Azrieli Foundation commits memoirs to film
May 20, 2012 | Suri Epstein - Correspondent
TORONTO – The Azrieli Foundation continues to break new ground in its efforts to collect and disseminate the memoirs of what will be the last generation of Holocaust survivors.
A recent screening at Toronto’s Beth Tzedek Synagogue premiered five short but extremely powerful films produced by the foundation. Based on the memoirs of five survivors, each of the films includes an animated vignette highlighting a critical moment in the individual's survival, as well as an overview of their war-time experiences.
Two of the stories deal with the experiences of hidden children. Judy Abrams was born in Hungary in 1937 and at seven was hidden in a convent where she was forced to adopt a Christian identity. Eva Felsenburg Marx, was born in Czechoslovakia, but was sent away from her parents in disguise when she was still a small child.
Three of the memoirs describe the horrors of spending time in the camps. Felix Opatowski, born in Lodz, Poland, spent months in slave labour camps and was eventually sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Betty Rich, a Polish survivor, was interned in a forced labour camp in subarctic Russia.
An animated segment depicts a terrifying incident at the start of the war. Desperate to procure bread for her starving family, 16-year-old Betty went out without her yellow star and was approached by a German soldier who insisted on helping her.
Max Bornstein immigrated with his family to Winnipeg at age two from Poland, but when they moved to Paris in 1933 he was trapped in Europe. He subsequently endured horrific conditions at Miranda de Ebro, a Spanish concentration camp.
The detailed accounts in each of the survivor’s memoirs have been recently published by the Azrieli Foundation. These books, like all of the foundation’s memoirs, are distributed free of charge to libraries and educational institutions across the country. In an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible, many of the books are also published in French.
All five survivors were introduced to the audience during the screenings and signed copies of their books at a reception afterwards. A short film about foundation benefactor David Azrieli was also shown.
Dr. Naomi Azrieli, CEO and chair of the Azrieli Foundation, spoke about the historical importance of these films in her opening remarks.
“We hope that these films will allow us to continue with outreach when the survivors are gone,” she said. “It is impossible to ignore the fact that survivors of the Holocaust will not be with us much longer.”
According to Jody Spiegel, international coordinator of special projects and associate producer for the films, “with these films we’ll be able to reach places our authors couldn’t go.”