Austin Film Society and the Austin Jewish Film Festival present SHOAH: THE UNSEEN INTERVIEWS, unique assets of the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in a partnership for Holocaust education called "Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project." This project promotes the protection of human rights against bigotry and hate through arts, education and public dialogue.
In 1985 French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann stunned the world with his monumental film SHOAH, a nearly nine hour examination of the Holocaust as told by Jewish, Polish, German, Israeli and other witnesses, including perpetrators, survivors, and historian Raul Hilberg. Lanzmann's filming spanned more than six years and several continents. Editing three hundred hours of film took another five years. Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the great films of the 20th century, SHOAH marked a watershed in Holocaust representation and historiography.
But what happened to the footage that Lanzmann did not use in SHOAH? For the past thirteen years the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has worked on reconstructing, preserving, and cataloging these materials. The Archive is now pleased to present a 54-minute compilation created from some of the 220 hours of film that make up this collection.
The program begins with an excerpt from the interview with Abraham Bomba, the memorable Polish survivor from the barbershop scene in SHOAH, as he speaks about Treblinka with a paradoxical mixture of pathos and distance. The second excerpt is from the interview with Peter Bergson, an individual who does not appear in SHOAH. Born in Lithuania as Hillel Kook, he was raised in Palestine, a nephew of the first chief rabbi of British-mandated Palestine. In SHOAH: THE UNSEEN INTERVIEWS he reveals himself to be a man who holds extraordinarily passionate, although not uncontroversial, views about the actions and inactions of the American government and the American Jewish establishment. The third interview features Ruth Elias, a remarkable Czech Jewish woman of whom there is merely a glimpse in the edited film SHOAH. She was at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and labor camps, and takes viewers on a harrowing journey that gives insight into the particular perils endured by women during the Holocaust.
The outtakes that constitute the Claude Lanzmann SHOAH Collection are co-owned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem.
Photo of Ruth Elias courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.