No Place on Earth

dir. Janet Tobias

Series - Human Rights Watch

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This enthralling documentary recreates the experiences of thirty-eight Ukrainian Jews who survived the Holocaust by living in caves for eighteen months — a remarkable story of survival that had remained untold for decades.

Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2012

No Place on Earth brings to light an extraordinary true tale of survival that remained untold for decades. In 1993, Chris Nicola, an American cave enthusiast, was exploring the Ukraine's "gypsum giants," some of the longest horizontal caves in the world. Within this labyrinth, he came across signs of former human habitation: buttons, an old house key, a woman's dress shoe. Locals told him that during World War II, there were rumours of Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in the caves. No one knew what happened to them; over ninety-five per cent of the Jews in this region of Ukraine perished in the Holocaust. It took Nicola nine years to uncover the secret that the cave survivors had kept to themselves after emigrating to Canada and the United States — now, they were ready to tell their story. Built upon interviews with five former cave inhabitants, No Place on Earth is a testament to ingenuity, willpower and endurance against all odds. In total, thirty-eight people of all ages wound up living in the caves for nearly eighteen months, until the region was liberated by Soviet Army — the longest underground survival in recorded human history. The survivors recount their harrowing experiences in this harsh environment as they learned to find food, water and supplies and built secret escape routes to evade capture or being buried alive. Director Janet Tobias brings their memories to life with artful re-enactments that vividly recreate this unimaginable existence beneath the earth.