Tuesday, February 18, 2014
"No Place on Earth": hiding in a cave in the Ukraine from the Nazis during the Holocasut
Cave explorer Chris Nicola, who goes spelunking around the world on all his vacations from his job in New York City, discovered artifacts in the unusual gypsum caves in western Ukraine.
This led to the discovery of a maze of caves where Ukrainian Jews hid from the Nazis during Wordl War II, for over eighteen months.
The film, by Janet Tobias, originally for the History Channel, is “No Place on Earth”. Most of the 82 minutes of this film happen above ground, much of it in the flat countryside and villages. It tells the story, somewhat following the pattern of Herman Wouk’s “War and Remembrance”. In 1939, the Soviet Union and Hitler make a pact on Poland after Hitler’s invasion, but by 1941 the Nazis have broken it, and roll into the Ukraine (from Poland). They tell the Jews that the will put them in a “paradise ghetto” (like Theresienstadt) and appoint local police to watch the hated minority. But the Jews realize they cannot survive for long, and begin to hide in the caves. The Germans find them in one of the caves, and even carry out a hideous event with local officials, where the Jews fake their own deaths. Many of them survive this way, and find deeper caves. Obviously, they have to forage at night and have some cooperation with very local peasants to survive.
The two main families were Stermer and Wexler. Nicola found one of the survivors living close to him in the Bronx.
The official site (Magnolia Pictures) is here. I believe that this played at the West End Cinema and Landmark Theaters both in DC, but I missed it and watched it on Netflix. The film can be rented on YouTube for $3.99.
The Ukraine has, of course, become a flashpoint for domestic unrest in recent months.
The film could be compared to a “long short”, “Cavedigger”, reviewed here Feb. 3, 2014.
Wikipedia attribution link for Kiev after WWI.