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November 2015, arsenal cinema

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


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.

VOICES FROM THE ATTIC (Debbie Goodstein, USA 1988) and ECHOES FROM THE ATTIC (Debbie Goodstein, USA 2015, 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, 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.

PARTISANS OF VILNA (Josh Waletzky, USA 1986, 7.11.) 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.

DIE FEUERPROBE – NOVEMBERPOGROM 1938 (Erwin Leiser, West Germany/Siwertland 1988, 9.11., with an introduction by Christian Pischel) Erwin Leiser, born 1923, escaped Kristallnacht by hiding in a Berlin attic. His film, conceived as a "document against forgetting", emphasizes the significance of Kristallnacht as a turning point in the National Socialist persecution of the Jews by embedding its events within their historical context. Leiser connects rare historical footage with personal descriptions by contemporary witnesses and forges links to the then present day West Germany of the 80s, a relationship that seems frighteningly topical to this very day.