Malmö, Harbour of Hope for 30,000 concentration camp survivors

While Son of Saul by László Nemes, which followed the quest of a Jewish prisoner at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, made a big splash and received the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Festival, the Second World War has not yet finished revealing all its secrets to us.

In Harbour of Hope(2011), Swedish director Magnus Gertten addresses a little-known event: in the spring of 1945, 30,000 concentration camp survivors, with the help of the Swedish Red Cross, disembarked at the quiet little port of Malmö in Sweden, a neutral country that had not joined the war.

The director’s approach to tackling this historical event, which changed the lives of thousands of people, involved using numerous films and archive images, and commentaries from three survivors who landed at Malmö:

Irene Krausz-Fainman, who arrived aged eight years old with her mother. “My mother concealed the reality in the camp from me, and has always refused to tell me what happened during the war,” explains Irene, who has since then lived in South Africa.

Ewa Kabacinska Jansson, born in the Ravensbrück camp, arrived in Malmö as a baby with her mother and now lives in Ystad in Sweden. Ewa has spent her entire life trying to find out the truth about her father’s identity.

Joe Rozenberg landed alone as an adolescent in Malmö, having lost almost all of his family in the camps. His arrival in Sweden was to mark the beginning of his new life, through the friendship he forged with a Swedish volunteer from the Red Cross, Stig Kinnhagen. These days, Joe lives in Minneapolis in the United States, where he cares for his wife, whom he met in Sweden, herself also a camp survivor.

In Harbour of Hope,they talk of the camps, their childhood memories and their arrival in the port of Malmö; a symbol of regained freedom, of learning to live a normal life again, and of the hope of a better and peaceful future. A haven of peace where they would begin their new lives, far from their native central Europe.

“Harbour of Hope is the film that my father Gustaf always wanted me to direct,” the director explains. “At 15 years old, he watched the boats arrive in the port of Malmö, with the concentration camp survivors on board. This experience changed his life, as it did for many of the other Malmö inhabitants.

After an international premiere at the 2011 Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece, Harbour of Hope has travelled the world. In the course of these travels, the director has become aware of the stories of all the other survivors that haven’t yet been documented. These new recollections have been gathered together in the director’s latest documentary, Every Face Has a Name, released in Sweden in April 2015.

Harbour of Hope, which is included in the Documentaries From Around the World collection by Walk this Way, is available from 15 May in Spain, Denmark, Great Britain, Belgium and Turkey.

23. juni 2015, av Cineuropa