A film by Mark Jonathan Harris

Winner of the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary, The Long Way Home is the story of the Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and what happened after the concentration camps were liberated. This is a very important, though little told story. Much of what I have been taught glosses over this period, telling only that Americans helped to liberate the camps and then three years later the nation of Israel was formed by the United Nations. The Long Way Home is the story of how the Jewish survivors made it from the camps to having their own nation, and the title of the film is a very apt one. It was a long, long way home and for many of the survivors, the war did not truly end until they made it to Israel.

We are taken through the horror of the Jewish experience from the end of the concentration camps up through the creation of the state of Israel. After the camps, when we might expect that the situation of the survivors would improve dramatically, it didn t. There were so many survivors, so many displaced persons that the Allied Forces had to set up camps of their own to provide shelter as the survivors can get medical treatment and food. Many of these camps had the misfortune to be surrounded by barbed wire, so that some survivors remarked that it was as if they traded one camp for another and nothing had changed. From these temporary camps for displaced persons (as the survivors were called), the survivors were searching for a home even though they no longer had a home in their native countries. Finding passage to Palestine was just as difficult.

Somehow I naively assumed that after the war the survivors had an easier time in founding Israel and finally finding peace in their lives (whatever peace that was left to be found), but this film shows the Jewish people in a constant struggle even as nations that had fought to help free them from the concentration camps turned their backs on the Jewish people. This is a powerful, powerful story and the documentary does it justice. I don t know what other documentaries came out in 1997, but I can scarcely imagine one that is nearly as good as this one. Highly recommended, and for anyone who has an interest in this topic, or the stories that came out of World War II and the Holocaust.