The Escape (Ha'Brichah), directed by Meni Elias, is a documentary film which tells the story of the post-war Brichah movement during which Jews, survivors of the Holocaust, were clandestinely moved across Europe to boats that would take them to Palestine. It also tells the story of 8 Israeli teenagers who travel from Israel to Europe to follow in the path of this movement.
They are a diverse group of teens -- a girl from Colombia, an Arab girl from Acco, a religious boy from Tekoah, a D.J. from Sderot, one fellow who wants to be a dancer, and the great grandson of the legendary Ada Sereni who helped to organize small boats for the refugees all over Italy.
First they travel to Kielce in Poland to learn about the post-war pogrom in which 42 Jews were murdered in one day. Then they travel to Austria where they visit a DP camp, then a forced labor camp, and also some significant stops along the journey of the rescue mission. They meet locals and talk to them about their memories and ask them how can you live on this memory-filled land? They meet with many people who were brought to Israel by this rescue movement, or by those who assisted in it, helping to organize boats and trucks. In a small town in Austria, one man relates the story of how his job was to obtain six trucks, but he only had one. So he went to the local authorities and requested five trucks. They asked him, why would we help you? He told them, if you don't help us, the 400 Jews who are temporarily residing here, will be forced to stay. He was immediately provided with the use of the trucks!
The film uses archival footage and old photographs to tell the historical story -- much of the footage is from Meyer Levin's landmark film, The Illegals (shot as a semi-documentary/semi-drama in 1947). But, the focus of this film is actually on the Israeli teenagers themselves. Naturally, they relate the things they are learning about to their own lives, specifically to anti-Arab feeling and to hatred of foreigners. They talk about issues of identity, intermarriage and assimilation. The young man from Sderot compares the difficulties of children survivors to his own growing up without a father. One teen talks about his brother who went on a prolonged hunger strike against the occupation when it came to the time of his draft. The Arab girl talks about her family's history -- they are from Ban'a, a village near Carmiel, and her great grandmother (who was pregnant at the time) was forced to flee to Acco during the fighting in 1948, while her great grandfather was detained for six months.
As they follow in the footsteps of those who were rescued, the teens climb the mountains of Austria to cross over the border to Italy. The mountain climbing guide is a German man whose father served in the S.S. He shares his disappointment in his father who still, to this day, cannot admit that he was a soldier fighting in an unjust war.
The Escape (Ha'Brichah) -- 75 minutes -- is about how lessons of history are interpreted and understood by Israeli young people today. The film is available from Ruth Diskin.