Never Forget: Movies for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated by the U.N. to take place each year on January 27 — the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau ghetto. From documentaries to dramatizations, these five films are part of the vast collection of films in the ChaiFlicks library that commemorate, contend with, and memorialize the Holocaust, its victims and survivors.

  1. Run Boy Run: A Boy’s True Tale of Survival

Israel/Germany | Year of release: 2014 | Language: Polish, German, Russian, Yiddish (with English subtitles) | Runtime: 107 minutes

This  film is based on the incredible true story of Holocaust survivor Yoram Friedman, who as an eight year old boy escaped the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and survived mostly on his own through the following three years of war on the run from the Nazis. Friedman's story was later told in a bestselling book of the same name by Israeli writer Uri Orlev, on which this film is based.

Expertly directed by Pepe Danquart, Run Boy Run brings to light the dangers Friedman had to overcome — from his parents giving their life so he could escape the Warsaw Ghetto, to hiding his true identity as a Jew, and having to fend for himself at such a young age and during the darkest of times. In seeing wartime Poland through Srulik’s eyes (as depicted in a very capable performance by twins Andrezj and Kamil Tzebc), we come to gain a better understanding of what it meant to survive the war.

Watch Run Boy Run, now streaming exclusively on ChaiFlicks.

  1. La Rafle: The True Tragedy of the French Jewish Community

France | Year of release: 2012 | Language: French, German, Yiddish (with English subtitles) | Runtime: 124 minutes

The image of Hitler visiting the Eiffel Tower is one of the most infamous taken during World War II. It was this image that kicks off La Rafle, starring renowned French actors Jean Reno, Melanie Laurent, and Gad Elmaleh.

At the heart of La Rafle (meaning the 'round up' in French) is the true, often overlooked vicious operation carried out against the French Jewish community by the collaborationist French Vichy government. La Rafle deftly illustrates how the rings of oppression and exclusion slowly closed in on French Jews, until the infamous Velodrome D'Hiver (Vel D'Hiv) roundup of 1042. In just two days, over 10,000 Jews were rounded up, some sent directly to concentrations camps, and other made to pack into a destitute arena unsuitable for daily life — all at the hands of the French government which was directly conspiring with the Nazis at the time.

Director Rose Bosch tells the story through the perspectives of ordinary people, including a Jewish family led by the kindhearted Shmuel (Elmaleh) as they are gradually swallowed up by the deportation scheme, a nurse (Laurent) who comes to realize the true purpose of the internment and Dr. Scheinbaum (Reno), a Jew who treats patients at one of the detention centers. Most significantly, the film never loses sight of the bureaucrats, the commanders, and the politicians responsible for these atrocities, nor does it forget those who did not comply.

Watch La Rafle on ChaiFlicks.

  1. Watermarks: A Team for Life

Israel | Year of release: 2004 | Language: English, Hebrew, German (with English subtitles) | Runtime: 77 minutes

The documentary Watermarks follows the story of Hakoah, a Jewish sports club in 1930s Vienna whose women's swim team was among the most competitive of its time. The film brings to the fore the stories of those groundbreaking Jewish women who ascended to the highest echelons of their sport, only to be faced with increasing discrimination which culminated with the wide acceptance of Nazi ideology in their native Austria. From giving up a their promising careers by directly defying their government and even Hitler, to fleeing their country — these women never ceased to be brave in the face of danger.

Award-winning director Yaron Zilberman does not only document the history of the club and its athletes, but also reunites seven of the team’s surviving members for another swim. In this way, as Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times, the film “emerges as a surprisingly encouraging reflection on the distance between youth and advanced age.” Thus, this is a film not only about the triumphs and losses of the past, but about learning to live in their wake.

Watch Watermarks on ChaiFlicks.

  1. What Our Fathers Did: Confronting a dark heritage

United Kingdom | Year of release: 2016 | Language: English, German (with English subtitles) | Runtime: 93 minutes

We often see ourselves as carrying on the legacy of those who came before us. But what if that legacy is one of mass murder? The documentary What Our Fathers Did considers this question by following Jewish human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, as he retraces his grandfather's wartime history as well as that of two high ranking Nazi officers — whose descendants make the journey along with Sands.

What Our Fathers Did draws a strong contrast between how the two Nazi families experienced the war, and the experience of Sands’ family, which echoes the tragedy of so many European Jewish families who suffered by the hand of the Nazis. Throughout their shared journey, it becomes evident that the two German sons, Niklas Frank and Horst von Wachter, have different interpretations of their fathers' legacies. Slowly we come to understand why they diverge in their perceptions of culpability and justice, as Sands poignantly drives home an important message on truth and remembrance.

Watch What Our Fathers Did on ChaiFlicks.

  1. 1945: What to do when the Jews return home?

Hungary | Year of release: 2017 | Language: Hungarian (with English subtitles) | Runtime: 91 minutes

A masterful, subdued film shot in black-and-white, 1945 deals with the aftermath of the Holocaust. the film takes place in a post-war Hungarian town, where two Jews suddenly return to the town after the war, on a hot summer day. As the film develops, we see how the presence of the Jews begins to unnerve the locals — some struck by guilt, some doubling down on their hatred. With the specter of the Red Army and the looming elections that will decide the fate of the country, 1945 depicts the clash between those who seek to preserve what they have and those who envision a different future.

Director Ferenc Torok captures this story through black-and-white photography, giving the town an eerie feel that evokes the strange feeling of trying to move on after such a horrific tragedy.

Watch 1945 on ChaiFlicks.