A Movie Review: The Long Way Home – From Liberation to the Founding of Israel

By Gideon

In 1997, the documentary film The Long Way Home, narrated by Morgan Freeman, was released. Covering the three-year period following World War II, the film follows the trials and tribulations of Holocaust survivors from liberation to displaced persons camps to the founding of Israel. In 1998, the Long Way Home won an Oscar at the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature. The Long Way Home was written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and produced by Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.The Long Way Home uses interviews with Holocaust survivors, newsreel footage, and readings of letters, journals, and news reports, to tell the story of the hardships faced by those freed from concentration camps in 1945. [history1900s.about.com]

The story of the Holocaust and its survivors does not end with liberation in 1945. Actually, for survivors, the Holocaust has never ended. This movie, The Long Way Home, continues the story of the survivors during the harrowing, yet heroic and inspirational, period of 1945 to 1948. “This documentary recounts one of the most ironic and most shameful footnotes in Western history–the treatment of Holocaust victims following the end of the war. Despite all the support given by North American and European countries for the downtrodden Jewish during the war, that support abruptly evaporated after the war’s conclusion leaving thousands of concentration camp victims and survivors sick, dying and homeless. The filmmakers utilize archival footage, stills and interviews with both survivors and political figures involved in the scandal to tell their story, one of horror, hope, courage, humanity and bitter irony.” [rottentomatoes.com]

“Often riddled with disease, suffering from malnutrition, and remorseful over having survived while their loved ones perished, many survivors soon discovered that they no longer had homes to return to, and many European nations, struggling with their own [ post-war poverty, would not accept the refugees. Some found themselves in Displaced Persons camps, which were often only marginally better than the camps from which they had been freed, while others attempted to flee to Palestine, over the objections of the British government, who then held the territory as a colony. The establishment of the Zionist state of Israel was widely seen as the best solution to bring dignity, self-determination, and a homeland back to the refugees, but the notion was widely opposed at first, particularly by the British government.” [nytimes.com]

“The film’s emphasis is on the pitiful conditions for Jewish refugees in Europe after the war, as antisemitism was still rife and poverty was common. It also shows how emigration to the British Mandate of Palestine became a goal for many, but that British immigration rules often resulted in them being detained in camps in Cyprus. The eventual formation of the State of Israel is then shown, with emphasis on the debates in the White House between Palestinian Jews, President Harry S. Truman, and the United Nations.” [Wikipedia]

[The movie in its  entirety  is available  for free viewing on YouTube. It is also available on Netflix in some US cities]