Destination Unknown

Review by Juliette Cottu

Directed by

Claire Ferguson




Getting the tissue box ready.


Very sad, but the stories are inspiring.

In Retrospect.

A good addition to the existing collection of films on the Shoah.

This powerful new documentary gleans new testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust.

The tremendous global changes that came after World War Two sometimes conceal just how close some of humanity’s worst tragedies are to us. Destination Unknown is a unique and intimate documentary compiling narratives of 12 Holocaust survivors before, during and after their miraculous escape from various concentration camps are unveiled.

Though the film is directed by Claire Ferguson, producer Llion Roberts conducted the interviews. They remind us that traumas of the war are no faraway memory, but still scar the present in profound ways.

The topic is not a new for documentary film: Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah left viewers with an acute awareness of tragic events. Still, this dark chapter of history must always be commemorated. It cannot afford to sink into oblivion. We must not forget. Each new testimony contributes to an evermore intricate understanding of the past: it took Victor Lewis over half a century to break his silence about personal experiences in the Belzec extermination camp.

The contemporary take is noteworthy: light is shed on the fate of escapee. Once the victims of one of the worst crimes in European history, the camera captures safe, sound and healthy individuals in the comfort of their family nests: trauma forever endures, but life carries on and love alleviates the pain. Such hindsight legitimises the film’s forward looking, soothing and optimistic tone. And this is where its originality comes from.

Chilling Soviet and US footage and old, monochrome photographs of the camps are occasionally, and carefully displayed. Yet, unobtrusive music, light tones and the multiple colourful photographs of the survivor’s joyful children and grandchildren successfully makes this film less harrowing and difficult to watch than the features released in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust.

Unexpected heroes, such as Mietek Pemper, are also eulogised. Listening to how he contributed to Oskar Schindler’s list, which saved 1200 Jews, including Marsha Kreuzman, also interviewed, is engrossing and important. Rather than once more condemning the executioners, Ferguson provides the victims with a therapeutic space.

At one point, the camera follows Edward Mosberg, Polish survivor, back to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Marching up the steps where he once was forced to repeatedly carry rocks to the top, Mosberg reenacts this traumatic experience to surmount it, and pledges allegiance to those who the Final Solution muted.

Published 19 Jun 2017

Tags: Documentary The Holocaust World War Two


Getting the tissue box ready.


Very sad, but the stories are inspiring.

In Retrospect.

A good addition to the existing collection of films on the Shoah.

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Why are Tinseltown’s depictions of this atrocity so often reduced to little more than failing memories?

The Last of the Unjust

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Claude Lanzmann’s devastating appendix to his epochal Holocaust documentary, Shoah, is a vital piece of cinema.

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