As Allied troops liberated Nazi concentration camps in the final weeks of World War II, the trials of the Jews in Europe were hardly over. The end of the war brought extreme deprivation and even, in some places, further vi... more »olence directed against survivors of the Holocaust. This documentary tells the story of the struggle European Jews faced in trying to reach Palestine, which they hoped would become the new Jewish homeland. Archival footage documents how Jews literally walked across snow-clogged mountain passes to reach the Mediterranean. In Italian ports they boarded overcrowded freighters and tried to slip past the blockage of Palestine, which was then controlled by Britain. The physical hardships were only part of the problem, and The Long Way Home does a fine job of describing the complicated political dealings that involved the United Nations, the U.S. administration of Harry Truman, and, of course, the Arab states that were hostile to the very idea of the country of Israel. Drawing on letters, diaries, and oral histories of participants, as well as interviews with Holocaust survivors and those who volunteered to help the fledgling Zionist state, an inspiring human story of courage and fortitude emerges in the course of this moving and fascinating film. --Robert J. McNamara« less
A powerful telling of a story that needed to be told
Joe Sherry | Minnesota | 05/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A film by Mark Jonathan HarrisWinner of the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary, "The Long Way Home" is the story of the Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and what happened after the concentration camps were liberated. This is a very important, though little told story. Much of what I have been taught glosses over this period, telling only that Americans helped to liberate the camps and then three years later the nation of Israel was formed by the United Nations. "The Long Way Home" is the story of how the Jewish survivors made it from the camps to having their own nation, and the title of the film is a very apt one. It was a long, long way home and for many of the survivors, the war did not truly end until they made it to Israel. We are taken through the horror of the Jewish experience from the end of the concentration camps up through the creation of the state of Israel. After the camps, when we might expect that the situation of the survivors would improve dramatically, it didn't. There were so many survivors, so many "displaced persons" that the Allied Forces had to set up camps of their own to provide shelter as the survivors can get medical treatment and food. Many of these camps had the misfortune to be surrounded by barbed wire, so that some survivors remarked that it was as if they traded one camp for another and nothing had changed. From these temporary camps for "displaced persons" (as the survivors were called), the survivors were searching for a home even though they no longer had a home in their native countries. Finding passage to Palestine was just as difficult. Somehow I naively assumed that after the war the survivors had an easier time in founding Israel and finally finding peace in their lives (whatever peace that was left to be found), but this film shows the Jewish people in a constant struggle even as nations that had fought to help free them from the concentration camps turned their backs on the Jewish people. This is a powerful, powerful story and the documentary does it justice. I don't know what other documentaries came out in 1997, but I can scarcely imagine one that is nearly as good as this one. Highly recommended, and for anyone who has an interest in this topic, or the stories that came out of World War II and the Holocaust."
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 09/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This two-hour Oscar-winning documentary does a great job at narrating the events of 1945-48 for the survivors of the Shoah and their often horrific ordeal as refugees. For most of them, the heartache was only just beginning; liberation and the end of the War for them were not the same as they were for the soldiers who had fought in the War or the non-Jewish people who had been in the camps or in the various nation-states across Europe. Many of them found they had no home to go back to, and were often greeted with hatred and disgust that they'd dared to return and survive. Some angry villagers even killed the returning survivors, as happened in the Kielce pogrom of 1946. During and before WWII, most of the nations in the world had sealed their borders against the people trying to immigrate before the Nazis devoured them, and even after the War finally ended, they continued keeping them out. Even nations that hadn't been able to wait to get rid of them, such as Poland and Hungary, now made it very difficult for the "repatriated" survivors to leave, and many of them had to be smuggled out in very secretive dangerous border crossings, with border guards who had to be bribed heavily. The initial destination for many of them was a DP camp. Many of these camps were in Germany, and were in the very sites of actual concentration-camps. The Americans running them insisted barbed wire be strung along the fences and that armed guards be in watch towers. There also often wasn't enough to eat, there was little privacy, and the people still had to sleep on the wooden planks. The only difference between life in a DP camp and life in a concentration-camp was that in the DP camps the Allies running them weren't exterminating people or physically abusing them. And yet in spite of all of this, the amount of marriages and children being born were totally off of the charts, people finding one another and recreating families, getting together out of loneliness, these people who never would have found one another or considered getting married under such circumstances, after such short courtships, were it not for the Shoah.
97% of the survivors wanted to go to Israel, and when asked for a second destination, hundreds wrote "The crematorium" on their applications. Many survivors did go to other places, such as Australia, America (which was still holding to its pre-war racist xenophobia immigration quotas, coupled with millions of citizens who didn't want any immigrants either), Canada, and South America. But for the majority, Israel was the only place they could envision themselves being. The British too were keeping the survivors out of Israel, and only six ships managed to elude being captured. The rest were pirated, many of the people on board severely abused, and sent to concentration-camps on Cyprus. And yet these people still kept hoping for the day when they would be released and would finally live as free people again, in their own land. Some of them even admitted they were only surviving and getting through these postwar years so their children would have a future. The world closed its doors and its eyes and ears while millions of people were slaughtered and barely changed its tune after the War, but as these people proved on their long road home, they were strong enough to survive another round of hardships and never gave up on their dream of going home."
The Untold Story of Jewish People 1945-48
JPZenger | 02/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is very little public knowledge of what happened between the time when the German concentration camps were liberated in 1945 and when Israel was founded. The story is told in this very well done and interesting documentary.
First, many of the survivors were kept in the same camps under armed guard by Allied soldiers. Reports got back to President Truman about the conditions, and he sent an envoy to find out what was happening. The envoy reported about back the horrible conditions, and as a result, Eisenhower was pressured to fire Patton, who had responsibility for the camps. The movie then quotes Patton's private diary, which shows that he was an extreme racist against the Jews.
Many people survived the camps initially, but died in the next month because of disease or over-eating.
Then some Jewish survivors tried to return to their hometowns in Poland and elsewhere. Many survivors were murdered by local people. In some cases, new families had moved into their homes, and didn't want the refugees reclaiming them. (Most Jews in the concentration camps were not actually from Germany, but were from countries that the Germans had control over.)
The Jewish survivors then tried to reach Palestine/Israel. The British refused to let them. The movie said part of the reason was that the British needed Arab oil.
Many survivors climbed over the Alps on foot to try to reach Israel through Italy. A group of American Jews purchased and manned ships to try to sneak the survivors into Israel. Almost all were intercepted by the British and turned back. The most famous ship was the Exodus, which was the subject of a famous book and movie. The British actually fired upon the refugee ship and killed many people. The British kept many of the refugees in concentration camps in horrid crowded conditions.
Jewish groups then turned to terrorism to try to force the British out of Palestine. It worked, and the British left. The British turned the matter over to the UN, who tried to partition Palestine. That led to the founding of Israel. The movie said that a main reason why Israel was successful was because Truman officially recognized the new country instantly, against the advice of all of his advisors. (Throughout the entire 1940s, the US State Dept. was very anti-Semitic.)
For those people with a weak stomach (including myself), it is important to know that the movie is not overly graphic and, on the whole, is not depressing. It is intended to tell the story of people who struggled and succeeded against all odds.
Great movie - but where are the subtitles?
Eric Weiss | 09/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Great movie. A part of history that I didn't know about, even though I'm Jewish and nearly 50 years old. But ... There Are NO Subtitles OR Closed-Captioning. This is inexcusable, to me, especially since many older people who will have a personal interest in this film (like my parents) have hearing problems and rely on subtitles and CC when viewing TV or movies. So be forewarned, if you are one who needs subtitles."
Excellent post-war primer (from 45-48)
Ari Goldstein | Palo Alto, CA USA | 02/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a terrific primer that takes you on a course of what happened from the end of WWII until the UN voted for recognizing the existance of a state Israel (bascially 1945 thru 1948). There are interviews from various people who were close to the events of this period, as well as decent B&W stills, news archives and films showing otherwise lost archives. It is well produced, and worth every penny. I watched this around the same time I watched The Sorrow and the Pity and the PBS production of 50 Years War - Israel & The Arabs. The Long Way Home DVD fills in more historical information about how the Jews were viewed and treated just after WWII, especially by the US, the English government and the radicals of Poland. This is a must (as are the two other titles I mentioned in this review) for anyone who wants to better understand this topic and the obstacles the Jewish people ran into in trying to build their own homeland."