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October 2015, arsenal cinema

Asynchronous: 
Documentaries and Experimental Films on the Holocaust from the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art Collection

DER LETZTE JUDE VON DROHOBYTSCH, 2011

2015 is dedicated to the remembrance of the victims of National Socialism. For this reason, Arsenal has put together a selection of 46 documentary and experimental films from its collection that not only grapple with the Holocaust but also with such themes as exile and forced labor during the National Socialist era. With the support of the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin, ten films from the project have also been digitized so that they also remain visible for coming generations. These ten films as well as all 36 others are available to cinemas, cultural, and educational institutions for their own programs as well as for school screenings. Part of the project also involved a collaboration with the film studies seminar "Remembering the Holocaust in Cinema" at the Freie Universität Berlin to create an accompanying publication. To bring the project to a close, we are showing a program of eleven films from 1.10 until 9.11. The screenings will be accompanied by Q&As with international guests and introductions. A panel discussion on October 2 will be exploring the question of what remembrance work might look like in the future and what role audiovisual media can play in the process.

DER LETZTE JUDE VON DROHOBYTSCH (Paul Rosdy, Austria 2011, with guest Paul Rosdy, 1.10.) Alfred Schreyer (1922-2015) tells the story of his family, taking over a century of tragedy and optimism in equal measure. The 90-year-old was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust and returned to his hometown of Drohobych in what is now Ukraine. For many years, he was a singer and violinist in the local cinema foyer orchestra. The only piece Schreyer ever composed himself is called "Bronitza Wood", the same wood where over 11,000 Jews were shot, including his mother.

HA'MAKAH HA'SHMONIM VE'AHAT (The 81st Blow, David Bergman, Jacques Ehrlich, Haim Gouri, Miriam Novitch, Zvi Shner, Israel 1975, 2.10.) As a child in the Przemysl ghetto, Michael Goldmann-Gilad was given 80 lashes, a beating that almost killed him. He survived, moved to Israel, but the fact that nobody there believed his story felt like the 81st blow. Without commentary, the film links together largely unknown archive material with witness statements from the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem to create a complex line of argumentation. In so doing, the archival images shift from documents to monuments, from pieces of evidence to memorials.

SHOAH (Claude Lanzmann, France 1974–1985, 3.10. Part 1 & 4.10. Part 2) Any cinematic examination of the Holocaust involves the question of how to represent the unrepresentable, with SHOAH being Lanzmann's most outstanding, formally severe, and radical contribution to this debate. He spoke to witnesses of the mass murder carried out in the extermination camps, to the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, and to perpetrators, observers, and the survivors of the Sonderkommando units. Lanzmann is not interested in asking about the "why" but rather the "how". The film eschews commentary and archive material entirely and does not show a single dead body, leading the viewer instead to the places where this annihilation took place in the present.

SOBIBOR, 14 OCTOBRE 1943, 16 HEURES (Claude Lanzmann, France 2001, 14.10., with guests  Kurt Gutmann and Franziska Bruder, contemporary witnesses of the events shown in the film, & 28.10.) Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4pm refers to the exact date, time, and location of the start of the only successful armed uprising in a National Socialist extermination camp. Its success was not just down to good planning, careful preparation, and the huge courage of those involved, but also proverbial German punctuality. One of those involved in the uprising was the then 17-year-old Yehuda Lerner. Claude Lanzmann had already spoken to him whilst preparing SHOAH but decided not to use the material, ending up instead dedicating an entire film to the Sobibór uprising.

DARK LULLABIES (Irene Angelico, Abbey Neidik, Canada 1985, 16.10., with an introduction by Sonja M. Schultz) is one of the first films to grapple with the effects of the Holocaust on the following generations and was shot in the 80s already. The filmmaker, whose parents survived the Vilnius ghetto, interviews other children of survivors in Canada and Israel. In Germany, she meets the children of perpetrators who tell of how they discover their parents' crimes and how they deal with their guilt. "In DARK LULLABIES, we become witnesses of an attempt to develop a story from the inherited and the incomprehensible." (Sonja M. Schultz)

VOICES FROM THE ATTIC (Debbie Goodstein, USA 1988) and ECHOES FROM THE ATTIC (Debbie Goodstein, USA 2015, 17.10., with guest Debbie Goodstein & 6.11.) 3 meters by 4.5 meters with a 1.4 meter ceiling: these are the dimensions of the attic in Urzejowice, Poland, in which 16 members of the director’s family hid themselves from the National Socialists. After two years, 13 of them were able to leave their hiding place. In VOICES FROM THE ATTIC, the filmmaker and five of her cousins accompany her aunt Sally, who was a child back then, on a journey back to this place, which is not openly discussed within the family. ECHOS FROM THE ATTIC: In 2012, 27 family members, survivors, their children, partners, and grandchildren, travel once again to Poland and meet with the descendents of the family who hid them in their attic.

TOTSCHWEIGEN (Margareta Heinrich, Eduard Erne, Austria/Germany/The Netherlands 1994, 23.10., with guest Eduard Erne & 1.11.) The film accompanies the search for a mass grave of Hungarian-Jewish forced laborers who were executed near the Austrian town of Rechnitz in March 1945, just days before the arrival of the Red Army. One witness was murdered, one survivor died, and two of the key suspects were able to flee. In their search for answers, the filmmakers experience a conspiratorial village community who resist the process of coming to terms with the crime. The mass grave has not been found to this day.

HABEHIRA VEHAGORAL (Tsipi Reibenbach, Israel 1993, 29.10., with an introduction by Sonja M. Schultz) Reibenbach wants to learn to understand her parents, both of whom survived the Holocaust. As she observes their everyday rituals in a residential block in Israel, her father tells her about life in the ghettos and the death camps, while her mother remains silent and cooks and cleans. "Right up to the 1980s, films such as this were exceptions in Israeli cinema. Testimonies of one’s own helplessness and personal grief were rare in a society that wanted to both find and represent strength." (Sonja M. Schultz)

ME'KIVUN HA'YAAR (Voices from the Forest, Limor Pinhasov Ben Yosef, Yaron Kaftori Ben Yosef, Israel 2003, 30.10.) Between 1941 and 1944, more than 100,000 people, the majority of them Jews, were murdered in Ponar, a village near Vilnius. Kazimierz Sakowicz, an inhabitant of Ponar, documented the shootings as well as everyday life in the village in diary entries written on pieces of paper, calendar pages, and in exercise books. Based on these diary extracts, the film contrasts the memories of the village inhabitants with those of the survivors.

PARTISANS OF VILNA (Josh Waletzky, USA 1986, 31.10., with guest Aviva Kempner in discussion with Ulrich Gregor & 7.11.) The film is an account of armed resistance and internal struggles in the Vilnius ghetto. Many of the Jewish partisans were students, who were young, well-educated and independent, and banded together with Russian, Polish and Lithuanian groups in the surrounding woods. Here too though, they experienced anti-Semitism and resentment. The film contains 40 interviews with former resistance fighters, as well as archive material from 1933–1944. Traditional songs and Yiddish interpretations of well-known partisan songs play an important role in the film.