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Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport  

Directed by: Mark Jonathan Harris Produced by: Deborah Oppenheimer

"I ceased to be a child when I boarded the train in Prague. It's strange that it's only six years out of a long life ... and those six years will affect you the rest of your life." --Eva Hayman

Home. A simple word carrying an unmatched fortitude barreling through the mind and heart of anyone who considers its truest definition - that is, what the word means to them. Sure, there are synonyms aplenty we could use in its place - hearth, fireside, household, menage, homestead, ancestral hall ... but none can match the rudimentary emotional power when considering one's own personal definition of the simple word "home."

For me, it conjures up thoughts of acceptance - like a root implanted mightily into a portion of the earth that is, and forever will be, my own. A place that will continuously keep its welcoming arms outstretched, regardless of how far away I may venture. A place whose molecular makeup of tranquility stays with me through the harshest of times. It's not merely a location, but a halcyon state of mind.

Yet despite the sublimity of the above perception, I sometimes forget just how fortunate I am to be in possession of such a decorous definition of "home." For the over 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia prior to World War II, such a definition was tough to come by.

"Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport" is a stunning documentary about an act of mercy unparalleled before the war. For nine months prior to the outbreak of WWII, Britain conducted a rescue mission, taking innocent children into foster homes and hostels - the intention being to eventually reunite them with their parents. Tragically, few ever saw their families again.

The stories are recited by the very survivors, rescuers, parents, and foster parents. They recount chronicles of courage and hope - where the powerful resolve of children displays itself with complete certitude. From the initial babel of military intrusion into their homeland to the frightening uncertainty as to their new destination, the emotional toll of their experiences registers on the survivors' faces while the potent words of remembrance echo from their souls.

Not only do we hear from the survivors, but from some of the heartbroken parents who had to summon the strength to ship their children away, not knowing when (or if) they would ever hold them in their loving embrace again. We hear their words of pain as they remember witnessing their offspring being carried off - the little outstretched arms protruding mightily from the windows of the train carrying them to their unknown destination. We also hear recounts from some of the foster parents who were essentially the backbone of the rescue mission. Insecurity eminated from their respective courses of action, as we are reminded through their testimony.

The film was directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, whose previous endeavor was the Oscar-winning "The Long Way Home." The producer is Deborah Oppenheimer, who is the daughter of one of the Kindertransport's survivors. The end result is a labor of love that acquaints those perhaps enshouded inside a certain degree of cynicism with a veritable depiction of the human spirit's magnanimity while re-acquainting those who survived with the memories of those heartbreakingly left behind. Each individual involved echoes varying degrees of sadness and loss, but also an immeasureable degree of gratitude ... certainly to all who came together in a merciful act unequalled in history, but gratitude also for their own ability to wade through the darkest of human struggles and arrive at a place of thanks and grace - a place of relative peace and contentment - a place like home.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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