'Kitty: Return to Auschwitz': Documentary Review

In 1979, Kitty Hart-Moxon (formerly Kitty Felix) made a feature-length documentary with Yorkshire Television, capturing her emotional return to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was a prisoner for around two years. A couple of years after the screening of the documentary, Kitty wrote a book as something of a follow-up; you can read my review of this book here.

The documentary shows Kitty before the trip at home and work in Birmingham, then the trip itself, taken with one of her sons, David. Finally, Kitty reflects on the trip and her life since imprisonment in the camp.
It is heart-wrenching, hard-hitting viewing. Any one of us can travel to the site of a former concentration camp and feel a certain amount of unease and sadness, but one cannot imagine what it must feel like for someone who was actually imprisoned there to return. Kitty does not hold her emotions back; she weeps openly for the hundreds of thousands murdered, pointing the route to the gas chambers out to David, and for the friends she lost during her time in Auschwitz. Initially clearly shocked and stressed by the experience, she eventually finds her bearings and gives her son a detailed explanation of different areas of the camp and their purpose, as well as a general talk about camp life. Kitty discusses the ‘organisation’ of items, the importance of essential items – “If you didn’t have your bowl, you didn’t have your soup, you didn’t have your water, you didn’t have your toilet!” – and the ways in which to survive another day, including stealing food and clothing from the dead. “But I don’t have to feel guilty for this, do I?” she asks rhetorically, “because they didn’t need it.” Certainly, I do not think any of us could condemn her for basic acts to help herself see another tomorrow.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the documentary for me was Kitty and David discovering human ashes half-buried in mud and grass. At one point, they even find a piece of human bone; as a medical professional, David is able to confirm this. Fortunately, it seems hard to find such harsh evidence out in the open in the present day, but it is a stark reminder that the whole area of Auschwitz-Birkenau primarily serves as a graveyard.

This is not, of course, the sort of documentary you would sit down and watch to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon. Kitty’s character, however, as in the book, shines through for the whole 90 minutes. Since retiring as a radiologist, she has dedicated her life to Holocaust education, so that she may speak for all those who passed through Auschwitz’s gates and never returned. If you want a detailed description of the camp from someone who lived through it all, I cannot recommend this strongly enough.

Parental discretion is advised – I would not recommend any child under the age of 14 to watch this.