"A Sanctuary in the Storm"
What You Need To Know:
INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS is a compelling documentary that reveals an unsung aspect of World War II. It is a well-done movie extolling the virtues of family and the importance of memory. Its main fault lies in its lack of a strong theological foundation and its neglect of God. These things could have deepened the messages the filmmakers wish to convey
(BB, L, V, M) Moral anti-fascist worldview with pro-family message; 2 mild obscenities & 3 mild exclamatory profanities including 1 “Oh God” & 2 “God forbids”; mild newsreel violence & mild photos of people in National Socialist concentration camps; and, anti-Semitism shown & described but rebuked throughout the movie.
For nine months prior to World War II, Great Britain conducted an extraordinary rescue mission, opening its doors to more than 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. These children, or “kinder,” were taken into foster homes and hostels, in hopes that they could eventually reunite with their parents. Of course, most of them never saw their families again.
INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS, which is subtitled STORIES OF THE KINDERTRANSPORT, is a documentary about this act of mercy, and its regrettable aftermath. Narrated by Oscar winning actress Dame Judi Dench (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), the movie interviews some of the child survivors, rescuers and foster parents, interspersed with newsreel footage as well as photographs and letters from the families involved.
Before the war broke out, Hitler’s policy of forced emigration allowed some parents to send their children away to safety. Aroused by the anti-Semitic repression in Germany, the government in Britain made arrangements to accept many of these children. Fear of massive unemployment required the adults to obtain a sponsor. In some cases, however, a few parents eventually were able to flee to Britain soon after their children arrived. Although most of the children never saw their parents again, the movie depicts a couple of cases where parents were able to rejoin their children after the war. The years of separation made for uncomfortable reunions, however, because two of the children were so young when they left and had become thoroughly assimilated into British society.
INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS opens by showing the increasing terrorism that Jews faced as the war approached. Then, it details how the Kindertransport came to be organized and what happened when the parents said goodbye to their children at the train stations, some of the same train stations that were later used to take people to the death camps. One woman explains how she fell out of one of the train windows when her father couldn’t bear to let go of his beloved daughter’s little hand. Eventually, the whole family was sent to concentration camps, and only the daughter survived.
The experiences of the children in England varied, according to the documentary. Some were treated as servants, while others were taken into the family. Older children usually had to stay at hostels because foster parents could not be found for them. Later during the war, the young men age 16 and older were shipped to Australia with German and Austrian adults who were considered possible political threats. Many of these boys came back later to enlist in special armed forces units fighting Germany.
INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS is a compelling documentary that reveals an unsung aspect of World War II. It is a well-done movie extolling the virtues of family and the importance of memory. Its main fault lies in its lack of a strong theological foundation and its neglect of God. These things could have deepened the messages the filmmakers wish to convey.