Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the solemn occasion was marked with various memorials around the world.
For Holocaust Education Week in 2014, we were asked to help depict some of the memoirs of Holocaust survivors who ended up immigrating to Canada. These survivor accounts have been collected and published by the Azrieli Foundation as the Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs, and they are provided free of charge to schools and libraries. As an educational resource, some of the memoirs also have accompanying short films; intimate portraits of survivors speaking on camera about their lives and reading from their memoirs.
Riddle Films contacted us to provide the animation sequences on four of these short films. We brought on the talented Nat Janin to help us out on two of the four films, where her style seemed more suited to the tone of the memoir.
Animation in memoir and documentary filmmaking is now, more and more, used to visually explain data, inform the viewer of subtleties, express emotions, or to visually complement the ways memories and events are depicted, along with historical footage, interviews, and reenactments. We were honoured to take part in this project. Each of the survivor’s accounts is unique, harrowing, and ultimately important to witness.
Click the screenshots below to view the full films on Vimeo.
John Freund was a child survivor from (the former) Czechoslovakia. He survived deportation to Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz in 1943. As the liberation of Auschwtiz became imminent, he was forced on a death march from January to April 1945, which he survived. He immigrated to Canada in March 1948. His memoir is called Spring’s End.
Rachel Shtibel survived as a child in an underground bunker in Nazi-occupied Poland for two years. She immigrated to Canada with her husband, also a survivor, in 1968. Her memoir The Violin, is published together with her husband’s memoir, A Child’s Testimony.
Alex Levin survived massacre and deportation by escaping into the forest near his Polish town at 10 years old. Rescued in 1944 by the Red Army, he grew up in the military of the former USSR, where eventually, growing post-war anti-Semitism made remaining there unsafe. He immigrated to Canada in 1975. His memoir is titled Under the Yellow & Red Stars.
Claire Baum and her sister, as small children, survived the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, hidden by a non-Jewish woman who kept their identities a secret until liberation. Claire immigrated to Canada in 1951. Her memoir is called The Hidden Package.