No matter how often recounted in documentaries, first-person testimonials about concentration camp experiences still shock, though Buried Prayers’ horror stories— cackling SS guards shooting prisoners while they use the toilet, a boy forced to hang his own father—are merely one component of its portrait of remembrance and defiance. Steven Meyer’s film focuses on a small collection of Melbourne-relocated survivors of the Majdanek death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, who reveal thaT, during the early months of 1943 when thousands of Jews were being slaughtered in the gas chambers, many inmates surreptitiously buried valuables six inches below open-field soil as a small, silent act of protest against their doomed fate. Half a century later, these now-elderly men and women return to recover the items, a simultaneously heartbreaking and stirring process of exhumation that’s paralleled by the survivors’ unearthing of traumatic memories they’d long ago buried within themselves. With the survivors’ physical presence amongst Nazi slaughterhouses as its own powerful statement, Buried Prayers is a nonfiction work that confronts Holocaust atrocities from a piercing ground-level view.
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