Annotated Filmography of Canadian Produced Films & Videos on
Compiled by Gary Evans,
Dept of Communication, University of Ottawa,
© Gary Evans, June 2017.
is a chronological filmography (in progress) of films and videos on the
Holocaust produced in Canada and/or by Canadians. [Brackets indicate
where they may be found]
This newsreel shows footage of the Nuremberg trials of the chief war criminals and an Allied execution, referring only to “crimes.” It makes reference to the Jewish catastrophe, without mentioning the word “Jew” once, though it does show images of pre-war anti-Semitic acts against German Jews and Allied footage from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. [NFB Archives]
Sun in My Eyes. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC] Feb. 21, 1960. 60m.
This is a televised play by Jack Kuper about his life as a child in a Shtetl in Poland during the German occupation. Starring Al Waxman, it is a tale of the Nazis’ murder of a family on the run and the desperate sobering finality of having a child as sole survivor. The title derives from a Polish peasant fiction that Jews could not see the sun. This Toronto production is probably the first time the CBC treated the subject of the Holocaust directly. [master copy, CBC Archives, Ottawa; copy with the Jewish Board of Education, Toronto, audiovisual department]
Canada at War. (Part 4, June 1944-August 1946) National Film Board, Donald Brittain, dir. 1962, 28m.
Using archival footage this segment traces Canadian army activity in Europe in 1944-45, including atrocities discovered at Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, & Buchenwald as well as the beginning of the Nuremberg trials. In the section dealing with the end of the war, there is footage of Bergen-Belsen with a comment, “Untold millions had been gassed, starved, burned, and beaten to death. They had committed a crime. They were not of pure German stock.” This segment closes with reference to Hitler’s last will and testament. “In it he blamed the Jews for everything.” [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Across Canada: The Observer. (CBC tv series), Don MacPherson, producer. Nov.19, 1964. 30m. Public affairs programme. There is a brief item on a man who rescued 50 Romanian Jews during the war. [National Archives, Ottawa]
Across Canada: The Observer. (CBC tv series), Don MacPherson, producer. Feb. 9, 1965, 30m. Public affairs programme.
There is a segment on the opening of The Deputy, a German play that deals with accusations against Pope Pius XII in connection with the destruction of the Jews. [National Archives, Ottawa]
Memorandum. National Film Board, Donald Brittain, John Spotton, dirs. 1966. 58m. Survivor Bernard Laufer visits Bergen-Belsen and remembers his incarceration. The narration asks important questions about perpetrators and bystanders and subtly articulates the meaning of ‘the banality of evil.’ This landmark Canadian documentary includes footage of Nazi criminals on trial in 1965 amidst a German society that is seemingly unconcerned. The closing minutes evoke a vision of loss and resignation that is poetic and enduring[Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Man Alive (television series) From the Ashes: Elie Wiesel in conversation with Roy Bonisteel. CBC, 1973, 28m.
Wiesel talks to Bonisteel about his book Night and about his loss of faith in God when he was in Auschwitz. Wiesel calls himself a storyteller, not a teacher or messenger. Yet he believes that whoever hears a witness to the Holocaust becomes a witness and messenger too. The power of his words is riveting, and the viewer forgets that visually there are only two men in conversation. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
It Has To Be Told. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1973. 29m. Three survivors recollect the concentrationary experience. There are no accompanying visuals. (Note: This may be the raw material from which a television program was constructed.) [Canadian Jewish Congress copy has no titles, no narration, only the survivors’ testimonies.]
*The Man Who Hid Anne Frank Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, December 17, 1980, Harry Rasky, producer/dir. 57m. Fourteen year old Holly Rasky, intrigued by Anne Frank’s diary, traveled to Amsterdam to interview many of those who helped shelter Anne, her family and four other refugees for two years. The on-screen presence of the young teen (Rasky’s daughter) and the use of archival footage help draw others like her to Anne Frank’s remarkable story and the interviews illuminate the quiet heroism of the many Dutch who risked their lives on behalf of this now world renown figure. [CBC Archives. For broadcast only; not available for rental or purchase.]
The Spies Who Never Were: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, October 11, 1981, Harry Rasky, producer/dir. 114m. This two-programme documentary film, narrated by Harry Rasky, tells the story of the 3,000 (mostly Jewish) refugees in Britain who, upon the outbreak of war, found themselves exiled to prison camps in Canada as suspected subversives. A number of these ‘spies who never were’ went on to become well known figures in the world of Canadian music, broadcasting and letters. Eric Koch, one of the interviewees, happened to be the CBC executive in charge of documentary programming, but took credit only as a consultant on the film. [CBC Archives. For broadcast only; not available for rental or purchase.]
Au nom de tous les miens France/Canada/Hungary co-production 1983 (For Those I Loved 1990-USA) Robert Enrico, dir. 145m. A feature based on the true story of Martin Gray, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who, here played by Michael York, experienced the German invasion of Poland, endured ghettoization, capture, and concentration camp internment, only to escape, join the partisan resistance and then the Soviet army. Postwar, he rebuilt his life in the United States, then moved to France, where tragedy struck again as he lost his wife and child in a forest fire. The English version was released in 1990.
Raoul Wallenberg: Buried Alive Wayne Arron Films, David Harel, dir 1983 79m. This award winning theatrical documentary narrated by Pierre Berton tells the story of the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Wallenberg, believed to have perished in Soviet custody after the war, has gained worldwide renown for his brave resistance to the Nazi genocide.
Journey Into Our Heritage (series) Canadian Jewish Congress, Stanley Asher, dir. 1983. (This consists of two 20 minute videos that were aired on community cable in Montreal) Holocaust survivor Paul Trepman, former executive director of the Jewish Public Library, Montreal, shows slides of his trip to Poland and Czechoslovakia. Poor production values and some erroneous information lessen this item’s effectiveness. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
Charlie Grant’s War. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Martin Lavut, dir. 1984. 125m.
This fictional story with high production values is a melodrama about a Canadian diamond merchant in Nazi Germany who risks his life to smuggle Jews out. The play underscores the sorry Canadian government policy of “None Is Too Many.” [Sound and Moving Image Archives (National Archives), Ottawa]
*A Special Letter National Film Board, Bozenna Heczko, dir. 1984 5m This animation in sepia is a gentle tribute to a daughter and mother who survived wartime experiences in a concentration camp. It celebrates the courage and enduring faith of a mother yet demonstrates how difficult it is for the filmmaker to resolve her feelings of impatience towards an aged mother who has now become a child.
*Dark Lullabies. DLI and National Film Board, Irene Angelico and Jack Neidik, dirs. 1985. 81m. This documentary film journey of the on-screen director, herself a child of survivors, who meets children of Nazi perpetrators. She asks what happened and why, and travels from Montreal to Israel to Germany in search of answers. This film is oddly structured, yet moving emotionally whenever survivors speak. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
*So Many Miracles. Alternative Pictures, Inc and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Katherine Smalley and Vic Sarin, dirs. 1986. 48m.
This is a docmentary film account of the Rubinek Family reunion with the Polish family that hid them 49 years earlier. Its high production values combined with an effective use of direct cinema technique record the return and reunion. The directors employ actors to emphasize several of the Rubinek’s dramatic moments, especially a near-capture by German soldiers. The film achieves closure by emphasizing how some gentiles were willing to risk their lives to save Jews. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
*To Mend the World. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Harry Rasky, dir. 1987. 86m. This world class documentary combines survivor testimonies with the art of witnesses to create some of the most profound and haunting images of the genocide. A dozen survivors recount the agonizing circumstances and unfathomable depth of despair they faced and overcame. The art is probably the closest a viewer will ever come to the actual concentration camp experience. Rasky’s skillful blending of witnesses, art and music guarantees this film as one of the premier Canadian films on the Holocaust. Rasky said his film tried to find some meaning, or even hope, in the Holocaust experience. Viewing it reminds one of Elie Wiesel’s fundamental position on the Holocaust: to hear a witness is to become a witness oneself. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Journey to Prague – All In One Films, David Cherniack dir. January 7, 1987. 28m.
An award winning documentary, broadcast by the CBC again in 1997, is about acclaimed radio personality, Otto Lowy, who returns to Prague where he explores his own and Prague’s Jewish heritage and the legacy that the Nazis extinguished. As he tells a local Czech guide, “My presence somehow unsettles you…I am a part of that legacy. And that’s what you see in my eyes and you don’t understand.” Lowy likened this rare moment of revelation to that of “undressing in public. You’re telling things that you don’t even tell friends very often.” Clips of film are online at http://www.allinonefilms.com/Home.html
Two Men Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Gordon Pinsent, dir. 1988. 105m
This fictitious television melodrama tells the story of a Hungarian child survivor living in Toronto who, 44 years after the fact, accidentally discovers “the trusted friend” who betrayed his family to the Nazis, thereby causing their deaths. Lacking hard evidence, Canadian authorities can do nothing to bring the man to justice, so in murderous desperation, the survivor confronts his nemesis. But his nearly forgotten Jewish ethics will not allow him to kill, and the story ends as he returns to his abandoned faith.
*Voices of Survival. Canadian Jewish Congress, Heritage Canada, TVOntario. Alan Handel dir. 1988. 56m. (narrator Stephen Lewis) Six Canadian witnesses tell parts of their stories of surviving brutality, roundups, Auschwitz selection and their macabre Auschwitz “people’s game: gas or shower?” There is good use of historical footage and intercutting of a discussion about the Allied failure to stop the mass murder as well as Canada’s pathetic refugee record. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
The Quarrel (based on a short story “My Quarrel With Hersh Rasseyner” by Chaim Grade) from a play by Joseph Telushkin. American Playhouse Theatrical Films, Atlantic Releasing and Apple & Honey Productions. Eli Cohen dir. 1990. 90m.
Two survivors (one played by Saul Rubinek, whose parents were featured in So Many Miracles) meet by chance on Montreal’s Mount Royal in 1948 where they resume their philosophical dialogue of faith versus reason, a dialogue cut short by the Holocaust and the mutual loss of their families. The man of faith insists that he could have been a perpetrator too, but his comfort is his faith. Their philosophical discussion eclipses historical reality and the film meanders while exploring the premise that all men can be killers—digressing from the fact that Jews were victims and the Nazis were the killers. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto: A Birthday Trip in Hell. Kuper Productions, Toronto, Jack Kuper dir, 1991. 30m. Wehrmacht Sergeant Heinz Joest spent his 43rd birthday inside the Warsaw Ghetto on September 19th, 1941, taking photographs. These unique photos are the core of this black and white documentary video, complemented by excerpts from the hidden diaries of Warsaw ghetto historians, as well as by Yiddish music of the period. Hope is stronger than desperation as evidence of ongoing underground schools and religious observances bear witness to human fortitude in a nightmare world. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
March of the Living. Jewish Education Council of Montreal, Sid Goldberg, dir. 1992. 147m. This is video footage of the March of the Living journey to Poland and Israel in 1992. Similar accounts of this event have been produced annually by the Jewish Education Council of Montreal. (The video is intended as a record of the event rather than a documentary production intended for broadcast.)
The Valour and the Horror. (Part 1 Death by Moonlight) Galafilm, National Film Board, Brian McKenna, dir. 1992. 104m. This highly controversial docudrama makes the weakest reference to the Holocaust and asserts that the Allied bombing raids on Germany were war crimes, neglecting to mention that Nazi propaganda insisted that the bombing was the result of Jewish world power. This production, reflecting flawed historical research, is notable for missing a valuable opportunity to tie the Holocaust to Allied bombing policy. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Both Sides of the Wire. Black River Productions and Vision TV Neal Livingston, dir. 1993. 47m. This documentary tells the story of young German and Austrian Jewish men who, having sought refuge in Britain before the war, were deported to Canada in 1940 and were interned as enemy aliens alongside Nazis. They return to the camp where they were internees and remember daily life. This low budget production suffers from visual sluggishness. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
Children of the Shadows Dream Ribbon Productions Marc Cukier, dir. 1993 28m This black and white featurette also written and produced by Cukier concerns a discussion between a young woman and a nun about morality and the Holocaust. (no distribution information available)
The Lucky Ones: Allied Airmen and Buchenwald. National Film Board/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/ A & E Networks, Michael Adler, dir. 1994. 47m.
This documentary tells the story of 168 Allied airmen, ages 19-21, who were waiting for transfer to POW camps and who witnessed atrocities at Buchenwald in the summer of 1944. There are minimal references to other prisoners, and the specificity of the Holocaust is ignored. Thus the viewer might think that Buchenwald was a camp for captured combatants exclusively. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
The Voyage of the St. Louis. Galafilm, Inc., National Film Board, Les Films d’Ici, Canal +, NDR International, Maziar Bahari, dir. 1994. 51m.
This tale, told by some surviving refugees, is a documentary film account of the saga of the 937 mostly Jewish refugees who sailed on the German luxury liner St.Louis from Hamburg to Cuba in 1939. They had their visas revoked and found themselves refused refuge in the US and Canada.. They returned to Europe, the war began, and some ¾ perished as victims of the Nazis. Their ordeal in search of refuge was the subject of the fiction film Voyage of the Damned. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
*Silent Witness/Les Gardiens du Silence. Wichin-York Film, Harriet Wichin, dir. 1994. 74m. (In English or French, with German.)
This colour film deals with the concentration camp-as -museum and the contemporary issue of monumentalization. Always off-camera, Wichin deals with absence and meaning as she visits sites at Dachau and Auschwitz. The rich hues of the cinematography make her quest poetic, but the film lacks the political edge that is needed to understand specific controversies that lay behind turning the concentration camps into contemporary memorials. The documentary tries to reach for universals about suffering and reconciliation, yet the specificity of the Jews’ destruction seems to be strangely eclipsed. [Cinema Libre, Montreal]
*La Vie d'un heros Les Productions La Fete, Inc and National Film Board of Canada Micheline Lanctot, dir. 1994 103m Set in postwar Quebec, this French language feature is about a young Quebec girl’s erstwhile fascination with a German POW who was held at a work farm in Quebec. Her veil of fantasy falls away as she sees Resnais’ Night and Fog, realizing for the first time that she never knew the reality of an adult world. The metaphor of this film is that there is no place for childlike innocence in a real world of war.
Holocaust Denial Vs. Freedom of Speech Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick, dirs.
1994 12m Necessary Illusions Productions Inc. and the National Film Board of Canada
This video focuses on one of the most controversial areas in Noam Chomsky's career: his defense of the civil rights of Robert Faurisson, a French intellectual who was suspended from his university post because he could not be protected from violence as a result of publishing revisionist literature minimizing Nazi atrocities during World War II. Faurisson denied the existence of gas chambers and of an orchestrated, genocidal campaign against Jews. He was later taken to court in part for "falsification of history." It is the classic debate about free speech vs. the right to express unpopular views or even outright lies. The video explores the context of Chomsky's Libertarian defense including the skewed handling of the debate by the press. Exerpted from a longer work titled, Manufacturing Consent
*Hidden Children Sienna Films and October Films (U.K.) 1995. Tom Roberts, producer, Julia Sereny, dir. 50m. This documentary video explores the tales of six Jews who were hidden children during the Holocaust. For some, day to day existence depended on their ability to pass as Christians. Another ran wild in the forests. Subsequently they had to deal with the difficult issues of abandonment and family re-integration. As adults, they generally chose careers such as social work, medicine, and teaching, allowing them to repay the generous world that had helped them. [Available through Sienna Films, Toronto <firstname.lastname@example.org>]
Shtetl, Kuper Productions, Jack Kuper dir, 1995. 23m.
The aged Canadian folk artist Mayer Kirshenblatt serves as a central focus in this recollection of small town Jewish communities of Eastern Europe which were destroyed in the Holocaust. This documentary evokes the vividness and vitality of a once thriving civilization, obliterated by war and now only a memory in the minds of the last survivors. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
A Rough Crossing. Starry Night Productions/NFB, Teresa MacInnes, dir. 1995. 48m.
This documentary film retraces the journeys of eight British child evacuees to Canada in 1940. One of the children was Martin Gilbert, now the renowned British historian. Insisting he came as a British subject, not as a Jew, and his tale is punctuated by a brief segment in which Canadian historians recount Canada’s closed door policy to most Jewish refugee children. Most of those children subsequently perished. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
Web of War. Galafilm, National Film Board, Brian McKenna, dir. 1995. 51m.
This documentary is about three Canadians who return to Europe and recount the story of Canadians and Poles who fought alongside each other. It contains brief reference to the Holocaust. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Who Was Jerzy Kosinski? Kuper Productions, Jack Kuper dir, 1996. 53m. Video.
Kuper wrote a memoir called Child of the Holocaust, a tale of a boy on the run during the Holocaust. When he read Kosinski’s The Painted Bird he suspected plagiarism of his book. Kuper traveled to Poland to find out if the renowned Holocaust novel was indeed Kosinski’s true story. What Kuper learned subsequently provides a shocking denouement to this documentary investigation. [Cote St. Luc Public Library; Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Visualizing Memory…A last Detail. Kleinmann Family Foundation, Naomi Kramer, dir. 1996. 52m. Survivor Peter Kleinmann returns to Flossenburg concentration camp, one of three where he was incarcerated during war. The video tries to be didactic by breaking the narrative into four thematic sections: The Fallacy of Race, Liberation, Moral Responsibility, and Visualizing Memory. Conceptually these have an uneven impact, in part, because the videography is unremarkable. Yet the witness accounts are riveting. The work raises the important contemporary question of commemoration as the viewer ponders what will happen once the witnesses have passed away. [Montreal Holocaust Centre]
Nothing to Be Written Here Hahn and Daughters Productions, Wendy Oberlander, dir. 1996. 47m.Oberlander’s video contains average production values. It tells the story of her father as a 17 year old Austrian Jewish refugee in Britain who was sent to Canada and interned in a New Brunswick POW camp as an enemy alien. As an assimilated Jew he and some 2,000 others like him there and in other camps worked as lumberjacks and were kept apart from the Nazi POWs. The narration describes Canada’s closed door refugee policy and the long wait the internees endured before becoming official refugees. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
*Punch Me in the Stomach Punch Me in the Stomach & Zee Films (Canada/New Zealand coproduction) Francine Zuckerman, dir. 1997. 72m. Deb Filler, comedienne and daughter of a Holocaust survivor, does a one woman (Off Broadway show) playing 36 characters of her family. At the core of this documentary/comedy is her father, whose story of survival was a constant factor in her youth. “Debbie, don’t slump, stand up straight. Remember in the camps if you slump, they shoot you.” Using backscreen projection of changing documentary camp footage, she plays out roles of tourist, victim, and herself in this unusual approach to conveying Holocaust truths. [Bravo tv network]
Man Alive: A Journey to Prague Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, dir??? 1997. 30m Popular Canadian radio host Otto Lowy is featured in this television episode that explores his own and Prague’s Jewish heritage. It recounts the brutal shock of Nazi domination from 1938 and examines a number of artifacts they confiscated as well as the legacy they extinguished. As he tells a local Czech guide, “My presence somehow unsettles you…I am a part of that legacy. And that’s what you see in my eyes and you don’t understand.” In the decades he appeared on CBC, this was one of those rare moments of revelation that Lowy likened to “undressing in public. You’re telling things that you don’t even tell friends very often.”
A Prayer For the Dead: Herzl Kashetsky Fundy Community TV, Lisa Lamb, prod/dir. 1997. 27m. This video discusses the exhibition of paintings and drawings by Canadian artist Herzl Kashetsky, who was inspired to create his art based on photos he saw of Bergen-Belsen and his own contemporary visit to several death camps. Alex Colville, who was a Canadian war artist, talks of his experience arriving at Bergen-Belsen just after liberation. The most telling moments in this low budget production are the heartfelt comments by the artists as well as their graphic images. [Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal]
Each of Us Has A Name Cambium Film and Video Productions/Global TV, Fern Levitt and Arnie Zipursky, dirs. 1999. 52m. This is a video of the 1998 March of the Living to death camps Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek in Poland. The viewer follows a Canadian group of students and the four survivors who accompanied them, all as part of the 7000 participants who made this pilgrimage. The varied and earnest emotions of survivors and students are palpable as they visit these sites, culminating in Majdanek’s “Mountain of Ashes” memorial, where a student reads the poem that gave the film its title. This contemporary video takes the viewer through these museums/memorials that bear witness to the Holocaust. [Global TV]
Sunshine. Robert Lantos Productions (a coproduction of Canada, Austria, Hungary and Germany) Istvan Szabo, dir. 1999. 180m. This commercial epic, with excellent production values, is the story of a fictive Hungarian Jewish family from the 1800’s until the 1950’s. In World War II, the family’s earlier conversion to Catholicism notwithstanding, they are singled out and deported as Jews. One member (Ralph Fiennes) insists on keeping his Christian identity even after being arrested and incarcerated in a labour camp; it will cost him his life as he is crucified for not admitting he is a Jew. The Holocaust occupies less than ten minutes of this three hour melodrama; the Nazis’ murder of 400,000 Hungarian Jews is a passing reference. The story’s Jews are portrayed as ambitious and earnest, people who became victims and then perpetrators, in a world where politics is forever corrupt. [commercial video release]
*Zyklon Portrait. Wandering Tulip Productions Elida Schogt, dir. 1999 13m.
The filmmaker dedicates this documentary to her grandparents who were transported from Westerbork, to Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. This evocation of the Holocaust does not use familiar images but is in the form of a dialogue between a mother who survived as a hidden child in Holland, and her daughter today. The backdrop is a scientific account of, and impressionistic images of the deadly zyklon gas. Diary selections from Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss, serve as a chilling reminder of the monstrous inhumanity of the perpetrators. This short and artful work is a useful catalyst for classroom discussion.
[email@example.com for release information]
*Let Memory Speak. Jewish Education Council of Montreal, Batia Bettman, dir. 1999 27m. This documentary video is an account of some 25 Jewish children, many of whom survived the Holocaust. Their diaries, poems and memoirs, read by contemporary teenagers, as well as their personal period photos, lend an immediacy and authenticity to their tales of life before and during the war, and after liberation. Other voices read poignant passages from Holocaust authors Elie Wiesel and Aaron Appelfeld that help unify and contextualize the piece. This short production is an excellent vehicle for stimulating group discussion. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Hidden Heroes Windborne Productions, Karen Pascal, dir and writer 1999 56m. This colour documentary covers the return to the Netherlands of two Canadian women who recount their childhood ordeal as the Nazis searched out and destroyed 90 percent of the Jewish population in the Netherlands. Their visit to the individuals and families who risked their lives to save them is poignant, also reminding the viewer of the traumatic effects of the Shoah on children who survived.
Passengers Zuckerman and Fleck Films, Women’s TV Network, Showcase TV, CBC
Francine Zuckerman, dir. 2000. 15m. This short poetic compelling drama is an exploration of the relationship between a daughter and her father as she recalls his legacy including his Holocaust experience on the day of his funeral.
Children of the Storm Kuper Productions, Toronto and Vision TV, Jack Kuper dir, 2000. 104m. This video centers on interviews with dozens of the 1100 Jewish refugee orphans who came to Canada under the postwar Canadian Jewish Congress War Orphans Project. Their stories describe survival of the Holocaust and the difficult transition to establish new lives in foster homes. Historian Irving Abella relates the sorry Canadian wartime record, including Ottawa’s rejection of 5000 Jewish refugee children, all of whom subsequently perished. These survivors reflect the endurance and determination that allowed them to succeed at last in a Canada that was slowly becoming an open and inclusive society. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
The Fear of Felix Nussbaum Kuper Productions, Toronto, Vision TV and Bravo Newstyle Arts Channel, Jack Kuper dir, 2000. 52m. German-Jewish artist-in-exile Felix Nussbaum’s single wish was to ensure his art would be saved and its imagery serve as a testament to his and countless other Jews’ agony while hiding from the Nazis, knowing that deportation to Auschwitz meant certain death. Such was his fate and his home town of Osnabruck has created a Felix Nussbaum Society and museum that tells this remarkably talented artist’s story through his works and letters. This video is both a guide to the museum and serves as a reminder that within Germany today many are committed to memorializing those who perished in the Holocaust. [Jewish Public Library, Montreal]
Varian’s War Alliance Atlantis Communication, 2000. 121m. Lionel Chetwynd, dir/writer. Based on a true story, American activist Varian Fry (William Hurt) worked tirelessly in Vichy France to help 2000 refugee (largely Jewish) intellectuals and artists including Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt to escape to the U.S. High production values, competent if conventional direction, but a plodding screenplay make one think of a Canadian Schindler’s List without Spielberg’s cinematic tensions. This made for tv story of humanitarian values demonstrates the ongoing difficulties of many Canadian features. It fails to convey the profound impact of the Nazi revolution beyond a two dimensional development of character and dramaturgy.
*Hidden Heroes Windbourne Productions, Vision TV and the Dutch Reformed Church Karen Pascal dir/producer 2000. 52m.
Based on the book Hidden Children by André Stein, this well crafted documentary tells the poignant story of two surviving Jewish Dutch sisters who were hidden during the Nazi occupation. Courageous Dutch citizens, motivated largely by their religious beliefs, sheltered hundreds of such children. Others acted out of political commitment to the Resistance, where some 28,000 perished. If many Dutch Christians “adopted” Jewish children out of religious duty, most Jews were not converted but told to “play” act as Christians. Final statistics are overwhelming: of Holland’s 110,000 Jews deported, only 6,000 survived. The final scene with the sisters at Westerbork transit camp, now a memorial, is emotionally moving. [Vision TV, History Channel ]
Nuremberg (TNT) Yves Simoneau, dir. 2000 This original four hour television drama, based on the book by Joseph E. Persico, is about the 21 defendants on trial for war crimes in postwar Nuremberg. An unnecessary interjection of romance could have been better spent articulating more of the psychology and facts about the accused and their racist ideology. Produced by and starring Alec Baldwin as chief prosecutor, the miniseries follows the dramatic course of events, including actual concentration camp footage used at the trials.
*Hanna’s Suitcase Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Karen Levine, producer, 2001.
30m. CBC Newsworld documentary, also available in online format at: http://radio.cbc.ca/programs/thismorning/sites/people/hanassuitcase_010119/hana_main.html.
The Tokyo Holocaust Education and Resource Centre under director Fumiko Ishioka acquired a suitcase belonging to Holocaust child victim Hanna Brady of Czechoslovakia. Ishioka travels to the Czech Republic, then Toronto, where she finds Hanna’s brother George, the sole survivor of the lost family. They subsequently tour with the suitcase and as George shows photos of the family’s life before the war, they tell Hanna’s story of deportation to Thereisenstadt and then to Auschwitz, where she perished. The suitcase, photos and survivor’s testimony bring Hanna’s poignant story to children who might otherwise be unable to grasp the magnitude of the Holocaust. [CBC television has aired the film on numerous occasions on The National]
Requiem for the Missing: On the works of Yehouda Chaki Joshua Dorsey (in collaboration with Bravo, Fact and National Film Board of Canada) Joshua Dorsey, dir.
2000. 10m. Artist Yehouda Chaki works on his powerful installation Mi Makir (Who Will Ever Know?), a series of dozens of heads painted in dark watercolours running in horizontal and vertical sequence, with a large mound of books-as-monuments in the center. Each book cover expresses an individually crafted essence-- of either of its lost owner or its contents, both denoting and connoting the culture and civilization that were lost in the Holocaust. Besides capturing Chaki’s creative process, Dorsey also employs a visual analogy to the Maelstrom that consumed these missing and now anonymous lives. The video is a superb catalyst to engage classroom discussion about art and the Holocaust.
The Struma Associated Producers, Simcha Jacobovici, dir. and producer, 2001 92m.
This is a gripping documentary account of an expedition to find the remains of the sunken Jewish refugee ship The Struma which, enroute to Palestine, lost all but one of its 769 passengers in February 1942. Turkish authorities towed the ship out of Istanbul harbour into the Black Sea where a Soviet torpedo sank it. The sole survivor is the centerpiece of this moving documentary. The Turkish government, embarrassed by its erstwhile involvement, opposes the expedition to find the wreckage, led by a man whose grandparents were aboard the doomed ship. The moral issue of governments and people who were bystanders to the Holocaust is prominent.
*Still (Stille) Hahn and Daughters Productions, Wendy Oberlander, dir.writer, producer, 2001, 25m., video. Oberlander looks for her place in the stories of her mother’s and grandmother’s past in this video about the evanescence of time. In seamlessly bonding music and editing, she narrates a visual/verbal collage of fragmentary details of her family’s memories of persecution in, and flight from Germany in 1938. She plays them against ‘imaginary’ images, home movies and documentary footage from the period, and thus creates an imagined time and place. In a lyrical deliberation about the ‘sound of memory,’ she provides the viewer with something familiar, yet remote, as she reaches back to perform conversations with people she will never meet. This personal artistic work also entices the general audience.
*Haven Alliance Atlantis Communications, Citadel Entertainment, Paulette Breen Productions, John Gray, dir. 2001, 180m This made for television miniseries is based on the true story of Ruth Gruber, who challenged the US Government and traveled to Europe to help escort 1000 Jewish war victims to the United States.
*Undying Love: A Collection of Love Stories Undying Love and La Fete Productions, Helene Klodawsky dir./writer, 2002, 87m , video. In this high-profile shortened-for-television documentary, Holocaust survivors tell of their struggle to regain their identities as loving humans in spite of the traumas they had faced. As they describe coping with daily life in Canada and post Holocaust trauma over the decades, it is clear how their love was the key element in their recovery of ordinary life. A combination of documentary, historical footage, staged dramatic moments, with original musical score, this video’s high production values demonstrate the incalculable value of survivor testimonies. [CTV]
Je me souviens (I Remember) Les productions quatre jeudis Eric R. Scott, dir./producer, 2002, 50m., video (subtitled). Le Devoir, the newspaper of Quebec intellectuals, ran 1007 articles in the 1930’s that were pro-fascist and antisemitic. Interviews with apologists and opponents today reveal the tenor of the times and the powerful role intellectuals played in perpetuating this atmosphere. Academic Esther Delisle angrily attacks the Establishment for its position of “Everyone knows, but no one should say” with regard to her own contemporary attempts to reveal Quebec’s shameful intellectual past, including a postwar policy of welcoming Nazi collaborators from France and of trivializing the Holocaust.
Come Out Fighting. The 761st Barna Alper Productions/History Television/Episode 17 Productions. Fern Levitt, dir/writer, 2002, 50m. video. While not a specific Holocaust film, this story of the 761st tank battalion in World War II recalls the segregation of the U.S. armed forces and the determination of this first black armoured battalion to show its worth, both in the Battle of the Bulge and in General George Patton’s dash into Germany and Austria. Backed by familiar and unfamiliar stock shot footage, several veterans describe the enormity of the human catastrophe they discovered upon liberating Mauthausen “It was worse than slavery was ever thought to be,” states one. Two camp survivors salute the 761st for preventing more loss of life. Perhaps affected by the experience, some veterans helped form the backbone of the postwar U.S. civil rights movement. (Made for History Channel’s Turning Points in History.
The Boys of Buchenwald Paperny Films Distributed by the National Film Board of Canada. Audrey Mehler, dir. 2002 47m. Almost six decades after their liberation from Buchenwald, the "boys," Holocaust survivors Robbie Waisman, Elie Wiesel and Joe Szwarcberg meet again, touring locales in France where they recovered from their traumatic concentration camp experiences. Their enduring friendship helped them to rebuild their lives and to rediscover a world they had lost. This documentary, filled with archival footage and photos, is an excellent introduction to the subject.
The Fifth Province National Film Board of Canada Don McWilliams, dir. 2002 72m Shot in Canada, France, Latvia, Cyprus and Africa, this documentary examines lives that have been irrevocably changed by the trauma of war: Latvians exiled by war in 1944, a German photographer defined by the Nazi nightmare, a French novelist haunted by the childhood memory of the death of his father, the plight of a Greek-Cypriot woman in the wake of the Turkish invasion in 1974, and a massacre by Nazis in the French town of Oradour-sur-Glane in 1944. These testimonies, enhanced by startling images that use special effects animation, song and poetry, establish a. unique approach to the usual treatment of this subject.
Raymond Klibansky: From Philosophy to Life National Film Board of Canada, Anne-Marie Tougas dir. 2002 51m Profile of the German Jewish philosopher Raymond Klibansky who fled Nazi Germany for England and worked as an intelligence officer for
the British Secret Service during World War II. He moved to Montréal in
1946 where he continued to promote tolerance and freedom.
My Dear Clara Beitel/Lazar Profudctions Gary Beitel dir 2002 44m Clara Greenspan left Canada for Warsaw, Poland in June 1938, never imagining she would be caught up in the maelstrom that swept Europe. This documentary tells the story of a Polish Jewish refugee's struggle for survival and his Canadian wife's brave struggle to change the Canadian government's immigration policies.
From Despair to Defiance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising David Kaufman dir/writer Barna Alper Prodns/History Television/Episode 18 Productions, 2003 47 & 72m.. Video. Interviews with ghetto fighters and historians (Yehuda Bauer is especially effective) who chronicle this historic event, “fighting for three lines in the history books” as one combatant put it. Most of Warsaw’s Jews who did not perish from disease and hunger were transported to Treblinka and death. Mordecai Anilevitch, the young resistance leader, said it was important that the world know the Jews did not die without a fight. This video shows original footage and still photos of the ghetto before, during and after this heroic resistance. The detailed testimonials are moving and overall make for an excellent historical account. (History Channel; not yet available to public)
Nicky’s Children Trigon Productioons/CBC in cooperation with Czech and Slovak TV and Slovak Film Institute Matej Minac, dir. 2003 45m. Originally Nicholas Winton, The Power of Good, this video, written and narrated by CBC’s Joe Schlesinger, is his own story. He and 6 other Jewish Czech/Slovak children discuss their anguished rescue by a self-effacing charitable Nicholas Winton, who saved 2000 child refugees in Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1939. He brought them (including Schlesinger) to safety in England but never spoke of his charitable deed over a lifetime. Late in life, several hundred learned for the first time that Winton had saved them. We watch a surprise meeting between dozens of them and Nicky on a British television show. This story emphasizes how individual decency can reinforce ideas of what ‘civilized’ means. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Prisoner Of Paradise. Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender dirs, Canadian–American production, PBS, BBC, U-5 Productions, History Television Canada, Alliance Atlantis distributors 2003, 97m. Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary film, narrated by Ian Holm, is the story of Theresienstadt inmate Kurt Gerron, a renowned Jewish movie director/actor in pre-Nazi Germany, who collaborated with the Nazis to direct the propaganda film The Fuhrer Gives a City to the Jews (1944). The propaganda showed Theresienstadt idyllically, with no inkling of its horrific conditions. On screen survivors resent Gerron's collaboration, but others claim he received Jewish elders’ permission to make the film in order to delay Jews’ `transport,' to certain death. The philosophical issue of this ‘Devil’s Bargain’ perplexes the viewer. Gerron’s images lied to the world, convincing many that rumours of mass murder by Germany were untrue, yet in producing them, Gerron believed he delayed (his and the) victims’ destruction. (History Channel 2005)
Hitler: The Rise of Evil Christian Duguay, dir. Alliance Atlantis/CBS television 2003,
4 hours. This 2 part miniseries tries to humanize Hitler, ignoring the child and caricaturing the failed artist and rising politician. Called “trivializing and offensive” by the Anti-Defamation League, it reiterates the long held German myth that Hitler hijacked Germany politically and established his tyrannical regime ruthlessly. In ignoring the wider picture of Germans’ acceptance of and belief in the Fuhrer Principle, the film fails to articulate historical forces like the antisemitism/anti Bolshevism that defined Nazi ideology. Even if actor Robert Carlyle’s Hitler is a believable, wicked, hysterical, spittle- spewing megalomaniac, the series’ greatest error is to subscribe to the myth of “Great Men Make History” and to end in 1934. Hitler’s nemesis, the Jews, seem one dimensional. (CBS television; not yet available for sale/rental)
Samuel Bak: Painter of Questions, Christa Singer, dir. TVO, Rogers Cablefund, Bravo & Vision TV, 2003 47m. video. Painter Samuel Bak, a child survivor of the Holocaust thanks to the charity of Catholic monks, has been painting a lifetime. A docent explains to students some of the 100 compelling, surrealist, yet metaphysical Bak images at a Boston exhibit. Onscreen, Bak admits how the emotional impact of the Holocaust pervades his work, while historical photos and footage of his return to Vilnius provide context to this aesthetically moving and well crafted documentary. To an impressive background score of original music, Bak explains that his fractured still-lifes and uprooted trees signify his desire to integrate the violence of the world into an art that denies the possibility of ever reconstructing what had once existed. He rejects fashionable conceptual art in favour of representational paintings that try to repair a broken universe. As a painter of questions, he admits his most constant query is why he survived. Perhaps the answer lies in his paintings that bear witness to memory, tragedy and the affirmative nature of art, life and willpower.
Against the Odds Capital j. Films Jedrzej Jonasz, dir 2004 44m This English and Polish language documentary explores different forms of resistance that existed in the concentration camps such as smuggling medicines, the elimination of Gestapo informers within the camps, sabotage in secret weapons factories, preparations for rebellions and escapes, and the mission of Capt. Pilecki, a Polish officer who purposely went to Auschwitz as an inmate to set up an underground organization in that Camp.
Glove Story Sarah Lazarovic, dir. National Film Board of Canada, 2005 11m. 82-year old Hungarian Holocaust survivor Magda Zimmering conducted a successful letter writing campaign to have a street and park named after Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued her and thousands of other Jews from certain death. She uses her dogged determination and letter writing skills again to try to recover her lost sheepskin glove, a precious gift from her late husband. She writes to a national newspaper, lands on the front page, and tells her story to Canadians.
Holocaust: A Music Memorial Film James Kent, dir. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC; Telewizja Polska (TVP, Poland); Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF, Germany) 2005 88m. Theodore Adorno’s warning about the impossibility of poetry after Auschwitz echoes throughout this well intentioned international effort. Shot for television in winter at Auschwitz, the performers, Camerata Silesia, Sinfonietta Cracowia, and The Smith Quartet, as well as pianist Emanuel Ax, try to evoke some of the atmospherics of this place of damnation as they play Bach , Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, Victor Ullmann and Steve Reich. The absence of titling is a noteworthy omission, yet the music’s emotional earnestness does succeed occasionally. (We see hundreds of victim photographs while Steve Reich’s relentless string sounds evoke train transports.) Other times, played or sung to a backdrop of images in vibrant colour, the music lulls, or even distracts the viewer. If a viewer does not know the history, this narration-less opus seems abstract, sad, yet hauntingly beautiful for reasons that beg for verbal explanation.
Once a Nazi Frederic Bohbot, dir. Bunbury Film and Ontix Media. 2006 46m. For 50 years Montreal professor Adalbert Lallier of Concordia University kept secret his wartime membership in the Waffen SS. He had remained silent about war crimes he witnessed in seven concentration camps, until it became clear he could help convict his former commanding officer by testifying at Germany’s last war-crimes trial. In his old age, Lallier has sought some sort of moral closure for his years of silence, and this documentary conveys the ambivalence that both Jews and Germans alike feel about him. (Distributed by the National Film Board of Canada)
Charging the Rhino Simcha Jacobovici, dir. Vision TV 2007 50m Jacobovici, host of the television history program The Naked Archaeologist, travels to Romania where he traces the tragic fate of his own family, all but destroyed in the Holocaust along with 400,000 other Romanian Jews. What shocks is the denial of this colossal tragedy by many Romanians and others on camera. In the face of such reality, this grim documentary reminds the viewer that Holocaust education is an ongoing necessity.
Emotional Arithmetic Paolo Barzman, dir . Productions Bleu Blanc Rouge 2007 99m
Based on the novel by Matt Cohen, this actor centred feature tells of the reunion of three Drancy detention camp detainees: a poet, [Max von Sydow], a boy [Gabriel Byrne] and a girl [Susuan Sarandon] four decades later on the female’s Quebec farm. The experience is catalytic as her husband (Christopher Plummer) and son (Roy Dupuis) watch their agony wrestling with the familiar question of why some survived while most did not. Overall, the characters’ emotional dramas may overshadow two irreconcilable opposites about the Holocaust as film: the fickleness of history and forgetting as the single key to emotional survival.
Fugitive Pieces Jeremy Podeswa dir Cinegram 2007 104m This is the film adaptation of Anne Michaels’ exquisite novel about a Jewish writer haunted and immobilized perpetually by a childhood memory of Nazis murdering his family. Set in visually arresting colours signifying geographic locales of Poland, Canada and a Greek island, the scenario tries to evoke melodrama from elements that are more memorable as words than as images. Re-edited to provide an upbeat ending, this well made but unconvincing film demonstrates how translating the Holocaust effectively as history remains an elusive film ideal.
*Helen Zack Bernbaum 2007 6m Bernbaum, a Ryerson University student in Toronto, made this short documentary about his grandmother Helen, who survived as an inmate of the Grunberg labour camp and the ensuing death march. This short premiered at the Chicago International Reel Shorts Festival in 2007.
So Soon Forgotten Zack Bernbaum dir Ezeqial Productions 2009 15m (German w. English subtitles) This drama, shot in Toronto, is based on the actual event of Polish non-Jew Otto Teibeth, who disguised himself as an SS officer in an attempt to stop a trainload of Hungarian Jews from being deported to Auschwitz.
*Healing Voices, A Documentary by Riva Finkelstein. 2009 25 m video A Master’s thesis in journalism became a privately financed visual journal of two survivors, Faigie Libman and Pinchas Gutter, who joined the March of Remembrance and Hope and returned to key memorial sites. As witnesses, they guide the group of multi-ethnic students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, providing an emotional immediacy that they hope will perpetuate memory of the Shoah in another generation. An underlying theme of this production is how the subject of remembrance will fare in the future.
*7 Days of Remembrance…and Hope Fern Levitt dir CCI Entertainment 2010 63m This documentary follows six university students of different faiths from varied Canadian regions who visited death camps in Poland as part of the Remembrance and Hope Mission. Each student’s experience of confronting racism reminds the viewer of the multiple ways to engage Holocaust awareness and as well as the importance of inclusiveness in the act of remembrance.
*The Heart of Auschwitz Carl Leblanc 2010 85m (Bilingual) When Fania Feiner was incarcerated at Auschwitz, she turned 20 and received a small heart-shaped book with birthday greetings from 12 fellow female prisoners. Carl Leblanc’s worldwide travel to search for the now elderly signators is a useful tool to teach children about the positive esprit de corps they shared in perilous times as well as the importance of luck and determination in understanding the breadth of the Holocaust tragedy.
My Father, Joe Nikila Cole Moving Visions Productions, 2010 9m (English, French, and Yiddish) Based on a story by Jack Englehart, this short drama is about 10-yr. old Yacov, who has escaped Nazi-occupied France with his family to settle in the garment district of Montreal's St. Laurent Street. Yacov sees his once prosperous designer father struggle unsuccessfully to achieve recognition and success. The familiar story of a family displaced by the Holocaust finds the child learning deep truths about his father and life in general.
*And Who Are You? Karl Nerenberg and Malcolm Hamilton dirs OMNI television (Rogers) 2010 60 m. Four accomplished Canadians, two Jewish and two Christian, have little in common but Polish ancestry that has influenced their Canadian identities. Jack Jedwab is the sole member of the quartet who is the son of Holocaust survivors. The group’s singular and shared experiences in Canada and Poland notwithstanding, the impact of the Holocaust echoes forcefully in this investigation of diversity in Canadian culture.
*Walking Through History Francine Zukerman, dir Z Films 2011 50m In this documentary, a group of film-art students travel to Germany and Poland after being oriented by Judy Cohen, a female Auschwitz survivor in Toronto. Unusual for this type of film, the students were behind and in front of the camera to record their various impressions of the Holocaust with poignancy, humour and compassion.
*In Darkness Agnieszka Holland, dir Poland, Germany, France, Canada coproduction 2011 145m This Oscar-nominated feature, based on real events, finds Leopold Socha, an anti-Semitic sewer worker and petty thief in Lvov, Poland, hiding Jews from the Nazi terror. Experiencing a change of heart, he refuses to take more money from the ragtag group and risks his life and his family’s lives to hide them for 14 months. Authenticity prevails as Polish, German, Yiddish and Ukrainian languages bring this extraordinary script to life.
In the Presence of My Neighbours George Gedeon, dir. Asper Foundation Canada 2012, 47m This documentary by a Greek Canadian journalist is a broad and sympathetic survey of how the majority of 62,000 Jewish Greeks perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau from March to August 1943. The film details how Greek collaborators, witnesses and bystanders far outnumbered those few who risked their lives to help save Greek Jews. Today Greece has an 8,000 person remnant of this once vibrant historical community from Thessaloniki
The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program.
Online at Vimeo
The following series of short films are on the website Vimeo. They are part of the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program sponsored by the Azrieli Foundation Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program. The videos combine animation, historical photos and survivor testimony. This impressionistic series is accompanies a book by secondstorypress for each person and combines art and fact to recreate the atmospherics of the era. Its power lies in its highly informative production values This online series is excellent for schools.
*One of the Lucky Ones - Eva Marx 8:25m http://vimeo.com/47945149 Forced to “pass” as a Christian child coping with dangers she barely understands, this evocative and lyrical memoirs describe a childhood where Christians risked their lives to protect them.
*Little Girl Lost - Betty Rich 10:31m http://vimeo.com/47943210 Helped by a German soldier, this child escaped to the Soviet Union where she worked in various work camps for the duration of the war. In its aftermath she was adrift but found the strength to keep a diary about surviving.
*Tenuous Threads - Judy Abrams 9:44m http://vimeo.com/47937563 Another child who passed as a Christian child in Budapest, her story gives one the impression that the deprivation of her Jewish culture was necessary to survive.
Gatehouse to Hell - Felix Opatowski 9:27m http://vimeo.com/47936118 From the Lodz ghetto to labor camps to Auschwitz, Felix Opatowski tells his tale. Luck was as much responsible for his survival as was his determination to elude the Nazi intention to destroy the Jews.
If Home Is Not Here - Max Bornstein, 7:55m http://vimeo.com/47935125 This Canadian expatriate found himself in France unable to return to Canada when war erupted. He made his way to Spain where he was imprisoned, one of 90 Jews among 900 prisoners. He never fully overcame this experience of incarceration and near destruction. His story reminds one of those Jews who managed to survive on the periphery of Hitler’s Europe.
*We Sang in Hushed Voices - Helena Jockel 5:28m
In March 1944, elementary school teacher Helena Jockel accompanied “her” children to Auschwitz only to see them sent to the gas chamber. Her account of camp life and the subsequent death march is poignant, stretched between the polarities of kindness and cruelty. After the war, she resumed teaching while struggling against a Communist regime that forbade reference to the Holocaust.
Suddenly the Shadow Fell - Leslie Meisels 5:43m
When 17-year-old Leslie Meisels insisted that his mother and two brothers join a transport, he only knew they had to get out of the terrible holding facility in Debrecen, Hungary. Luckily, that decision put them among the roughly 20,000 “exchange Jews” whose lives had been bartered for gold, diamonds and cash in a secret deal between Rudolf Kastner and Adolf Eichmann.
*In Hiding - Marguerite Elias Quddus 5:15m
Marguerite Quddus first told her story of growing up in Paris before and during World War II with illustrations. Eventually she accompanied her drawings with words in a book that told the story of a Jewish family whose lives spiraled out of control after the Nazi occupation of France.
*Knocking on Every Door - Anka Voticky 5:44m
Fleeing Czechoslovakia in 1940, Anka Voticky, a young mother, found refuge with her family in Shanghai. When Japanese forces occupied the city they were forced with other Jewish refugees into the uncertain fate of ghetto life. After the war, the Votickys at last found safety in Canada.
*If Only It Were Fiction - Elsa Thon 5:54m
16 year old Elsa Thon was recruited by the Polish Underground, supplied with false papers and escaped from the Krakow ghetto only to be betrayed as a Jew. She spent the rest of the war in forced labour camps and managed to survive with wit, intelligence and a deep belief in destiny.
Vanished Boyhood - George Stern 6:22m
A teen rebel, George refused to wear the Jewish star and “Passing” as a Christian boy, survived the siege of Budapest while the fascist Arrow Cross continued hunting for Jews. Postwar, George fought in Israel’s War of Independence. From Israel to Brazil and finally to Toronto, he learned that determination and bravery compensated him for his vanished boyhood.
If, By Miracle - Michael Kutz 6:05m
Nearly buried alive 10-year-old Michael Kutz narrowly escaped the Nazi death squad that killed 4,000 Jews, including his own family. Determined to survive, he became the youngest member of a partisan resistance group in Belorus, that involved daring operations against the Nazis and their collaborators. Postwar, Michael’s odyssey took him through Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, and, finally, Canada.
*Survival Kit - Zuzana Sermer 5:04m
An only child, 15-year-old Zuzana Sermer tried valiantly to protect her father and ailing mother from the fascist regime in her native Slovakia. Four years later, she and her fiancé fled to Budapest only to navigate the more treacherous German-occupied Hungary. She attributed her survival to the power of courage, love and determination.
11 of the 13 films from the Azrieli Series Short Films are also available in French, in the Courts-Métrages de la Collection Azrieli. Their French titles are:
Marguerite Elias Quddus - Cachée
Anka Voticky - Frapper à toutes les portes
Elsa Thon - Que renaisse demain
George Stern - Une jeunesse envolée
Michael Kutz - Si, par miracle
Zuzana Sermer - Trousse de survie
Eva Felsenburg Marx - Une question de chance
Betty Rich - Seule au monde
Judy Abrams - Retenue par un fil
Felix Opatowski - L’Antichambre de l'enfer
Max Bornstein - Citoyen de nulle part
*Return to Reichenbach Maureen Kelleher dir. Maureen Kelleher Productions. 2012. 56m.This documentary finds two females, one a Jewish orphan, the other a one-time guard at a concentration camp, who meet by accident in Toronto. Maria the orphan thinks Johanna protected her. Johanna is non-committal. If viewers understand their mutual encounter as worlds that were/are irreconcilable, the mutual difficulty of closure is both poignant and disturbing.
*My Mother, The Nazi Midwife and Me Gina Roitman and Jane Hawton, dir. and producers. 2012. 52m. This documentary tells the story of the systematic murder of 52 Jewish babies in the American-protected Pocking Displaced Persons camp after the end of the war. Roitman, whose mother had then suspected foul play, tries to locate the trail of the transgressor(s) in Passau, but is met with silence. More positively, a Passau school class, aware of their elders’ past, is very receptive to her story.
[Beginning in 2013, the March of the Living Digital Archives (Funded by the Jewish Federations of Canada, grants from the Government of Canada, Claims Conference and Dennis and Laura Bennie) began digitizing and archiving 25 years of footage of participants and survivors’ testimonies while in the visiting Poland. The MOL sources, gathered from Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg, should become available online ]
Blind Love A Holocaust Journey through Poland with Man’s Best Friend Eli Rubenstein, dir. Garrison Creek Media 2015 28m Six blind Israelis traveled to Poland with their guide dogs in 2013 to visit Shoah-related locales with a March of the Living group. Born postwar, they have the firsthand emotional experience of hearing survivors accompanying the group recount stories of Majdanek and Auschwitz. Especially moving is the disabled noting a powerful contrast: their dogs are trained to nurture, not to kill.
Remember Atom Egoyan dir. Serendipity Point Films and Egoli Tossell Film 2015 95m. Christopher Plummer plays Zev, who sets out to inflict vengeance after discovering that the Nazi guard who murdered his family 70 years earlier lives in the U.S. under an assumed name and identity. The moral issue is front and centre but the cross continent search does not provide the expected Hollywood ending.
Nobody Was Interested, Nobody Asked: The Holocaust, the Survivors, and the Montreal Community Max Beer and Deena Dlusy-Apel dirs. DenaMax Productions 2015. 60m. This documentary interviews a group of Holocaust survivors and resident wartime Jewish Canadians. The film tries to explore postwar Montreal’s Jewish community’s ostracism and indifference to the new arrivals, but does not probe the deeper psychological issues. The video’s primary source material will serve as useful evidence for future scholars.
Un Sac de Billes (A Bag of Marbles) Christian Duguay, dir. 2017. 110m. Gaumont (France-Canada-Czech coproduction) A remake of the 1975 feature based on the true story of the Joffo family that found itself fleeing the Nazi manhunt for Jews in occupied France in 1940. Two young brothers and their parents struggle to survive the racism and hatred of the era as the story unfolds through the eyes of the children. Duguay hoped the remake would remind today’s uninformed children that extraordinary courage is possible for ordinary young and old and that understanding, not hostility, should inform our attitude toward people fleeing adversity.
Note: To order any of the abovementioned films associated with the National Film Board of Canada, call toll-free in Canada: 1-800-267-7710 or in the US, 1-800-542-2164
For international distribution, contact: International@nfb.ca
Gary Evans may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gary Evans, historian and author, is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa. He wrote two groundbreaking books on Canadian film, John Grierson and the National Film Board of Canada: The Politics of Wartime Propaganda (1984) and In the National Interest: A Chronicle of the National Film Board of Canada from 1949-1989 (1991) both from the University of Toronto Press. Another popular biography for non academics is John Grierson:Trailblazer of Documentary Film (XYZ Publishing, Montreal). The latter book sheds some light on the lack of public information in Canada about Europe’s unfolding Jewish tragedy. Professor Evans was also a contributing historian to, and contributing editor of the 1998 cd- ROM and website, A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust.