Film: The Last Chapter

written by S. L. Shneiderman

     The Last Chapter
     written by S.L. Shneiderman
     Produced and Directed by Benjamim and
      Lawrence Rothman
     Narration by Theodore Bikel
     Music by Vladimir Heifetz
     Historical Research by Eileen Shneiderman
     90 minutes
     1966

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 Bikel.

"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."
      -Time Magazine