sad and traumatic but ultimately
heartening film, Escape From Sobibor
is a Golden Globe-winning Holocaust
movie that informs of but never
indulges in the horrors
of the death
camp Sobibor, from where half of the six
hundred Jews imprisoned under Hitlers
genocide programme managed to break
out and escape with their lives... IN 1942, SS CHIEF HEINRICH HIMMLER initiated Operation Reinhart, Nazi
Germany's 'final solution' to the Jewish question. In Poland,
three death camps were built and staffed under top secret orders: Belzec; Treblinka
and the most secret Sobibor.
On 14 October 1943, the biggest, most courageous and most successful prisoner
revolt in World War II took place in Eastern Poland when hundreds of Jews turned
on their captors. Escape From Sobibor is their story and this film is a vital
reminder of the truth and the horror of the Holocaust.
A group of Jewish prisoners who have managed to cheat the gas chambers at death
camp Sobibor, led by Leon Feldhendler (Oscar-winning Alan Arkin: Little Miss
Sunshine) and Samuel Friedberg (Emil Wolk), are conspiring to escape but,
having worked up the courage to do so, they hesitate as they will not only have
to dodge the guards' bullets but also negotiate a dangerous minefield.
However, tired of waiting, three young men rush towards the fences and the danger
beyond leaving the others to listen to the gunshots and exploding mines
and have the memory of the mutilated bodies as a grisly warning.
Despite the tragedy, as yet another train load of prisoners arrives with hands
reaching out through the openings of the packed cattle-trucks as they beg for
water, everyone is ordered to smile and music plays, giving the impression of
a holiday camp.
But the truth is never far away, and as the prisoners whisper to the new arrivals
to volunteer and to claim to have a trade, they watch helplessly as the majority
are led away to the gas chambers disguised as showers supposedly to prevent
the spread of Typhus.
Keen to stay with their family, the newcomers are upset to find that women and
children are separated from the men and boys over 14. They are told Sobibor
is a labour camp and the work is hard, but they can little guess at the extent
of the suffering there.
Three young women claim to be seamstresses Naomi (Sara Sugarman), Luka
(Joanna Pacula: Gorky Park) and Bajle (Judith Sharp), whose husband is
fighting with the partisans and who is hiding a little secret which will get
Others volunteer to be shoemakers or goldsmiths and when they ask about their
families, who are already dead, they are told they are well and happy and working
in the fields. Nobody is safe from Nazi brutality and gradually the prisoners
have their eyes opened.
After the arrival of a trainload of Dutch Jews, some men take an opportunity
to make a bid for freedom. But when they are recaptured, the repercussions are
so shocking that a decision is made to take everybody from the camp during the
escape rather than leaving anyone behind to face the reprisals from the SS.
When a group of Russian soldiers arrives at the camp, led by Alexander 'Sasha'
Pechersky (Rutger Hauer: Bladerunner), there appears to be some hope,
but the Russian army is too far away to help and Sasha fabricates a romance
with Luka in order to meet Leon and Samuel in the women's barracks where an
elaborate and daring escape plan is hatched.
Over a quarter of a million Jews were killed at Sobibor but, of the 600 prisoners
planning to escape, over 300 got away safely to the forest. Survivors from the
escape acted as consultants on the film and those events are recounted with
sharp authenticity. Escape From Sobibor was acclaimed for its accurate
portrayal of the uprising and won two Golden Globes in 1987 Best Motion
Picture Made for TV and Best Actor In A Supporting Role (Rutger Hauer).
Alan Arkin, Joanna Pacula and Rutger Hauer head an international cast in this
story of great courage, Directed by the BAFTA-winning Jack Gold. Also featured
are: Simon Gregor as Stanislaw 'Shlomo' Szmajzner; Linal Haft as Kapo Porchek;
Jason Norman as Thomas 'Toivi' Blatt; Robert Gwilym as Chaim Engel; Eli Nathenson
as Moses Szmajzner; Henry Stolow as Lt Niemann; Ullrich Haupt as Sgt Wolf; Patti
Love as Eda; Elis van Maarseveen as Selma; Peter Jonfield as Kapo Sturm; Hartmut
Becker as Sgt Gustav Wagner and Jack Shepherd as Itzhak Lichtman.
The poignant music is by Georges Delerue; Director of Photography is Ernie Vincze;
Produced by Dennis E Doty and Teleplay by Reginald Rose. Escape From Sobibor
was filmed on location in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and the film is based on the
book by Richard Rashke and two unpublished manuscripts Thomas Blatt's
From The Ashes Of Sobibor and Stanislaw Szmajzner's Inferno In Sobibor.
At times heartbreaking and disturbing, Escape From Sobibor is a superb
film and a well-paced, tense period thriller benefiting from a fine cast. An
escape on such a scale is unique it had never happened before and was
never to happen again in World War II. Within days, Himmler ordered the camp
closed, dismantled and the area planted with pine trees. Today a memorial stands
as a testament to the events of 14 October 1943.
The Golden Globe-winning Holocaust film
Escape From Sobibor is out now for the first time on DVD (released by
Network on 26 January, 2009) and is available at all good retailers nationwide.
Certificate: 15 | RPP: £12.99 | Running time: 145 Minutes Approx.
Textless Material (Mute) | Image Gallery.
"At times heartbreaking and disturbing, Escape From Sobibor is a superb
film and a well-paced, tense period thriller benefiting from a fine cast"
Maggie Woods, MotorBar