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After Auschwitz 2017


Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by Jon Kean & Anne Stein
Directed by Jon Kean
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Jewish Holocaust, 1939-1945

Date Entered: 09/07/2018

Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA

What happened to the Jewish survivors after they were liberated from Auschwitz? What did they do when they were told by their liberators, “You’re free. Go home.”? How did they eventually make their way to the United States? A tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of souls who were interned in concentration camps and survived, here are the stories of six women from four European countries who came to the United States and lived in the Los Angeles area.

The six women include Eva Schick Beckmann, born in Czechoslovakia; Rena Honigman Drexler, born in Poland; Renee Weinfeld Firestone, born in Czechoslovakia; Erika Engel Jacoby, born in Hungary; Lili Nutkovitz Majzner, born in Poland; and Linda Scheffer Sherman, born in Holland. All of them married and had families—some with great-grandchildren at the time the film was made, all but one had careers, and several returned to Auschwitz, the site of their wartime torture. Despite initial reluctance to remember and speak about their experiences, all of them provide valuable testimony so people will not forget or deny the Holocaust.

Excellent interviews with these six women are intertwined with archival footage of World War II and its aftermath, news broadcasts from then and more recent years, still photographs, home movies, and clips from television broadcasts as well as advertisements and what sound a great deal like U.S. propaganda films designed to promote America’s virtues.

About half of the content of After Auschwitz is valuable documentation about the six subjects of this documentary. The other half, while providing important context and showing real evidence, in general, of their stories, is so disjointed that it confuses rather than illuminates. Viewers can’t be certain to whom each insert applies—to one person, to all six women, or just in general, when and where they took place, or whether they feature one of the six biographees, or just people in similar circumstances. These problems detract from the impact, understanding, and appreciation of the film, and spoil the professionalism with which the film was made.

An astonishingly successful life is that of Renee Firestone, who becomes a noted fashion designer in the film industry. Video clips show her presenting the Kennedy Center honor award to Steven Spielberg in 2006 as well as posing with Laura and George W. Bush, and her husband, at the event. Rena Drexler, another successful career woman, is shown in the deli she establishes and runs successfully for many years, rolling dough in its kitchen with children and grand-children. Before the war, Erika Jacoby hoped to be a doctor. Though she is denied a college education in Europe, after coming to America, she becomes a teacher, first, and, then, earns a master’s degree in social work, specializing in aiding patients who feel they are outsiders, many of whom are Holocaust survivors.