Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu retells kids' poignant escape from Nazis.
  • PG
  • 2000
  • 122 minutes

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Positive Messages

Celebrates the resilience and perseverance of the human spirit in spite of horrendous circumstances. Acknowledges the extraordinary contributions of those who were generous, compassionate, and willing to undertake great responsibility in a time of unrest; one individual can change the course of another's life history. A cautionary tale that remembers great evil and the ease with which it spread. Additional messages of gratitude and teamwork. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Program organizers, English foster families, and the escaping children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia are portrayed as variously courageous, steadfast, and capable of extraordinary grace and generosity. The overarching presence of Nazi villains is irredeemably evil.

Violence

No overt violent acts; however, threat and menace of Nazis' ongoing extermination of Jews, as well as separation from and loss of loved ones, are foundations of the film. Disturbing archival footage of the horrific conditions revealed upon the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

Sex
Language

"Jew bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, an Academy Award-winning documentary film, gives a human face to a small number of surviving victims of the Nazi Holocaust. While more than 1,500,000 European Jewish children were killed during Germany's ascendance, 10,000 were saved in 1938 and 1939 by a fierce humanitarian effort to get them to safety -- "into the arms" of willing English families who became their guardians. This wrenching separation of children from their families is intimately retold by those actual "children" in this film made more than a half century after the events that transformed their lives. In-depth interviews of the men and women with their vivid memories are enhanced by photographs, archival footage, and a thoughtful narration by Judi Dench. The overall concept is poignant and sad and a grim reminder of humankind's astonishing capacity for evil. That, and some of the footage showing the devastating conditions and emaciated prisoners of the concentration camps upon liberation, makes this important and moving film best for teens and up.

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What's the story?

INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS: STORIES OF THE KINDERTRANSPORT recounts events of 1938 and 1939, as Jews were being rounded up, deported, or murdered in German-occupied Europe. A dangerous, concerted, and ultimately successful effort was made by British and Quaker leaders to rescue as many Jewish children as possible and get them to safety in the United Kingdom. Before war was officially declared in September 1939, approximately 10,000 Jewish children were saved by the Kindertransport, poignantly wrenching them from their despairing parents and finding homes for them for the duration of the war. Ursula Rosenfeld, Kurt Fuchel, Hedy Epstein, Jack Hellman, and others lived to give testimony. Bolstered by carefully preserved photographs and archival footage from the period, their very personal stories recreate both the horror and gratitude that accompanied them on their miraculous journeys. They were children, blessedly unaware that what was to be a temporary separation would go on for years and that most of them would never be reunited with their families. Seen in this documentary film as elderly survivors, all of them have strikingly unique tales to tell.

Is it any good?

Beautifully recorded testimony of remarkable men and women, along with relevant photographs and archival footage, bring a tragic yet miraculous event in recent history to light. The mere fact that the Kindertransport existed and saved so many lives remains a luminous reminder that given an iron will, a sense of duty, and unwavering compassion, great good can be accomplished by individuals working together. One of the more astonishing takeaways from Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport is how gratitude, resilience, and wisdom have diffused the terrible grief and fury these people suffered as children. This solid production is a must-see for both its moving content and its ability to inspire. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport as both historical document and cautionary tale. How does knowledge of past events illuminate the present? Which, if any, current world trouble spots might mirror European upheaval as shown in this movie?

  • This movie uses actual testimony of the people involved to tell its tale. How does this format help bring history to life? Are you inspired to learn more about events leading up to World War II? About the Kindertransport? What other films have inspired you to dig deeper into the past?

  • Imagine any one of these stories made into a dramatic film. How would the experience of watching such a movie be different from your experience of this movie? Why is there a place for both documentaries and dramatic films based on real events?

  • How does Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport promote courage, perseverance, and compassion? What about teamwork and gratitude? Why are these important character strengths?

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