Film: The Last Chapter
written by S. L. Shneiderman
The Last Chapter
written by S.L. Shneiderman
Produced and Directed by Benjamim and
Narration by Theodore Bikel
Music by Vladimir Heifetz
Historical Research by Eileen Shneiderman
When the Nazi's "Final Solution" reduced the Jewish population
of Poland from 3,500,000 to 300,000 in the course of six years, they did not
merely wipe out 3,200,000 individuals, but a millenium of Jewish life in Poland.
"The Last Chapter" memorializes that era by delving into the thousand year
history of the Jewish community in Poland. That heritage includes the Jews who
were Poland's artisans, soldiers, merchants, and intellectuals. They were
leaders in trade and Polish patriots who fought for independence from the Czar.
The Jews were also victims of scorn and virulent pogroms: even a year after
World War II, there was a pogrom in Kielce in which fory-two Jews were killed.
The pogrom was prompted by the old medieval suspicion that Jews were using the
blood of Christian children to make matzoh. In addition to these
stories, the film shows us scenes from the heyday of Yiddish theatre, the simple
life of the shtetl, and the Jews of the cities, rich and poor. The films
revisits the years of Nazi horror, though it does not just tell of the Jewish
tragedy. It also pays homage to the Jewish struggles to maintain their ways of
life in the face of destruction and to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the Jews
of other Ghettos who fought back.
The process of making the film started
eleven years before it was released. Mr. Shneiderman visited Poland to film what
was left of the Warsaw Ghetto, various synagogues, cemetaries, and other
surviving Jewish structures. Mr. Shneiderman already had photographs of the
aftermath of the Kielce pogrom, having rushed there himself, hours after it had
taken place. Eileen Shneiderman undertook the vast historical research and the
father and son team of Benjamin and Lawrence Rothman committed themselves to an
exhaustive search for sources and footage in accordance to Mr. Shneiderman's
treatment for the film. The film received further contributions from Vladimir
Heifetz's score made up of folk songs of the shtelakh and the popular
songs of the cities, as well as the narration by actor and singer Theodore
"This intelligent and restrained compilation of motion
pictures and still photographs, acompanied by an excellent narration and a
superior musical score, has a distinct characteristic of historical perspective
that gives to its shattering culmination a unique thrust of tragic irony."
-The New York Times
"The Last Chapter gives the
tragedy a face and brings it unforgettably home to stay."