A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The Nazi extermination program against Jews during World War II was a "madman's hell." "The history of the Holocaust should be taught as a chapter in the long history of man's inhumanity to man.” The Holocaust is the kind of horror that can occur when people lose their integrity.
Positive Role Models
Some survivors feel guilt for surviving when others did not. They mourn lost family members and feel a responsibility to repeat their stories in the hope of preventing such an atrocity from recurring. Survivors show perseverance, and their stories evoke compassion and empathy.
Violence & Scariness
Extreme violence, both in graphic descriptions of torture/murder and photographs and moving images of the same. The violence is all the more shocking in its systematic and cold-blooded nature. Images show everything from a catalog of emaciated prisoners to thousands of dead naked bodies piled high to movies of people being shot and pushed into mass graves. A skeleton is seen in a crematorial oven. Detailed descriptions of rounding people up into cattle cars so crowded that they stood crammed together for days without food, water, or hygiene facilities. The fact that Nazi photographers recorded these atrocities, as if proud of their dirty work, adds to the nearly inconceivable monstrosity of their acts. Surviving concentration camp inmates describe seeing small children being bashed to death and relay reports of babies being torn apart. One witness horrifically describes 2,500 Jews being jammed into a gas chamber designed for 500. Men are asked to take their pants down so Nazis can identify Jews by their circumcisions. A German doctor who performed medical experiments on Jews says that experiments were performed to find quick ways to sterilize them. Some prisoners were blinded in experiments designed to change eye color. Prisoners were assigned numbers that were tattooed on their skin. Some of Hitler's last writings before his death by suicide include a call for citizens to continue to "resist mercilessly the poison of all nations -- international Jewry." Prisoners developed sores and infections from widespread lice infestations. In disturbing color footage, five emaciated, naked, barefoot male prisoners walk slowly and feebly away from the camera.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nonsexual nudity: The film shows thousands of naked bodies, some dead and some living. Most are emaciated prisoners.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the 1998 Oscar-winning documentary The Last Days documents the final year of World War II when, facing defeat, the Nazis seemingly gave up the effort to win the war and put remaining resources into killing as many Jews as possible instead. The horrors described by survivors of the death camps, the soldiers who liberated them, and historians, as well as photographs and archival footage, make this important and educational but best suited to teens and older. Images of thousands of liberated emaciated prisoners, dead bodies piled on the ground, in pits, in mass graves, and in crematoria will trouble viewers. One survivor describes Jewish babies being torn apart by Nazis. Another saw a child deliberately thrown against a truck by a Nazi soldier, resulting in gushing blood and death. An American soldier, horrified by what he found during the liberation of a camp, describes offering a captured German colonel the privilege of rank. In response, the colonel spit at the soldier and the soldier executed the German on the spot. Above and beyond the difficulty of such images are the stories of inexplicable cruelty and a Europe-wide plan to exterminate a targeted group of citizens. Language includes "damn." Nonsexual nudity: The film shows thousands of naked bodies, some dead and some living. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is an excellent documentary that should be must-see viewing for teens. Perhaps more pointedly than other documentaries on this subject, The Last Days movingly shines a harsh light on the last-ditch spasm of murder the Nazis engaged in, even as they knew they would lose the cataclysmic war they had launched on much of the world for years. Director James Moll and his dedicated colleagues achieve the goal of demonstrating the irrational hatred that must have sustained the Nazis' final push to complete the stated goal of a Final Solution by killing as many Jews as possible before the inevitable surrender to the Allies. The filmmakers chose five exceptionally articulate and thoughtful survivors, able to describe the nuances of their loss and grief. Some visit the concentration camps decades later and amid the stark remains, say kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, honoring lost family members. Tom Lantos, California congressman for 27 year, and the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, describes his experiences and his gratitude to the United States and why he dedicated his life to human rights.
What the movie does so well is to show the vastness, complexity, and sophistication of the Nazi effort to "cleanse" its world of Jews. Aerial photography shows acres of barracks as far as the eye can see where Jews and other victims were housed before their inevitable murder. The meticulousness of the operation made clear the thought and planning that went into the mass murder project. The efficiency of the cattle cars, the gas chambers, the crematoria, all custom-designed to transport and kill quickly and effectively, allowed the established system -- kidnapping, starvation, overwork, torture, and murder -- to function effectively for years. No matter how many times one has seen these images, they still assault the viewer anew. Once again it seems impossible that such heinous acts could ever have been committed, and yet we know they were.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.