Private Project

Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses

Heroic World War II veterans vividly share their liberation journeys, drawing parallels between the past and present.

These powerful eyewitness accounts from Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive®, share a cautionary tale and compelling reminder of what can happen when insidious hatred remains unchecked.

With antisemitism, racism and xenophobia on the rise worldwide, this film serves as a call to action to stand against hatred in all its forms.

As Alan Moskin, a featured Liberator in the film, says to a group of young cadets, "The hate is still out there...It's up to your generation to change that."

  • Vanessa Roth
    Daughters of Destiny, Freeheld, The Girl and The Picture
  • June Beallor
    The Last Days; Survivors of the Holocaust; The Lost Children of Berlin; Voices From The List
  • Andy Friendly
    The Tomorrow Show; Entertainment Tonight; Inside Edition; American Journal
  • Mickey Shapiro
    Executive Producer
    My Name Is Sara
  • Ceci Chan
    Executive Producer
    The Girl and The Picture
  • Stephen D. Smith
    Executive Producer
    One Day in Auschwitz; Destination Unknown; Auschwitz; Lala; The Last Goodbye; The Girl and The Picture
  • Andi Gitow
    Executive Producer
    Dateline NBC: The Long Way Home; 21st Century: Cambodia – A Quest for Justice; Worlds Apart; Living Dangerously
  • Alan Moskin
    Key Cast
    "Featured WWII Liberator"
  • Virgil Westdale
    Key Cast
    "Featured Liberation Witness"
  • Aldean Mason
    Key Cast
    "Featured Liberation Witness & Nurse"
  • Leon Bass
    Key Cast
    "Featured WWII Liberator"
  • Peter Zachwieja
  • Michael Berenbaum
    Chief Historian
  • Jackson Greenberg
  • Jesi Nelson
  • Susan M. Baker
    Associate Producer
  • Bonnie Samotin
    Associate Producer
  • Pamela RIkkers
    Head of Archival Research
  • Katie Traurig
    Lead Assistant Editor
  • Elyse Katz
    Production Manager
  • Sandy Gervay
    Production Coordinator
  • Benjamin Talisman
    Production Associate
  • Stephen Feuerborn
    Titles & Graphic Design
  • Cinema Collet
    Festival Strategist
  • Genres:
    Documentary, war, history
  • Runtime:
    42 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 19, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Student Project:
  • GI Film Festival San Diego
    San Diego, CA
    United States
    March 18, 2021
    Winner for Best Documentary Short
  • Irvine International Film Festival
    Irvine, CA
    United States
    May 7, 2021
    Winner Documentary Short & Trailer
  • The Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival
    Hoboken, NJ
    United States
    February 5, 2021
    Global Insights Stellar Award 2021
  • Social Justice Film Festival
    Seattle, WA
    United States
    October 1, 2020
    Winner Featurette Documentary Gold Prize
  • Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    United States
    October 6, 2020
    Human Spirit Documentary Award
  • Sedona International Film Festival
    Sedona, AZ
    United States
    February 23, 2020
    Audience Choice Award for Best Short Documentary
  • Normandia-World War II International Film Festival
    Kingston, RI
    United States
    June 5, 2020
    Outstanding Documentary Film Award
  • Impact DOCS Awards
    La Jolla, CA
    United States
    January 28, 2020
    Best of Show Documentary Feature
  • Flickers' Rhode Island International Film Festival
    United States
    August 4, 2020
    Semi-Finalist, Documentary Feature
  • American Documentary and Animation Film Festival
    Palm Springs, CA
    United States
    September 25, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Big Muddy Film Festival
    Carbondale, IL
    United States
    March 17, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Breckenridge Film Festival
    Breckenridge, CO
    United States
    September 20, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Cleveland International Film Festival
    Cleveland, OH
    United States
    March 26, 2020
    Official Selection
  • DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival
    St. George, UT
    United States
    November 2, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Global Peace Film Festival
    Winter Park, FL
    United States
    September 21, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Jewish Film Festival of Fairfield County
    Stamford, CT
    United States
    January 24, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Julien Dubuque International Film Festival
    Dubuque, IA
    United States
    February 18, 2021
    Official Selection
  • New Jersey Jewish Film Festival
    West Orange, NJ
    United States
    February 28, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Oxford Film Festival
    Oxford, MS
    United States
    March 24, 2021
    Official Selection
  • San Diego International Jewish Film Festival
    San Diego, CA
    United States
    February 10, 2021
    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • Discovery Channel
    Country: Worldwide
Director Biography - Vanessa Roth

Vanessa is an Oscar, Emmy, DuPont-Columbia and Sundance award winning non-fiction filmmaker with over 25 years of making documentary features, series and shorts. Among her many films, she is the Executive Producer, Writer and Director of the Emmy Honors Award Winning Netflix Original Documentary series, Daughters of Destiny and Academy Award winning filmmaker for Freeheld (HBO).
She is currently Directing the Untitled Mary J Blige premium documentary as an Amazon Original as well as Executive Producing and Directing the IMPACT series and feature film for National Geographic with “Wonder Woman” Gal Gadot.
Her films made around the world have garnered dozens of awards including the Oscar, The Television Academy Emmy Award for Social Impact, Sundance Prizes, Cine Golden Eagles, Casey Medals, Impact Doc Awards for Best in Show and Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking, IDA nominations, Audience Awards and Jury Prizes at festivals around the world, as well as top honors for work in social impact, social justice, witness to history, youth empowerment and women’s rights around the world. Her 2019 film, Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses, in association with USC Shoah Foundation for Discovery Channel most recently received the 2020 Human Spirit Documentary Award from the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. Liberation Heroes has also been the Official Selection and received several awards at numerous other festivals nationwide.
Her work has been made in partnership, broadcast and streamed by Netflix, Amazon, Discovery, PBS, HBO, Discovery, A&E, ESPN, Nat Geo and the BBC and theatrically released and featured in museums, memorial halls, public art exhibitions, and for education; her films have screened at Obama's Youth Presidential Inauguration events, Obama White House, for Congress, the United Nations and UNESCO. Her projects have been featured on NBC Education Nation, Oprah, NPR, and at international memorial events, education, child welfare, and social justice storytelling summits.
With outreach a core mission of all her work she creates projects and programs that use her films as tools to engagement and education and is a frequent Thought Partner and Key Note speaker for universities, organizations and foundations focused on youth empowerment, ethics, legacy, memory, history and storytelling.
Before making films Vanessa was a Child Advocate in New York and California family and juvenile courts and schools and worked with the Sex Crimes Unit of the LAPD in her work with the Stuart House/Rape Treatment Center. She received a BA in Creative Writing and Psychology from UCLA and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work and minor in family law from Columbia University.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

In 1994, my mom told me about a project she was involved in that was the brainchild of Steven Spielberg. He wanted to record testimony of survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust from around the world. My mom was one of the first interviewers to do her small part in recording these historic voices that share the horrifying truth of what hate breeds. After each of the interviews she did, she told me their stories - men and women who had lost everything when they were just young people themselves - and somehow survived. I never forgot those stories and was driven by them to do work in my life that would document and give voice to people who might otherwise be forgotten.

Twenty-five years later, I was approached by the film's Producer and USC Shoah Foundation Founding Executive Director June Beallor and current Finci-Viterbi USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen D. Smith along with Producer Andy Friendly who serves on the Board of Councilors of the organization, to make a film with them on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Shoah Foundation. The film we made focuses on a segment of this collection - the stories of those who liberated and witnessed the liberation of the concentration camps.

These were young men and women - teenagers really, 18 and 19-year-olds - who went into WWII as soldiers, nurses, photographers, journalists and pilots. Diverse in race, religion, geography and gender, they boarded ships off the coast of NYC and landed in places in Europe they had never heard of before. They had little life experience and no preparation or knowledge of what they would witness in the spring of 1944 when they came upon the concentration camps and liberated the people inside.

I met Aldean, Virgil, and Alan – now in their 90s and 100s, who were among these young people in the 1940s and who never stopped telling their stories of the Holocaust. With their voices central to our film and the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive® we assembled the first-hand accounts of what it was like to be there, to remind those who remember the war, and to teach the young people today, who know very little of that era, of the atrocities of which humans are capable.

Through their memories, the news at the time and the personal photo collections of their lives, our goal was to amplify their life stories and heed their warnings. As Alan Moskin, a featured Liberator in the film, says to a group of young cadets, "The hate is still out there...It's up to your generation to change that."