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"WHAT HOLOCAUST?" Print E-mail

By Lynda S. Goldman
January 9, 2007

Five or six years ago I produced a film that investigated the whereabouts of a Nazi war criminal who we believed was living in Syria. We still believe he is alive as do the governments of Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Greece and the United States.

During our investigation, we interviewed dozens of Holocaust survivors, historians, scholars, and members of the Nazi criminal’s own family. But one interview stayed with me – that of Haim Rafael, a Jew from Salonika, Greece who ended up in Auschwitz and worked as a Sondercommando – Jews who met other Jews at the train station at Auschwitz, and readied them for work detail or for death. In our four-hour interview with Mr. Rafael, he said one thing I could not get out of my head: “When I would see a young woman with a child, I would take the child away from her and put the child in the arms of an older woman – one who would be sent to death.”

I made our director keep that sound bite in our film even though it had very little to with the whereabouts of the Nazi war criminal. A year later, I found out that my mother gave birth to a child named Chaim in the Lodz Ghetto in 1942, and that her husband, Reuven Tangerson was killed shortly after their son’s birth. In 1944, my mother and her two-year-old child were deported to Auschwitz where a Sondercommando took the child from my mother’s arms and planted him in the arms of an elderly woman.  That was the last time she saw her son, my brother Chaim.

In recent years the Holocaust has become an industry: monuments and statues are being built in some of the most unlikely places, ceremonies and dinners like this one have become an annual ritual and some speakers demand 5 and 6 digit figures to address the crowds who attend. But this is not what the Holocaust is about. We need to ask ourselves: what did we learn from this most horrific tragedy of, not only Jewish history, but of mankind itself? Where was the humanity the Jews so deeply believe in?  How did this atrocity happen? And more importantly - what do we do about it now?

This film, ZAHOR, written and directed by a second generation survivor from France, is not about a monument, a ceremony, a museum, or an organization. In Fabienne Rousso-Lenoir’s own words: “It is not a documentary on Nazism or the horrors of the Shoah, or images of concentration camps, of the dead or of those dark eyes peering from behind barbed wire”.

Instead, through vintage photographs and films we meet real people - not yet victims - young people with so much potential, crushed with so much hate, hate tolerated by so much indifference worldwide. ZAHOR celebrates the life of those who are usually mentioned as victims. It is a 22-minute poem that gives them back their dignity and identities as living, loving, laughing and fighting human beings. I think this is the way my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and yes, my brother Chaim, would have liked me to remember them.

“Grandfather, Grandfather (Zaida, Zaida). If we die before our time – where do our joys go? Where do our songs go? All that we would have liked to do? Our desires? Our love? All what we weren’t able to give? Where does it go? Where does it go?

ZAHOR!!! Remember!!!!!

This film is available at the National Center for Jewish Film; www.JewishFilm.org

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