DirectorWanda Jakubowska Music directorRoman Palester CountryPoland
LanguagePolish, German, Russian Release date1947 WriterWanda Jakubowska, Gerda Schneider ScreenplayWanda Jakubowska, Gerda Schneider CastAleksandra Slaska (Superintendent of the Womens Block), Barbara Drapinska (Marta Weiss), Alina Janowska (Dessa), Zofia Mrozowska (Dessa), Edward Dziewonski (Auschwitz Medical Officer) Similar moviesAleksandra Slaska and others appear in The Last Stage and Passenger, Auschwitz (2011), Playing for Time (1980), Ida (2013), Rece do gory (1981)
The last stage ostatni etap
The Last Stage (Polish: Ostatni etap) was a 1947 Polish feature film directed and co-written by Wanda Jakubowska, depicting her experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. One feature that makes the movie very unusual is the fact that although all of the actors are Poles, the ones depicting German guards speak German. This was an additional effort for the actors, but adds to the authenticity and atmosphere. The film was one of the earliest cinematic efforts to describe the Holocaust, and it is still quoted extensively by succeeding directors, including Steven Spielberg in Schindler's List.
Marta Weiss (Barbara Drapinska), a Polish Jew, arrives by cattle car to the Auschwitz concentration camp. While there she catches the attention of the guards as she is multilingual and is put to work as a translator. When she inquires about the factory at the camp a fellow inmate informs her it is a crematorium and that the rest of her family has likely been murdered.
In the barracks many of the women are dying and ill. Eugenia, a prisoner and doctor, tries her best to administer to them but is unable to do much as supplies are limited. The women learn that an international commission is coming to the camp to observe the conditions of the prisoners. Eugenia learns a few key phrases in German and is able to tell the observers that everything they see is a lie and people are dying. Unfortunately the commanders tell the observers that Eugenia is mentally ill. Later they torture her to find out who taught her the German phrases but Eugenia refuses to tell them and is murdered.
Eugenia is replaced by Lalunia, a Polish woman who claims to have been rounded up by mistake and who says she is a doctor though she is actually only a pharmacist's wife. However rather than administer medicine to the women of the camp she distributes them among the capos in exchange for luxuries like clothes and perfume. The nurses' aide searches her room and confiscates the remaining medicine. Lalunia later turns the aide in and has her killed after discovering messages she had written that the Russians were advancing.
Meanwhile Marta is able to temporarily escape in order to smuggle information about the camps to a resistance broadcaster. When she is returned to the camp she is tortured and then sentenced to death by hanging. A prisoner frees her wrists and hands her a knife before she is to die and she tells the camp that the Russians are coming and slashes the face of the Nazi commander who tortured her. Before the guards can retaliate planes are heard overhead and Marta realizes that the Russians have come to liberate them.
Release and Reception
Won the Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1948.
Nominated for Grand International Award at Venice Film Festival in 1948, and for a BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source in 1950.
Released in the USA with English subtitles by Times Film Corporation in 1949 as "The Last Stop".
It was released on DVD in the USA in 2009 by Polart Distribution.