“Forgotten Transports” stand out from the multitude of Holocaust documentaries because its director, Lukas Pribyl, did more than track down survivors or burrow through film archives and deportation records. Over 10 years and visits to 30 countries, he hunted down photographs of SS camp commanders and snapshots taken by local residents and workers who might have encountered inmates, sometimes trading bottles of vodka for the artifacts. The impression conveyed is that a photographer was along for the nightmare ride of the Czech Jews. Together the films trace the experiences of 76 of the 270 survivors among the thousands of Czech Jews deported, not to the familiar Theresienstadt ghetto or to Auschwitz, but to less-well-known camps like Jagala and Kaiserwald. Mr. Pribyl chose that approach because his grandfather was sent to an obscure camp.
Forgotten Transports to Latvia
In January of 1942, two first transports with hundreds of Czech Jews leave Theresienstadt for the east. After a journey lasting several days, the trains reach the Latvian capital of Riga. In an eerily empty, dilapidated, fenced-off and snowed-in part of town, they find pots on stoves, clothes on the floor, as if everyone has left in a tearing hurry. Then stones wrapped in paper are thrown over the wire by young men held in a cordoned-off section of the ghetto. The notes say: "You will all be killed, like our families. We are the last survivors." The film follows the fate of a number of individuals from the day of their arrival to Riga till the end of WWII – the story of children who go to clandestine school past bodies hanging from the gallows, of boys playing football on the ghetto square that dubs as an execution ground and of teenagers who fall in love at clandestine parties, almost literally "dancing on graves". Life continues despite all. Some men are sent to the Salaspils camp, where only ruthless selfishness offers a slim chance of survival, but others cling together, steadfastly trying to keep a semblance of "normality" amid atrocities.