The documentary Sound of Torture (2013) written and directed by the Israeli filmmaker Keren Shavo, screened in one of the last Research Forum classes, might have many unspoken things. The director chose to follow the Eritrean radio host and human rights activist Meron Estefanos as she reports on Eritrean refugees who have been captured in Sudan while migrating across the Sinai Peninsula into Israel. Keren Shavo does not address the problem of the Israeli official approach to the Eritreans or to refugees in general, or the criminality in the southern part of Tel Aviv. On the other hand, the documentary reminded me why I chose for research the Holocaust.
Producer, Hilla Medalia, shared at a Research Forum about her film Numbered. The film is about survivors in Israel that still bear their numbers from Auschwitz. It’s focused on the effect of their numbers on a personal level and their relationship with their numbers. Some say they cannot remember their number, even though it’s tattooed on them, maybe they’re suppressing traumatic memories. Most agreed that they want to hide their number, as if their tattoo invited questions from strangers. One survivor said a cashier asked her about Auschwitz at the register in a grocery store. Another survivor said his number reminded him that he lived, so he never tried to hide it. When he got his tattoo he cried tears of joy, because it meant he would survive, those who went straight to the gas chambers were never numbered. Other said they cried because it took their humanity, their identity from them; it reduced them to just a number. In any event, all of those interviewed had their own story of how they felt about their tattoo.
In a recent Research Forum, director, Arnon Goldfinger, shared about his 2011 documentary called The Flat. After his mother passed, Goldfinger and his siblings were charged with cleaning out her flat, where his grandparents, Gerda and Kurt Tuchler, also lived. They immigrated to Palestine in the 1930’s, fleeing from Nazi Germany. The film started as a sort of familial archive, but developed into a much larger story.
Goldfinger realized that the story unfolding was too significant to keep it for just the family archives. He said, looking through the lens of the camera he could seen the flat with new clarity and renewed focus. He decided to produce the film as a documentary, and see where it would take him. Without knowing where the content of the flat would lead him he focused on the question: What can you find out about people from the things they left behind?
Cohort V has the distinct pleasure to include Chenda Seang, our first student from Cambodia. Throughout the year our students sat together in classes with Chenda, but recently Chenda was in the front of the classroom sharing about the Cambodian genocide. Here’s a bit of what he shared:
The Khmer Rouge party was founded in the 1950’s, they grew from a small group of ideological radicals to an organization which overthrew the corrupt government in 1970, led by General Lon Nol. The Khmer Rouge aligned themselves against this government but also against the western bloc and the communist bloc, though the Khmer Rouge was communist, it pushed back on Russian and Chinese communist agendas. They designed their own Cambodian communism. Because of their refusal to work with either Russian communists or the Chinese communists the Khmer Rouge government gained support from the US government, who was fearing a domino effect in Asia. American support is clearly complicated, nevertheless a direct line of American support is noted.
Earlier this year, Hana Green, a student in Cohort V, met Holocaust survivor Zev Kedem. She and Dr. Yael Granot-Bein invited him to shared in a Research Forum. We were very fortunate to hear his story. Here’s what he shared:
The Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Zev was only 5 years old. He and his sister were on holiday, which was cut short, his mother made them leave early. Zev remembers being so upset, he said, “Little did I know that this darkness of the Holocaust would pursue me for six years.” They took the train back which stopped short of home, he and his family had to walk through Krakow in the middle of the night, to their grandparent’s home.
During our seminar at Yad Vashem, we were fortunate to listen to a lecture from Dr. Ella Florsheim. Her lecture was titled: Yiddish Culture in Displaced Persons Camps in Germany: Newspaper, Theatre and Literature. Dr. Florsheim is a specialist in Jewish culture of the surviving remnant in post-conflict Germany.
Summer is here and it’s time to say goodbye to Cohort V as they leave us and go back to their home countries. We are looking ahead to welcoming Cohort VI this coming October.
We are happy to share with you some of the highlights of the last few months, which include our students’ study tour to Poland and the publication of a new issue of our journal Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust.
We are always on the lookout for excellent and motivated students. Please share our newsletter and help us reach those who are committed to the research and study of the Holocaust.
Dr. Arieh J. Kochavi & Dr. Yael Granot-Bein