The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival is off to a great start. As you might have heard, we've expanded to three locations: Scottsdale, Chandler and Peoria in the West Valley. Saturday night we showed, the comedy, Oh What a Mess, which the trials and tribulations of an interfaith relationship as well as a love story with Orthodox Lesbians. It was preceded by a short called Gelfite Fish. Apparently there’s some Jewish tradition where the women are supposed to make their own gelfite fish for their husbands before their wedding. Yikes.
Yesterday, my friend and fellow Phoenix Holocaust Survivors Association supporter, historian Paul Wieser, (pictured) led a fascinating discussion after Against the Tide, a documentary that tells the story about the lack of a U.S. response to the Holocaust. It is really sad to realize that American Jews spent more time fighting each other than they did trying to fight the Nazi’s. Additionally, Paul Bergson and a few other men who were largely responsible for trying to do more to save the Jews of Europe were never recognized while they were alive. You can catch the 7pm screening at Scottsdale Camelview and hear Paul yourself.
Tonight there’s a Valentines Day screening of The Klezmatics, a feature-length documentary about the Grammy Award-winning, New York-based, klezmer band. followed by filmmaker Erik Greenberg Anjou.
Wednesday at 3pm in Chandler I am looking forward to seeing my favorite film of the festival, Berlin 36.Berlin 36 tells the true story of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the fate of Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann in the 1936 Summer Olympics. She was replaced by the Nazi regime at the eleventh hour by an athlete later discovered to be a man. We actually have Bill Goodykoontz, the film critic of the Arizona Republic moderating a discussion afterwards.
Wednesday and Thursday we are showing Savoirs in the Night at Camelview. Savoirs in the Night is based on the memories of Marga Spiegel. In her narrative, published in 1965, she describes how courageous farmers in southern Münsterland hid her, her husband Siegfried and their little daughter Karin from 1943 until 1945, thus saving them from deportation to the extermination camps in the East. The film tells this story of survival with a sense for the absurd in daily life and not without the typical Westphalian humor.
In Yad Vashem the farmers’ names are immortalized: Heinrich Aschoff, Hubert Pentrop, Bernhard Südfeld, Heinrich Silkenböhmer, Bernhard Sickmann. The Savoirs film wants to create a memorial in honor of these silent heroes.
My friends and fellow docents, Child Survivor, Michelle Gold and Holocaust Survivor and Speaker, Gabriella Karin are showing their KinderTransports installation publicly today for the first time today at the LA Museum of the Holocaust.
See some photos I took of Gabriella with the rest of the docents at a recent training where she told the story of how she came to collect over 700 black and white photos of children ages 0-17 who were saved, including Michelle Gold’s mom, who's photo is featured in one of the first train cars.
Be sure to hear Gabriella speak at our museum or at the Museum of Tolerance where she is a regular on the circuit. She also makes and wears her own beautiful jewelry. Where does she get the energy?
The exhibit is here until May, 2011. Be sure to see it when you come check out the new museum!
This week I returned to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. It’s only been a few days since my friend, Holocaust Survivor, Author and Lecturer Henry Oertelt’s death but I wanted to renew my commitment to our film project, now more than ever. Henry's family is generously loaning some of his artifacts to the museum and donating a signed copy of his book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust, to the museum's library.
Tuesday, I had the pleasure of listening to Holocaust Survivor, Thomas Blatt, the Holocaust Survivor who built the Sobibor Concentration Camp model that is now housed in the new museum. Thomas was on site at the museum for the first time. In 1943, Thomas escaped Sobibor during the prisoners’ uprising. He was only 15 years old. Today, he is 83 years old.
After his presentation, I learned that he is the author of at least 3 books and was a witness in a recent trial against a war criminal. He also was responsible for changing the plaque at the camp that read that thousands of Russians, Poles and others had died there. There was no mention of Jews. After Thomas protested, the plaque was changed to read that Jews, Russians, Poles, and others died there.
The museum director, Mark Rothman gathered Thomas for a photo with the only surviving original founder of the museum, Masha Loen along with another Survivor whose name I did not get, their friends and family, Marcia, a museum curator, and Jon Kean, a filmmaker (Swimming in Auschwitz). Masha was part of a group of Survivors who met at Hollywood High School taking English classes fifty years ago when they decided they should start a museum with a two fold mission: to commemorate the victims, and educate people about the Holocaust. Masha had earlier made the point that Thomas should donate any of his remaining artifacts to the museum, ”This is our home now,” she said. After they took a few pictures, I was invited to join in the photo as a new volunteer and docent. It was an honor to stand with them.