Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport

Synopsis: For nine months prior to World War II, in an act of mercy unequalled anywhere else before the war, Britain conducted an extraordinary rescue mission, opening its doors to over 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. These children, or Kinder (sing. Kind), as they came to be known, were taken into foster homes and hostels in Britain, expecting eventually to be reunited with their parents. The majority of them never saw their families again.
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 6 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
122 min

I still have dreams...

... and certain things come back.

I don't know what age I am,

but life is quite normal.

Whatever we're doing

is an everyday happening.

And this is when I wake up.

And as old as I am, I'm still sobbing.

In 1933...

... few of the Jewish families who lived

in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia...

... foresaw how much...

... their lives were about to change.

None of their children realized...

... how soon their childhood

was about to end.

I was a very happy little girl growing up.

My father absolutely adored me.

There was never anything that I

could have possibly done wrong.

My father used to go out with me...

... shopping.

And I always used to admire this one suit...

... which was for ladies.

I was only a kid, you know.

And I always said,

"Daddy, I would love to wear that suit."

So, one day, he said,

"Shall we go in there?"

And I said, "That's for big ladies, I can't...

"Let's go in there." And he went in there

and they took my measurements...

...and that suit was made for me.

And I came home,

and my mother was devastated.

"What are you buying this little girl

all this stuff for?

"She doesn't need that."

And my father said,

"She is my pride and joy...

"...and she needs everything

I can get for her."

My parents were

sort of middle-class people.

My father was

a middle-level bank manager.

My mother was a lady of leisure.

And I was a very-much-desired first child.

They were both around 30 or so.

We had one of these very nice apartments

in Vienna, with a high ceiling...

... lots of light, as I remember it,

and big windows...

...and I guess I was spoiled.

In addition to them,

there was the inevitable maid...

...nursemaid in the house in those days.

My grandmother looked in often

and lived nearby.

It was, in many ways, a rather idyllic life.

And I was indeed

the center of the universe.

There was my mother, father...

... and my sister,

who was four years younger than me.

We had a very happy, carefree childhood.

My father was always busy

during the week...

...but when he was home,

he often took me for walks.

By the river mostly.

And we talked about everything.

That brought us probably closer.

I always felt that my father and I

were protecting my mother and sister.

I don't know

what we were protecting them from.

I was about...

...8 years old...

...when Hitler came to power.

I had got some school friends...

... and my mother tried to make

a birthday party for us.

The table was set.

I was very excited.

Nobody came.

Not a single child

came to this birthday party.

That was the first...

...terrible blow to me.

I know it sounds trivial...

...but it was the first

sort of comprehension for a child... understand that you're ostracized.

That there's something different about you.

For Jewish children...

... life under Hitler became increasingly

isolated and threatening.

While the Nazis stripped their parents

of their jobs and citizenship...

... the children were gradually barred

from schools...

... parks, theaters, and swimming pools.

I was overprotected...

... because of the Hitler dangers

outside the home.

But very much loved in the home.

My mother sitting on my father

for a cuddle...

...was an everyday occurrence.

I had to join in,

or else I would have been jealous.

He had to have both of us on his lap.

My father used to say:

"I'm too old to start again."

Although he spoke perfect English...

... he felt he was just not young enough

to start in a new country.

And the other sentence,

which was because...

...his father and grandfather, and so on...

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Mark Jonathan Harris

Mark Jonathan Harris (born 1941) is an American documentary filmmaker probably best known for his films Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000) and The Long Way Home (1997). He has directed three documentaries which have gone on to win Oscars, across three different decades. Educated at Harvard, Harris co-produced the short The Redwoods for the Sierra Club with Trevor Greenwood; the short won the 1967 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. The aforementioned Into The Arms and Long Way Home also landed Academy Awards. Harris started out as a crime reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau, and reports that on his first story he went into a police station and had his car stolen from in front of it. The police called him a few weeks later to ask if he had found his car. Harris tried investigative journalism next but quit after realizing he did not like to embarrass people. Harris believes that filmmakers can construct a cinema verite film beforehand by considering repeatable events—that is, by determining which events are likely to recur frequently, and being there to film those events when they do. He tested this theory on a film on the Peace Corps in Colombia, in a small village 50 miles outside Bogotá. The film was not especially positive about the Peace Corps experience; the Peace Corps decided not to use it for recruiting, but to use it for training people who have been in for about a year. Harris has also directed a film on migrant farmworkers and their dismal wages and living conditions;one of the "stars" of his documentary was Luis Valdez, who went on to direct the film La Bamba. Harris' film The Long Way Home deals with the experience of Jewish refugees after World War II. Spike Lee condemned the second half of the film as propaganda for the state of Israel; nonetheless the film won an Oscar in 1997 for Best Documentary. Harris next directed a film less complimentary towards the state, which had been commissioned specifically for the 50th anniversary of Israel. Harris intended the film, A Dream No More, to reflect Israel, "warts and all"; he spent 15 months and nearly $1.5 million U.S. making the film, which went over deadline as he tried to determine final structure for the film. He turned in a final print and had the film flagged the next day; it was never shown. Harris considers this film the second of his "Jewish trilogy". Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, the third part of the trilogy, tells the stories of several people whose parents sent them on the kindertransport to escape the Germans, as well as one woman who was meant to go and did not because her father pulled her off the train. The film won the 2000 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In 2003, Harris wrote Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives. He was nominated for outstanding writing for non-fiction writing for this documentary. As a documentary filmmaker, Harris casts his films carefully, talking to people beforehand and deciding who has an interesting story and who tells it well on camera. He also refuses to start filming immediately, but prefers to talk with the subjects for about an hour beforehand. He is currently the producer of a documentary called "With One Hand Tied", which is based on the book "Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II".Harris is also the author of various children's books, a side career he stumbled into the mid-1980s: he returned to journalism because he could not find funding for a documentary he wanted to make. After writing an article about a young child, he was contacted by an agent who asked him to write children's literature and has since written several children's books. Harris is currently a professor at the School of Cinematic Arts of the University of Southern California. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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