Deliver me from those who work evil; from the bloodthirsty save me.
Janis Tobias’s documentary about a cave explorer and his quest to find the long ago occupants of a cave is at the other end of the Holocaust genre spectrum from Lore, in that it is a survival tale of a group of 38 Ukrainian Jews finding refuge in caves during the Nazi occupation of their land. While exploring a cave in Ukraine in 1993 New Yorker cave enthusiast Chris Nicola comes across a few artifacts—a button, medicine bottles, a shoe—that show that someone had lived in the cave for a period of time. As he investigates, he comes upon several of the survivors who were children at the time.
Through their interviews and the excellent re-enactments of actors, their incredible and harrowing story of survival against impossible odds comes to light, a story taking place when there was no place on earth for them at the time, nor a Schindler to give them aid. The re-enactments are often exciting, especially the one in which a betrayer has alerted the Nazis to the presence of the Jews. Invading the cave, the Nazis arrest several, and only what must seem like a miracle did any of the captives survive their execution. Equally powerful are the scenes in which an elderly survivor returns to the cave and watches his granddaughter descend into its depths. A wonderful testimony to the human spirit!
1. Compare this to other Holocaust films. Were you surprised to discover a new side or aspect of this much-visited topic?
2. One of the interviewees states that they survived without outside help. From what you know of Ukrainian history, why was this so? How might this have been reflected by the villagers being vague about those who had occupied the caves? “Maybe some Jews lived there.” 3. In relation to the above, what did some of the villagers do at one point? How must this blocking of the entrance have impacted the refugees?
4. What role did anti-Semitism play in America as well as in Russia and the Ukraine? A good example is the refusal of the US in 1939 to allow entry into the country of the Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis. Forced to return to Germany, many of its passengers perished in the Nazi death camps. See the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_St._Louis. Film lovers might want to watch Stuart Rosenberg’s 1976 film Voyage of the Damned.
5. The film’s Official Site includes a good Educator’s Guide and more: http://www.noplaceonearthfilm.com/the-film/synopsis/