Belgium, the family was forced by political events to migrate to France, Spain, Portugal, and finally the United States. Their harrowing journey, one step ahead of the German army, is the focus of the documentary.

As much a family album as a historical documentary, Out of Europe relies on personal family interviews, period photographs, newsreel films, and maps. Well edited and unfailingly interesting, Out of Europe integrates these diverse cinematic elements into a satisfying whole. Sound is occasionally mushy in the interviews, but the classical film score (Satie, Chopin, Mahler, Liszt, etc.) is both appropriate and exhilarating. Newsreel clips and family photos are clear and well chosen. Only occasionally does it seem hard to keep track of the numerous family members. Chapter selections and other extras (A Stop in Cuba) are included on the DVD.

Out of Europe, unlike many Holocaust documentaries, leaves you with a sense of hope and optimism. Somehow, you feel part of the Lerner family, even enjoying the sisterly banter between Paulette and Irene. Nevertheless, the horrific events of the Holocaust are not ignored, particularly through U.S. serviceman Marcel Lernerís gripping account of the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. This informative and moving documentary represents the triumph of light and life over darkness and death.

I highly recommend Out of Europe to synagogue education services, Jewish and Holocaust study programs at the college and university level, WWII history classes and large public libraries. It is surely one of the best and most personal documentaries of its type.