The first objective for the films of the project – documenting the events and filming the witnesses in the location of the event and at the same time of year that the event took place.
I am turning to the many people who are willing to bring back the memory of the Shoah that was almost erased from collective consciousness – please help us to ensure the last chance to remember almost half of the victims of the Holocaust.
We are operating under urgent circumstances, as even the youngest of the witnesses is at least 85 years old. The map of our filming encompasses tens of sites in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Southern Russia and the Northern Caucus.
The entire project is comprised of nine films that are supported by the Claims Conference, The Israel Lottery Authority, the Genesis Foundation and the Joint FSU.
Some of the films also received support from Israel Channel 8, the Rabinovitch Film Fund, the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets, and private donors.
All donations will be gratefully accepted.
Details of the bank account for monetary transfers:
Bank: Israel Bank Discount Code 11
Branch: Number 145 Address: 19 Weizmann st., Givataim Israel
IBAN number IL650111450000120639086
Swift code IDBLILITXXX
Account: Number. # 120639086 Beneficiaries: Boris Maftsir, Zvi Shefy
A year and a half ago I began developing an idea which led to the production of a film about the Holocaust in Belarus.
I worked for Yad Vashem for seven years, researching and documenting the names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. For me, it was a journey into unfamiliar and unknown territory and, in spite of my extensive experience in producing movies about the Holocaust and supervising the production of video material for the new Historical Museum at Yad Vashem; I was discovering the “Land of the Unknown Holocaust”. I travelled round approximately 160 cities, towns and villages in the Ukraine and Belarus, Moldova and Russia as well as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
I myself was born in Soviet-ruled Riga where I had visited the mass graves in the Rumbula forest near Riga for the first time when I was 17. At the time, I didn’t know that two of my mother’s brothers were murdered there together with 30,000 Jews from the Riga ghetto on November 30th and December 7th 1941.
In meetings and conversations with hundreds of witnesses from the period of the Holocaust, I understood the depth of forgetfulness of Holocaust remembrance that had been wiped out of the public’s awareness throughout the years of Soviet rule after the war – until the changes brought about by Perestroika and later, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union into independent states.
However, I was amazed by the motivation of newly formed Jewish communities and local people to revive, perpetuate and explore the events of the Holocaust and reconnect with Russian-Jewish civilization, which had been destroyed in the Holocaust years.
I found the least known stories of the Holocaust in Belarus. The policy of prohibiting Holocaust commemoration during the Soviet period had been extremely strict but now, the spread of stones of remembrance is the most expansive and constant. This was the reason I chose Belarus as the first film; to show how methodical and to what depth and extent the spread of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union had been.
This is also the film in which urgency surfaces in response to even the lightest touch on events and places. Witnesses, who are few, are now extremely old and sometimes have trouble relating incidents coherently and clearly. So, time is of the essence for this production.
I chose a clearly defined way of telling the stories. I would revive a particular event in the location where it had occurred.
With the help of witnesses – filmed at this location and the support of the “Guardians of Remembrance” – those dedicated fanatics, who feel connected to Holocaust remembrance in Belarus, and who have been trying to restore the almost erased memory of it for close to two decades. Among them are Jews and Belarusians – all of whom, live there. The internal, local perspective is the unique language of the film. It was also shot in the very same season of the year in which the events took place.
The reference to the present day environs lends credibility and directness to the film. There is no sentimentality, no archival film footage or stills – anyway, no database is available on which to build a significant and convincing narrative. I am the author and poser of questions, but I am not the hero of the film. I am the servant of its stories.
The witnesses, the Guardians of Remembrance, and the locations from that time – as filmed today – form the homepage of film on the Holocaust in Belarus.