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Sunday, May 5, 2019


When you have a Holocaust survivor with a vivid memory and a desire to tell her story, you don't need any more than that. SURVIVING BIRKENAU: THE SUSAN SPATZ STORY (2019) is augmented by a wealth of period photographs and film clips, but it's the words of Susan Spatz herself that keep us mesmerized.

At 96, she is a prime example of going through hell and back again, having come out of her three-year ordeal with a burning desire to make the most of the remainder of her life.

As she says, her survival wasn't a happily-ever-after ending, but only the start of her struggle to find her place in the universe again.

Her story begins with her privileged childhood in Vienna in the 1920s, an only child she admits was spoiled until the Nazis came and turned everything upside-down.

With Austrian Jews being relocated into ghettos and worse, her father escaped to Brussels while her mother insisted on staying behind with Susan, supposedly to see how her husband fared before leaving.

As Susan relates, her mother's actual intention was to remain behind with her lover, a decision that condemned her and her daughter to imprisonment by the Nazis. Susan is frank about her lack of sentimental memories of the woman who chose her man over her daughter's well-being, a decision that soon landed Susan in the dreaded concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Her eyes are alight with vivid images of the past as she relates, clearly and in great detail, the horrors and hardships encountered there.

We've heard many similar stories before, but as always, hearing them from yet another individual who lived through the ordeal brings a different and newly fascinating wealth of day-to-day details which can only begin to convey what the actual experiences must have been like.

She talks of familiar horrors--the crematorium with the tall, fiery chimney, freight cars filled with dead bodies, crowds of naked people being separated according to who can still work and who is fit only for extermination--along with the hardships of simply staying alive one more day in some of the worst conditions imaginable.

Her eventual transfer to the camp at Birkenau and a wildly fortunate opportunity to join the pool of administrative assistants gave her a somewhat less precarious existence, and in fact was the most important factor in her survival.

She then reveals how the impending arrival of allied liberation forces brought about a long, horrific death march before she finally found herself suddenly free from bondage after three incredibly harsh years.

What comes next is Susan's story of life after living death, a life not easy but one which she was eager to live to the fullest.  A failed marriage, motherhood, and a college degree are all part of the story of this amazing woman who still displays a faded number tattooed on her arm. 

SURVIVING BIRKENAU: THE SUSAN SPATZ STORY is a thoughtful, evocative, harrowing, and ultimately inspiring story that eschews sensationalism in favor of simply letting her tell her story the way only a survivor of that time possibly could, and in being fortunate enough to hear it, we are all the better for it.

Buy it at

Language: English
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Dreamscape Media
DVD Release Date: May 14, 2019
Run Time: 71 minutes

About The Holocaust Education Film Foundation
Established in 2018, the Holocaust Education Film Foundation was started to build an international, interactive online community one Holocaust survivor story at a time. Through full-length documentaries, distributed globally through numerous platforms, the online site and educational programs, the 501c3 foundation seeks to ensure that we never forget.

Read our review of the Holocaust Education Film Foundations's TO AUSCHWITZ AND BACK: THE JOE ENGEL STORY


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