The Last Days

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Documentary

It's an awful irony: The closer one gets to grasping the magnitude of what occurred at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other Nazi concentration camps, the less conceivable it becomes. It's also a dangerous one: That very inconceivability abets Holocaust deniers, making organizations like Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (which...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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It's an awful irony: The closer one gets to grasping the magnitude of what occurred at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other Nazi concentration camps, the less conceivable it becomes. It's also a dangerous one: That very inconceivability abets Holocaust deniers, making

organizations like Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (which has to date recorded and archived over 50,000 eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust) ever more essential. Shot on 35mm and featuring a chilling score by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer (THE LION KING),

James Moll's beautifully crafted documentary, which the Foundation produced, focuses on the stories of five Hungarian Jews who were taken to various camps following Hitler's 1944 invasion of Hungary. Aware that Germany was losing the war against the Allies, Hitler was all the more determined to

win the war against the Jews. By the time the Hungarian prisoners emerged from the stifling, overcrowded cattle cars used to transport them from their homeland, the SS death machine had been thrown into overdrive. In the words of one survivor, camps such as Buchenwald resembled nothing so much as

"a madman's hell." Moll intercuts interviews with the five survivors and other witnesses, including a Sonderkommando who oversaw the burning of human bodies in the camp's crematoria and a doctor who performed medical experiments on Auschwitz prisoners, with rare stills and devastating

footage of the atrocities, some in gruesome color. The horror of the images is unforgettable, but what lingers are the small particulars of the survivor's stories, recalled as if it all happened yesterday: The bathing suit Renee Firestone wore under her clothes the day she was taken from her home;

the diamonds Irene Zisblatt's mother rolled into her daughter's hem so she could buy bread. Such details help render abstract numbers like 6 million into nearly comprehensible human terms.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: It's an awful irony: The closer one gets to grasping the magnitude of what occurred at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other Nazi concentration camps, the less conceivable it becomes. It's also a dangerous one: That very inconceivability abets Holocaust deniers,… (more)

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