In Out of the Ashes, one woman is forced to choose between two horrifying acts of evil, and ultimately finds the courage to make the right choice. Based on actual events that occurred during World War II that chronicles t... more »he life of Dr. Gisella Perl, a woman who lost her entire family and was forced to start life over in America.« less
"This biographical film relates the story of Auschwitz survivor, Dr. Gisella Perl, providing an important chapter into the lives of those poor souls tortured into unthinkable acts in order to survive during the Holocaust of WWII.
Dr. Gisella Perl (Christine Lahti) arrives in New York with tear filled eyes begging for a new life after WWII. Perl wanted to be a doctor from childhood; she studied hard and managed to open a very successful private practice in Hungary. Her only downfall ended up being her bloodlines and this very strong woman soon found herself carted off to Auschwitz. In a series of flashbacks Perl is examined by a committee of American INS men who are judging her character as a step towards her citizenship. Perl is seen as a survivor who at times may have saved her own life at the sake of others and she is accused of collaborating with the Nazi doctor like the retched Josef Mengele. In actuality Perl saved many women by sacrificing the unborn lives of their fetuses after being tricked by Mengele into submission and having to see what went on behind the walls of Auschwitz. Despite the horrors she witnessed Perl survived to flourish once again and her true story is one of an undying spirit.
Christina Lahti is phenomenal in her role as Gisella Perl. She manages to capture both the brokenness and the strength of this woman with equal determination. Many scenes in this film are absolutely gut-wrenching but entirely important. As stated in the film Auschwitz became its own country and the "rules of humanity" no longer applied. Under these circumstances many atrocities were committed by Nazi's and the Jewish prisoners alike...who is to say what depths a human being can reach under the horror of the Holocaust? In order to thrive in the conditions faced by the prisoners they were forced to either submit and then be burned alive or to calculate another way of living. Gisella Perl did just that. Despite how you feel about abortions this woman had to perform the procedures bare handed and under intolerable conditions in order to save the lives of women prisoners. She was forced under threat to assist in "experiments" beside Mengele and even went as far as saving a female Nazi guard from her own "predicament" without question. Placed in the same circumstances few of us would have ever survived so leave your moral judgments behind on this one. Instead allow this one woman's story to matter so that the ashes of Auschwitz and all of the other concentration camps never establish a foothold in our world again. "
Absolutely spellbinding and unforgettable
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 10/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film, based on the memoirs of Dr. Gisella Perl, is an incredibly powerful, moving, soul-searing, and unforgettable experience. Some people feel that there are too many books and movies about the Shoah, or that after awhile they all start to seem the same because the tale of horror is all-too familiar, but this film is moving proof that that's not the case at all. Every person's story was different and unique in some way. How often have we got something from the perspective of a survivor who was a doctor, and a female doctor no less, at a time when men largely dominated the medical field? Additionally, this story is told in the present day, with flashbacks inserted every so often, instead of told in a linear format or just starting in the present and then having the bulk of the movie be one long flashback before reverting back to the present.
Dr. Perl became the first female doctor, and the first female Jewish doctor at that, in her native village of Sighet in Hungary. Even though her father initially disapproved, ever since she announced her plans as a young girl, she proved to him that she could be an observant Jew, a good doctor, a wife, and a mother. Becoming a doctor didn't cancel out her faith or a more traditional female role, as her family had feared. She was well-liked and trusted by her patients, and was doing very well for herself and for her family. In addition to being an inspiration for having survived what she did, she was also living proof that women can have both a career and a family, instead of just one or the other.
In the present day (a few years after the war), Dr. Perl is being examined for American citizenship. Though she passed all of her medical boards to be allowed to practise medicine in the United States, the question remains of her character and if she collaborated with the Nazis. There's an ocean of misunderstanding between her and her three interrogators, men who were living comfortable lives while she and her family were being treated like sub-humans, while she lost her entire family and had to do the unthinkable to try to save her own life. People who were in the camps often had to do things that many in the outside world would consider immoral, uncivilised, or unthinkable, but one must understand that this was another planet, with its own set of rules and morals. No one should judge anyone else for having done something to preserve one's own life. It's not as though these things were done willingly or voluntarily. "Dr." Mengele seemed to have a great deal of liking and respect for Dr. Perl, and made her work in the excuse of an infirmary at Auschwitz, even once assisting with a Gypsy patient who was pregnant with her second set of twins, a woman who was later murdered after giving birth and taken to be dissected. She was also once called upon to give the infamous sadistic Irma Grese an abortion. However, Dr. Perl did far, far more good than harm, often risking her life to save her patients, doing things that she would have been shot for had she been discovered doing, such as hiding a sick woman during selections in the infirmary and using her and the other doctors' blood as the pretended blood sample of a woman who had typhus. And since her specialty was in gynecology and obstetrics, she gave about a thousand women abortions, performed without any tools no less. She knew that this would save these women's lives, and that if they survived, they could go on to bear another child someday, a child who would be born in freedom. Her goal, her driving force for surviving, was to continue helping to bring life into the world, keeping these Jewish women alive so they would keep their people alive and produce children who would continue to propagate their people, replenishing their ranks after how many people the Nazis slaughtered, a million and a half of whom were just children. It is this message that she is trying to get across to the men deciding her fate as an American citizen and as a doctor.
I'd highly recommend this film, both for its moving and gut-wrenching story and for its unique perspective and structure, quite different from what one usually expects from a film about the Shoah. Christine Lahti as Dr. Perl gives an absolutely brilliant performance, and everything is brought to life so vividly that one can almost feel as though one is right there in that moment, place, and time. I was even moved to tears a few times, something that rarely happens when I watch a film. It's the kind of thing that stays with one for a long time afterward."
Full moral ambiguity with heart
Robert J. Crawford | Balmette Talloires, France | 03/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When we bought this, I thought, "not another holocaust film!" So there it sat for months, unopened. Then last night, I finally got the courage to try watching it, and became utterly rivetted and deeply moved.
This is the true story of a remarkable survivor, a doctor from Auschwitz, who suffered the loss of her entire family and took many questionable actions to survive. While saving many lives, she also dealt with Mengele and felt that she had violated her oath as a doctor. She is not a simple good guy, but a full-blown character who acknowledges the necessity of her actions and yet feels terrible guilt. Lahti delivers the best performance I have ever seen her give, not as the beautiful young woman she is but prematurely aged and worn. She is totally believable and charismatic.
Though made for TV, this is a great film. Warmly recommended. You will be moved yet again by the one of greatest trajedies of the 20C."
Please please please read her book first
Camma Hoekel | 01/12/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have read dozens and dozens of books regarding the Hungary Jews during WW2. Dr. Perl's book is by far the most moving I have read to date. When I learned of a movie I searched everywhere for it. After watching the film I was extremely disappointed. I am fully aware that the "movie-into-book" films are normally no where near as good; this was the worst I have yet to see. Most of what occurs in the movie did not occur in the book, and the things that were taken from the book were inaccurate. Even the ending "camp" scene at the end of the movie is completely inaccurate. I would say, as far as a rating for simply the film by itself, it is entertaining enough, around a 7/10. However, as a movie that was made from an incredible autobiographical novel regarding Auschwitz and Dr. Perl's experiences there, the movie gets a 4/10 at best."
A Dark and Moving Moment of History and Consequences
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"OUT OF THE ASHES was released last year as a film for television and fortunately it is now available on DVD for extended audience exposure. Directed by Joseph Sargent and based on the autobiography of Dr. Gisella Perl, this film is about the survival of a physician (Dr. Perl) so compassionate in her dedication to her fellow inmates at Auschwitz that, knowing pregnant Jews were among the first to be cremated in the Nazi ovens, knowingly performed numerous abortions and in doing so saved the lives of countless women. As if her rigors of survival in the concentration camps and her loss of her family to the Nazis weren't enough, she immigrated to the United States for refuge, served in menial medical tasks until she was able to take and pass her exams for medical licensure only to face a panel of folk who declare her a criminal for her role in the concentration camps and make every attempt to prevent her from practicing medicine in the USA. How she survives all of this constitutes the message of this powerful film, but to divulge the ending would diminish the impact for the new viewer. As Dr. Perl, Christine Lahti (one of our most underused and finest actresses) gives a wholly credible, sensitive portrayal: her character remains etched on our minds long after the film is finished. Also in this excellent cast are Richard Crenna, Bruce Davidson, and Beau Bridges among many others in small but pungent roles. Highly recommended."