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"Into the Arms of Strangers" tells the poignant story of the children who escaped from Nazi Germany but still bear the scars.

Unpleasant Memories


Documentary features usually receive short shrift at the Academy Awards ceremonies — and if they win at all, they're usually soon forgotten.

Not so with "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport," which won an Oscar this past March.

In the short time that has elapsed since its release, the film has had a far-reaching impact.

"Into the Arms of Strangers" is the story of the thousands of Central European children who, in the wake of the Nazi rampage known as Kristallnacht, were offered safe haven in the United Kingdom by an act of the British Parliament.

Also known as the "Night of Broken Glass" because of the shards that littered the streets of Germany after the windows of Jewish shops were shattered by Nazi thugs in 1938, Kristallnacht was a signal to Jews that worse was to come. Many families accepted Britain's invitation and sent their children to England. Some believed they would be reunited after the war. Others had no such hope. The Kindertransport placed more than 10,000 children with foster parents and in hostels in Great Britain and made it possible for them to survive.

The majority of the children, however, never saw their parents again.

One of those children who was permanently separated from her parents through the Kindertransport was Deborah Oppenheimer's mother. Oppenheimer is executive producer of "The Drew Carey Show." She discovered letters written by her grandparents to her mother and decided to find out more about the Kindertransport. During the course of her research, Oppenheimer tracked down Kinder around the world and listened to their powerful stories of what had happened to them 60 years ago. Working with writer/director Mark Jonathan Harris, himself an Oscar winner, she produced "Into the Arms of Strangers."

The stories she included in her film are both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Lore Segal was on the first Kindertransport to leave Vienna. After writing countless letters on behalf of her parents to the Refugee Committee in London, she succeeded in getting them domestic service visas and they joined her in Liverpool when she was 11. But Lory Cahn was pulled off the train by her parents. They couldn't bear to let her go. She wound up in eight different concentration camps, including Auschwitz. When she was liberated, she weighed 58 pounds.

The effects of "Into the Arms of Strangers" have been felt worldwide. Germany's chancellor has made it compulsory viewing in every classroom. The Jewish Museum Berlin shows the film as part of its permanent exhibition. And many Kinder have been reunited with rescuers, friends and — in some rare cases — family who recognized them from the film. Alexander Gordon, for example, was reunited with fellow survivor Max Arnoff six decades after they last saw each other.

Narrated by actress Judi Dench, Oppenheimer's potent documentary tells the stories, and those of many others involved with the Kindertransport. And in our own uncertain times, it is a film not to be missed.

Debuts on HBO on Monday, Dec. 10, from 8 to 10 p.m. Repeats on Dec. 13, 16, 18 and 21 at various times.

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