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118 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful film, everyone should see this one
A film by James Moll
Winner of the 1998 Academy Award for Best Documentary
I do not feel that I have the words to adequately describe this film and my reaction to it. I have seen "Schindler's List", it is a powerful, haunting film. While it is based on a real event of the Shoah, it is still a fictional film. There are actors playing parts and despite the...
Published on January 19, 2004 by Joe Sherry

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118 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful film, everyone should see this one, January 19, 2004
By 
This review is from: The Last Days (DVD)
A film by James Moll
Winner of the 1998 Academy Award for Best Documentary
I do not feel that I have the words to adequately describe this film and my reaction to it. I have seen "Schindler's List", it is a powerful, haunting film. While it is based on a real event of the Shoah, it is still a fictional film. There are actors playing parts and despite the brutality we see in the movie, everyone goes home at the end of the day. What makes "The Last Days" so much more powerful is that the five primary interviewees are survivors of the Holocaust. They are telling their stories of their lives and their experiences of Hitler's Final Solution. There is actual video footage, and photographs from the time, and it is still shocking to hear and to see, and I would suggest that it remains necessary to hear and to see.
This is the story of five Jews from Hungary. They tell of their experiences before, during, and after the war. They were all in various camps: Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen. Their stories are incredible, and since the stories are being told by the men and women who experienced the Holocaust, they are all the more powerful. We learn how they were rounded up and put into the train cars, what they thought, why they didn't actively resist, and what happened to the rest of their families. We also get to see them each go back for the first time to the concentration camps they were held in. They are with their children, and are revealing little details, mostly painful, as they remember them. One man, as he walks through the gates says that even after all these years, the memories are just as fresh as when he was a prisoner.
I don't feel that my description does this film justice. It is a beautiful, powerful, and ultimately necessary movie. Despite the fact that we may have heard various stories of the Holocaust over the years, we still need to hear these stories because pretty soon there will be nobody left alive who lived through it, and these stories will be all that is left. These are important stories, and "The Last Days" does an exceptional job at telling these five stories.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real People and the Real Horror of the Holocaust, February 2, 2002
This review is from: The Last Days [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This documentary of five Hungarian survivors of the holocaust is not a comfortable movie to watch. We cannot make believe that it is an re-enactment by actors; we are not distanced from it by the general news clips. Instead, this tightly edited film brings five individual stories of real people to the screen with a scorching reality. In the last six months of WWII, Hitler concentrated his resources in deporting 440,000 Hungarian Jews even after he knew the war was lost. The five people in the documentary, then teenagers, were caught up in this brutal chapter of history, and each one tells his or her story against a backdrop of rare footage of films that were taken by the Nazis. Now in their late 60s and 70s, each one of these survivors, surrounded by loving families, visit the scene of the devastation, and tell their stories.
Steven Spielberg is the executive producer of this small gem of a film, a memorial to the horrible truth, and I am sure it is his name which brings this film to movie theaters, where I first saw this film. The theater complex on had only two showings -- at noon and at 4:55 p.m. I cannot help but wonder why it was deemed unfit for Saturday night viewing, because every seat was taken in the tiny theater. I cried, and heard the sobbing of the people around me. It was that kind of film. The human beings on the screen were so real. Their stories so true. Their lives so shattered. And then rebuilt. A living testimony to the survival of the human spirit. It's a testimony also of what can be done with film. How a history can be preserved. How snapshots of real life can be recorded. As I left the theater, my eyes swollen from crying, my soul sick from what I have just seen, there were lines of people waiting to get into see the latest romantic comedy, the newest thriller, the silliest cartoons. My heart was still beating wildly as I gulped the fresh air outside the theater and walked slowly home, the horror and the history still touching my raw nerves. I cannot help but think about the other sad stories in history that cry out to be memorialized in this way. And the fact that without a big name like Spielberg, or the proper funding, these stories will never be told. But why do we need to know? What good does it do? How can it change our lives to relive over and over again the many atrocities of humankind? The answer lives in the perspective it gives us as we go about our lives. We are only a part of the continuum of history. It is luck or karma or just the random winds of life that give us our lives of abundance. And when I pause, and think about it seriously, I can only give thanks for my wonderful life.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars may we never forget, November 28, 2004
This review is from: The Last Days (DVD)
This award winning documentary should be viewed often and by everyone, because those who don't know history well are condemned to repeat it; the voices that survived to tell of the horror of the Holocaust also speak of the naivete during the rise of Hitler, and California Congressman Tom Lantos, one of the survivors interviewed for this film, states this fact eloquently.

The documentary focuses on five Hungarian-born Jews, and the harrowing stories of their lives, as well as others, like Hans Munch, a doctor who took part in the Nazi experiments conducted in Auschwitz, and three members of the U.S. Army, who entered Dachau to liberate it, and were faced with a living hell.

The survivors return to Auschwitz, to see the place of their suffering, to say Kaddish for their relatives who were murdered, and to visit the their birthplace in Hungary; one town, which until the early '40s had a thriving Jewish community, has now not a trace left...what little Hitler left of it, the Soviets finished, in their zeal to eradicate everything and everyone with a Jewish heritage.

Interspersed with the interviews is wrenching archive footage of the Holocaust, a vision of pure evil that mankind can sink to, and can do so again if we dull our awareness to those of hateful ideologies, who seek to terrorize and destroy.

Executive Producer Steven Spielberg calls this film his most important work, and I agree with him. Directed with great sensitivity by James Moll, and with an affecting score by Hans Zimmer, it is a gripping testament to those who must not be forgotten. Total running time is 87 minutes.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Only These LAST DAYS Were Also the Last Time, January 8, 2000
By 
J. Michael Click (Pineville, Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Last Days (DVD)
A picture is worth a thousand words. And so a *moving* picture, clipping along at the rate of 24 frames per second, has the potential to be priceless. THE LAST DAYS proves that, and does so powerfully and with uncommon eloquence. Focusing on the Nazi campaign against Hungarian Jews during the last few months of World War II, the film interweaves recent interviews with survivors of this atrocity with vintage documentary film footage and photographs. The result is a very potent and poignant lesson that speaks of our common humanity (and potential for inhumanity), the mob mentality, individuality, and how those human dynamics come into play during the course of history. I found at the end of the film that my shirt collar was damp from tears that I had not realized I was shedding, and that the storytellers leave a lasting impression --- a week later, their words and faces are still sharply etched in my mind, and I suspect I will always remember them.
The film-to-DVD transfer is flawless, and there are powerful extra features to explore: a still archive, deleted sequences, the theatrical trailer, and much, much more. I would honestly recommend that you prepare to spend some time "processing" what you learn and experience while watching this disc, and that adults be sensitive to the impact that this material may have on less mature viewers. Truly Hitler's "Final Solution" is the stuff of unimaginable horror, and this most worthy Oscar-winner pulls no punches in exposing a very real nightmare to the light of day.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!, June 13, 2001
By 
This review is from: The Last Days (DVD)
I am, and have been for many years, an avid reader and watcher of Holocaust books and films. I have watched many great movies on the subject including Escape from Sobibor, Schindler's List, Anne Frank and the wonderful Life Is Beautiful (a must watch if you think your life [stinks) but this docu-movie has to be one of the most thought provoking on the subject. Using 5 actual survivors of the Holocaust, no actors here, this tear jerking, highly inspirational movie has my vote as one of the 5 top movies of all time. Some scenes will horrify and sicken, some will make the watcher mad, but the over all message of the movie is learn... lest we repeat. I think this film should be shown in schools to teach our children the real history of the Holocaust, the insane reasonings behind it and hope that they learn to be more loving, caring and more respectful of each other. As Speilberg says at the start of the movie non of us are born evil, filled with hate... it's something we learn. So if we can learn evil and hate, then there's a chance to teach tomorrows generation love and understanding. A brilliant film, worth every penny and then some.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Supplement to Weisel's NIGHT, February 28, 2003
This review is from: Last Days [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I teach high school English. I feel that this an excellent choice to show in conjunction with reading Weisel's NIGHT. His novel also talks about the last days of World War II. So you can make a comparison between his story and the survivor stories in the documentary. It also helps those visual learners better understand what Weisel was going through. I orginally wanted to show Speilberg's Shindler's List but it's rated R and I thought it would create too much of a stir. The documentary is rated PG-13, so it's a little easier to swallow but also very truthful. I believe that some of my students came away with a new appreciation for what they have here in America.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible journey, November 8, 2006
By 
Anyechka (Rensselaer, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last Days (DVD)
This moving documentary covers the lives of 5 Hungarian survivors who were young people during the war and who are all now United States citizens. They are Alice Lok Cahana, Congressman Tom Lantos, Irene Zisblatt, Bill Basch, and Renée Firestone. Although I had previously heard or read some of these people's stories, I hadn't heard all of them, nor all of the details provided here. Also included are interviews with former Nazi doctor Hans Münch, some American liberators, and Greek survivor Dario Gabbai (whom I'd also previously seen on at least one other documentary), who is, by his own estimates, one of only 4 Sonderkommandos who were alive at the time this film was shot (1998).

The fate of Hungarian Jewry has always had a special fascination for me, since they were largely still intact until the spring of 1944, when the Nazis invaded their country (19 March), put them into ghettos, and between May and July sent the majority of them to their deaths. A huge population that had been largely untouched was suddenly nearly obliterated in the blink of an eye, and in no other conquered nation-state in Europe was the Final Solution carried out with such frightening speed, savageness, barbarity, and support and assistance from the locals. At least in Budapest, where Congressman Lantos and Mr. Basch (until he was accidentally deported to Buchenwald) were, it was relatively safer because it was a big city and not one of the small towns and cities where the people weren't as cosmopolitan and open-minded. This documentary covers these 5 survivors before the war, during the war, and after the war, including their respective journeys, decades later, back to their hometowns and to the various camps where they were enslaved.

Some people complain that there are "too many" books and films about the Shoah, and that after awhile it all starts to sound the same, or that the subject is too depressing for one to voluntarily immerse oneself in, but no two stories are exactly alike. Each story is unique and worth telling and remembering, before it's too late to be recorded, and so that hopefully new generations will learn what hatred can lead to if left unchecked and unprotested, will realise that hatred isn't something one is born with, but rather something that one learns. Each of these stories have their own unique touches, like Renée's beautiful bathing suit, Alice's artwork, the hanukiyah a liberated prisoner made from cement and nails and which decades later, a few years after his death, was finally delivered to Dr. Paul Parks, one of his liberators, and Irene's diamonds from her mother, which she managed to preserve all through the war and today wears in a tear-shaped pendant on a necklace, a necklace she intends to pass on through each firstborn female in her family line in perpetuity. The most haunting story for me was when Alice talked about how she and her sister Edith began singing "Shalom Aleychem" in the outhouse at Auschwitz, a short time after their arrival, to welcome Shabbos in spite of their surroundings, and soon all of the people around them, whatever their nation of origin, joined in in the haunting Hebrew melody. And all of the survivors report feeling pride and joy in having large families, rebuilding what the Nazis tried to take away from them, many coming from one or just a few survivors of what had been very large families.

Extras include outtakes, photo galleries, the theatrical trailer, and filmographies of the producers, cinematographer, director and editor, photographer, music composer, and the executive producer. The film is also available for viewing in both widescreen and fullscreen. The only extra that seemed a bit out of place was executive producer Steven Spielberg's introduction to the Shoah Foundation, seeing as that very same introduction is already included at the beginning of the film itself!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 personal heartbreaking stories of what once happened., July 3, 2006
By 
This review is from: The Last Days - Special Edition (DVD)
This has to be one of the best documentary films I've ever run across. The personal stories of 5 survivors of the holocaust are laid before you raw and uncensored as they should be. The survivors were all young at the time and their stories told with their photographs shows these extraordinary people to have been at the time very ordinary just like you and me. Their journeys back to the camps they were held in makes this as real as you can get. Their strength and ability to carry on awes me to no end. All ages should see this film so that we never ever forget what happened not so long ago. I own this film and am very proud to have it apart of my dvd library. I gave it 5 stars only because thats the highest rating you can give it here. It's truly worth 5 more to make this a 10.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painfully Poignant, November 6, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Last Days [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Even with German losses mounting in the last year of the war, Hitler pushed on with his Final Solution, rounding up 440,000 Jews in occupied Hungary in 12 weeks and shipping them off to the camps.
This wrenching documentary, directed by James Moll and produced by Steven Spielberg, uses modern-day interviews and archival footage to follow five survivors, including Tom Lantos, now a congressman from California, into and ever so painfully out of this hell.
The Last Days does not, I suppose, cover much new ground, and it's not always clear whether Moll aims to document the Hungarian Jews' experience or present a wider overview of the end of the camps. But seldom has the Holocaust been described with such vivid narrative power.
One woman recalls how she kept hold of diamonds entrusted to her by her mother -- swallowing them, passing them through her system and retrieving them in the latrine. The degradation was absolute, yet her spirit proved greater.
At times difficult to view, this film is a must see.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most moving work I've seen on the Holocaust, November 29, 2001
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Days (DVD)
I originally bought "The Last Days" in the form of a used video & I quickly replaced it with this DVD from Amazon. I want this documentary to last throughout the years so my children can watch it when they're older. I was reluctant to write a review b/c words no doubt will fail to express how touching this film is. As the Holocaust survivors relive their stories, I couldn't help but feel a human connection. The most powerful moments are the survivors going back to Auschwitz with their grown children. Survivor, Renee, brings her rabbi son which is a testament that the Jewish people have not lost their faith despite all they have been through. I recommend this film to teach and enlighten.
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The Last Days - Special Edition
The Last Days - Special Edition by James Moll (DVD - 2002)
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