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Film / Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport

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Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport is a 2000 documentary feature directed by Mark Jonathan Harris.

It is the story of the Kindertransport, namely, the 1938-39 rescue of some 10,000 German, Austrian, and Czech Jewish children ("kinder") from the Nazis. The Kristallnacht anti-Jewish pogrom of November 1938 shocks the world and increases support in England for efforts to help Jewish people escape Germany. The government of Great Britain agrees to take in Jewish children, but only children, who will be sent out to foster families.

Jewish families across Nazi Germany make the wrenching decision to send their children off to England. The children, initially relieved at escaping Hitler's clutches, must deal with separation from their parents and anxiety over their fates, while having to adjust to life in a foreign culture.

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Tropes:

  • Answer Cut: One woman says that she felt like she and her father were protecting her mother and sister, and then muses "I don't know what we were protecting them from." Then there's a cut to Stock Footage of Adolf Hitler, and the film starts talking about the Germans annexing Austria.
  • Day of the Jackboot: For German children living in Austria and Czechoslovakia, it comes with terrifying suddenness. An Austrian woman talks about how uniforms and swastika flags appeared out of nowhere.
  • Documentary: With all the usual documentary tropes.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used with pretty much every still picture in the movie, like when the camera pans across lines of Jews being arrested in Germany, or when the camera zooms out from a picture of a father to show his wife and daughter as well.
  • Narrator: Judi Dench provides narration.
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  • One-Person Birthday Party: A woman who was a little girl in 1938 Austria recalls that the situation was brought home to her when no other children came to her birthday party.
  • Scenery Gorn: Scenes of bomb damage from the 1940 raid on Coventry, as well as scenes from bombed-out Germany after the war.
  • Spot of Tea: One woman tells about how her parents actually managed to escape to Spain, and made it to England after the war. Too nervous to meet them at the train station, she goes back to her foster home to make them tea. Then she says "How English is that?"
  • Talking Heads: Most of the elderly interviewees were once the children transported to England. Also interviewed are one surviving mother (most of the parents left behind died in The Holocaust), one surviving English foster mother, and the German Jewish man who organized the Kindertransport from Berlin.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Some parents are forced to say goodbye to their children in an anteroom because Nazi authorities don't want other people to see what's happening. One woman recalls how her father walked along the train with her until he subverted this trope by actually pulling her out the window; she spent the war in concentration camps as a result.
  • Voiceover Letter: One scene uses this trope to recount the letters sent back and forth from England to Germany before the outbreak of war caused the children to lose contact with their parents.
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