Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence
Today we will continue with the Holocaust with one final documentary: Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence. The next blog will feature a handy list of what documentaries I featured on this blog.
A US Plane was flying over Southern Poland. What the crew was filming was a new Nazi chemical plant, however, when the film was developed something else caught their eye. It was about seven miles away from the chemical plant. What they caught on camera was Auschwitz. They had captured these images completely by accident. The true horror of genocide was captured in one moment. They have filed away and forgotten.
The images captured a train arriving. The SS selecting the healthiest people. Another image showed the elderly and infirm going to the gas chambers. The crematorium was captured. However, these photographs were never examined during the war. They have filed away and forgotten about until now. These photographs create more questions than answered. Why did the Allies not bomb Auschwitz? Why did they not bomb the railroads leading to the camp? What do these photos reveal about Allied knowledge of the concentration camps?
The Allied War effort gathered intelligence on the Nazi state. This intelligence gathering was important for the Allied. They had reports from the Underground and Jewish Relief agencies in regards to the rising anti-Semitism of the Nazis. They told of the segregation of Jews into the Ghetto. Eventually, the Nazi terror turned into mass murder. The Nazis were rounding up Jews and communists to execute them. Then in 1942, the Nazi code was broken.
There were no reports of trains being loaded and transported east. Nobody knew how or where millions of Jews disappeared to. The Foreign Office finally received a telegraph. This telegraph revealed that the Jews were the target of mass extermination. This shocked the British Intelligence office. It defied human logic. Why would the Nazis use valuable trains to deport millions of people instead of war supplies? The Intelligence and Foreign Office needed more evidence.
Survivors started sharing their stories about the Holocaust. They recall the deportations and being packed into the trains. They were frightened people. Then they recall arriving at the camp. The families were separated, even though they were promised that they could see their families every Sunday. This was a lie. The Nazis told the people to forget their families, that they will never see them again.
What the Allies did not know was that the Nazi extermination plan was underway. The Jews were being shipped to Auschwitz. The ariel photographs show the plans of the camp. Auschwitz One had one gas chamber and was used to kill the Poles, Russian Prisoners of War, and others. Auschwitz Two was used to kill the Jews.
In 1943, the Allies learned about the existence of Auschwitz. The Allies believed that these camps were only slave labor camps, and figured people died from exhaustion. They never realized it was killing on an industrial scale. The mass extermination of people defied human logic. In the summer of 1944, the full horrors were revealed. Something had to be done to stop the killing.
A report was given to the intelligence offices of Britain and Washington DC. There was a witness to Auschwitz and he wrote about what he saw. Then there was a plan that revealed a period for more intense killing and the plans for the Hungarian Jews. The Hungarian Jews were the only group not touched by the Holocaust. This group was immediately gassed and burned…
Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence is another good documentary on the Holocaust and shows the intelligence efforts of the Allies to gather evidence. If you need another option for a class on the Holocaust.
A Day in Auschwitz
One Day in Auschwitz is the story of Kitty Hawks-Morrison. This is the second documentary featuring Kitty on this website. Kitty recalls one day living in Auschwitz. Kitty is determined to tell her story, no matter if people do not want to hear it. She shows the camp to two girls who were her age when she entered the camp. The girls ask her questions about the experience.
Kitty’s first impression of Auschwitz was the mud and then she saw the dogs. One of the girls wants to understand what happened and how she survived. A second girl wants to see the Holocaust from a different perspective. Kitty’s granddaughter also participated in the documentary and shares how the experience shaped her grandmother. Kitty was the first survivor to give her testimony about what happened to her during the Holocaust.
Kitty’s family wanted to get out of Poland before the Nazi invasion. Her brother fled to the Russian side. He was killed in the battle of Stalingrad. The family made their way to Lublin. They were then taken to the Lublin ghetto. Her mother started giving English lessons to the Polish people. A priest made friends with Kitty’s mother. He said that if it came to a point, he was willing to help them. The priest managed to get Kitty and her mother papers. The priest risked his life to get them their papers.
Kitty and her mother were given papers that showed them that they were Polish. The Polish citizens were the first to be round-up and sent to Germany to work in a factory. So they went to the center of Lublin and were rounded up like the other Poles. They were suddenly put on a train and ended up in Germany. As Jew in Poland, it would be a challenge for them to hide in Poland.
However, they were suspected of being Jews. They were immediately questioned. They were charged with immigration fraud and were threatened with execution. There was a huge explosion above them, and Kitty thought they were dead. However, the sentence was commuted and they were sent to Auschwitz. They traveled 48 hours standing before arriving in Auschwitz. The Nazis wanted a confession in how they got their forged papers.
They arrived in Auschwitz in the dark. Kitty did not know where they were. They had to run into the camp and she noticed the strange stench in the air. It was the smell of meat, but it was the smell of bodies burning. Kitty and her mother stayed in a wooden barrack for the first night. She was next to a German Gypsy who read her hand. The Gypsy woman died during the night. Kitty and her mother took the clothes off the woman. You did what you had to do to survive the camp.
Kitty was assigned to work on a second railway to the camp. It was called the ramp. She saw the arrivals of people to the camp. Kitty recalls that people died on the trains and that they had no idea what was going to happen. She noted that the people who lived in the ghettos had a hint of what was to come. Men and women were separated. The older were separated from the younger. Children with children and the elderly were immediately sent to death. Death for the others would come slowly. Kitty emphasizes that the families never saw each other again.
Kitty tells both the girls what went on in the camp. This is an excellent documentary about Kitty. It was nice to see her take the two girls through the camp and you can see it had an impact on the girls. This would be a good documentary to show in a class on the Holocaust.
Crimes of the Auschwitz Doctors
Today’s Holocaust Documentaries is called The Crimes of the Auschwitz Doctors.
The doctors were central to the Nazi’s plans. They started the forced sterilization of the undesirables. Then they would move onto the selection process. Eventually, they would perform medical experiments in the concentration camps. Auschwitz was central to the doctors' experiment. The doctors would select the people who would live or die. Then they would select people to experiment on. They aimed to prove the supremacy of the master race.
They wanted to multiply the Aryan race through these experiments. One doctor sent a letter to Himmler in regards to his experiments on sterilization. He recommended high doses of x-rays. He proved that the high doses destroyed the reproductive organs of males and females. He even said that it could be done without the subjects knowing about it. He even suggested that the subjects could be brought to a window, and while they were filling out forms they could be sterilized. In the end, there would be no need for mass deportations.
Eventually, there would be mass deportations and now the medical experiments would be performed in the camps. There was one woman’s block in the men’s camp at Auschwitz. The windows in this camp were boarded up, cutting the people off from the outside world. Nobody knew what would go on in this section of the camp. There were 400 women packed in this barracks. One letter recalls the women were surviving and not living.
These 400 women would be subjected to surgical experiments. All were Jewish women from diverse nationalities. The doctors selected these women and directed them to block 10. Each doctor had their preference for the women. The women did not know what sort of tests they were in for. Once they were done with the experiment, they would be executed.
There was a group of scientists who oversaw the block. The cruelest experiment was sterilization with an x-ray. This experiment was performed on young girls. They were taken to the women’s camp in Birkenau where the machines were located. One method required x-rays. Another method was surgical. The doctors who performed the surgeries were prisoners themselves.
These surgeries were painful for the girls. They were in constant pain due to surgeries or burns. They would throw up and could not eat. These wounds would never heal. There were deaths and complications after the surgeries. Sometimes they would die quickly due to the surgery. The operations continued and were eventually taken away. These women were never heard from again.
The men were also experimented on. They were also sterilized. One doctor was horrified that sterilization was being done. The doctors ordered that the temperatures and changes should be noted. They did not know what was being done to the men. Eventually, the camp observers realized what was being done to the men. A Polish surgeon would perform these operations on the men. He was a brutal surgeon.
Dr. Mengele was the most famous doctor from Auschwitz. He had a dissection room that is well equipped and ready for use. This is where additional experiments will take place…
This is a good look at the human experiments that the Nazis doctors performed. The Crimes of the Auschwitz doctors weaves in footage from Auschwitz with the testimony of the doctors and survivors of these procedures. The way the producers use the testimonies would make it easy to use clips from this documentary for a classroom. Each testimony is about 3-5 minutes long so if you had a lecture on the Holocaust you can easily squeeze a clip in. This documentary would be good for research purposes for independent study students.
The Silence After the End
Good Morning, we will continue with Holocaust documentaries. The documentary is called The Silence After the End. The narrator starts with a visit to Auschwitz and the testimony of the prisoners inside.
The Nazis tried to cover up their crimes. When the Soviets entered Auschwitz, they found four crematoriums blown up. The Nazis then massacred the people who ran the crematoriums. However, they did not get them all. Also discovered were manuscripts written by the crematorium operators. These witnesses and manuscripts would be a testimony to what happened in Auschwitz.
The crematorium operators signed their names to the manuscript and the viewer gets to know each of the men who operated the crematorium. They all were shipped to Auschwitz. Then they recall what happened when they go Auschwitz. There was an immediate selection. There were 400 selected and they made their way to Birkenau. Another 500 in another transport were sent to Birkenau.
Once inside, there was another selection. All had to be young men and picked for the physical strength. The Nazis were looking for people to work “in the rubber factory.” They were assigned to block 14. This block was destined to work in the crematorium. The men who worked in the crematorium lasted four months before they were executed. Each team was cleaned up by the next team. The men had no idea what they were in for.
About 8,000 corpses could be burned a day in four crematoriums. Eventually, a fifth crematorium was built. They worked in two shifts destroying the bodies of the victims. The victim seemed to sense their pending doom. Some wanted to have poison before they faced their deaths. They knew they were going to die.
The crematorium workers testify about the people who came in through the showers. One particular testimony came out, they did not want to tell the women to undress because their clothes provided their protection and were a sign of life. They did not encourage the women to undress quickly. The women knew that the crematorium workers were victims themselves. They testified their pain to the men because they were still alive. The women wanted to know if their men were alive or if they were dead. If they are dead, then there is no point in living. They ask about death and if it will come quickly.
An eight-year-old girl is undressing her one-year-old brother. A worker tries to help, but he is shouted at. Her brother will die in her arms with her. Then the Nazis come and then hurry the women to undress. There is nowhere to hide for the women. Then the command goes out. The door is closed. A car marked with the Red Cross markings is seen. The Nazi comes out and then pours the gas into the showers. The chamber fills and within five minutes kills everyone.
The men who go into the chambers after the victims are gas go into the chamber. They wear gas masks. What they see, horrifies them. The corpses are piled on top of another. Everyone was trying to get higher up in the chamber where the gas could not get them. The babies and the children were on the bottom. It is a sight that they will not forget. The crematorium workers sometimes recognized their family members…
The filmmaker brought in the stories of the different survivors. The stories come together with images from Auschwitz. This one is the most somber documentary I have watched on the Holocaust. The silence between each of the stories gets to you. This would be an excellent documentary to show for a high school classroom on the Holocaust.
The Warsaw Ghetto
Good morning, we will continue January and the Holocaust with a DW Documentary about the Warsaw Ghetto. This is a German-produced documentary.
This documentary features Warsaw Ghetto survivors and citizens who remember the ghetto. A Polish businessman risked his life to film the conditions of the ghetto. The Warsaw story starts with the war and how the citizens react. The citizens remember the war and how it came. The terror began right away for the citizens. What was the Nazi’s plan for the citizens of Warsaw?
This documentary starts with the stories of the residents of Warsaw. They remember when war came to Warsaw. The Nazis planned on destroying Warsaw. However, these plans were not realized. However, the plans were discovered and an artist did a reconstruction of the city. It was going to be a German city. The Jewish and Polish populations were to be exterminated.
At the start, the Nazis planned on establishing two Jewish housing areas. That was reduced to one area. Before the war, over 1.2 million people lived in Warsaw and it was home to the second-largest Jewish population. The Jewish population was 1/3 of the city and they were integrated into city life. When the Ghetto was created, it divided the population for the first time in centuries.
One ghetto resident did not think she was Jewish and questioned why she had to move from her home. When they arrived in the ghetto they were greeted with horrible posters. It left this girl humiliated. She wondered why this was happening. The Nazis established a Jewish quarter, and their propaganda indicates it was created “to prevent the spread of disease.”
In 1941, a film was created featuring the Warsaw Ghetto. It was on 8 mm film. This film was featured through the documentary. All known film was created by the Nazis. However, this film was created by a Pole and was the first of its kind ever made. He had a pass to the ghetto. Here he would film the conditions. This Pole was risking his life filming the ghetto.
One Ghetto survivor recalls how the Polish population who lived in the Ghetto had to move out and the Jews who lived outside the ghetto moved in. People had to carry all their worldly possession on carts. Walls and fences were created to surround the ghetto. People could only leave and get into the ghetto with special passes.
The ghetto residents looked for contacts outside the ghetto to get food. One Warsaw citizen recalls how his father smuggled food into the ghetto. His contact suddenly disappeared and they never knew why. The survivor recalls how her sister and her father just disappeared one day. She never knew why. These contacts would smuggle food into the ghetto. Someone who had money could easily get supplies. Others had Polish contacts outside the ghetto.
The City center ceased to function normally. The ghetto was in the heart of the city. The Nazis carved out their section and did it for “their protection.” The Polish citizens would have to do with the rest. Eventually, the Nazis shipped more Jews into the Warsaw Ghetto. People were crammed into the ghetto. The individual would disappear in the crowd.
To continue to learn more about the Warsaw Ghetto, watch the rest of this documentary.
If you need a documentary on the Warsaw Ghetto, this documentary would be a good start. It is a slow build-up to how the Ghetto was created, the living conditions, and how it was cleared out. This documentary did a good job incorporating the survivors and primary source documents about the Warsaw Ghetto.
Return to Auschwitz
Returning to Auschwitz is the story about Kitty Hart-Moxon, a Polish English girl who was sent to Auschwitz. She survived in the camp for two years. After liberation, she made her way to England. After 34 years she returned to Auschwitz. She grew up in Southern Poland with a mother and father and a brother. They managed to escape the Nazis several times. Unfortunately, the Nazis caught up with them and it would change her life.
She was a child when the Nazis invaded Lublin, where they were living. It quickly dawned on her that the Nazis were out to kill people like her. Her brother fled to Russia. He attempted to reach England. Her grandmother was seized and killed. Her father arranged new Aryan identities for his daughter and wife. He put them on the train to the west. They were part of a forced labor group.
The Gestapo were tipped off about potential Jews in the work party. Kitty remembers the day when the Gestapo came. The leader looked like an ordinary man but the way he spoke, she knew she had to prepare to die. The Gestapo were scared them. Kitty felt relieved that she was not to die. Kitty and her mother were sent to Dresden to another prisoner. Then she was transported back to Poland and Auschwitz. Kitty was 16 when she was sent to Auschwitz. Her family had been on the run for 12 years.
Kitty admits to being ready for Auschwitz the first time. She was detached from everything at that point in the war. Now visiting the site again, she was unsure that she will be ready. Kitty goes back to Auschwitz to show her son and feels that it is her duty to go back. When she is gone, her son will be able to tell Kitty’s story.
Kitty and her son arrive in Auschwitz. She is already nervous about return and struggles to get her bearings. She encourages her son to bring his children to the site. This is a duty that she does not take lightly. Eventually, she starts telling her story to her son. There was a particular glow to the night sky when she arrived at the camp. She recalls the scent of roasted meat as well. She helped build the railroads that lead to Auschwitz. She carried the cement for the railroad. She was bitten by the dogs. She begins with the arrival and the selection process. Kitty recalls being given uniforms, just one layer.
Kitty was interned in Camp B1. She wants to look for a way into the camp. They arrive at the camp and Kitty describes the selections. One way was the way to live and the other way was to die, and it was where the crematoriums were at. It was night when Kitty entered the camp. Everything was taken from her and she was shaved. She was smeared with green fluid and she was given Russian prisoner of war uniforms. There were Russians that were shot before she arrived.
She looked for block 25 because it was significant. It was her block and she was there for months and months. She hid there for months and months. Everything time she went into the block she was beaten and got her bread ration. You have to admire Kitty’s determination to tell her story to her son.
This is an older documentary about one survivor’s return to Auschwitz. This would be a good documentary to show at the end of the Holocaust Unit because it is about the return of a survivor to Auschwitz. It is the raw story of a woman’s survival in the Holocaust.
Today, we will explore Holocaust survivor stories from Ukraine in this blog.
This film was created by Sergey Bukosky and several Ukrainian students record Ukrainian Holocaust survivors’ testimonies. These survivors escaped execution. Others rescued friends and neighbors. These students recorded the survivors’ stories for the documentaries. These testimonials were recorded from 1994-1998. It was started after the filmmaker’s encounter with a book on the Baba Yar massacre.
The survivors begin their stories from the beginnings of the Soviet occupation. There were no idlers in Ukraine. Everyone had a job. However, the Soviets offended the Jewish population. They called them the word for Russian Jews and not the correct Ukrainian term. One family celebrated Stalin’s accession. They put a picture of Stalin in their stationery store.
These were people who lived where the individual did not exist, the country came first. They were members of a big family. There were no different characteristics between the people. However, in reality, there was the fifth line on peoples’ files, and this indicated ethnicity.
The survivors told stories of their childhood. Some played typical pranks on the families. One family had their uncle took for forced labor and they lost the family story. One little girl was punished for using a bad word when she saw a Jewish little boy. Even today, the Ukrainians do not understand what made the Jews different. A student working on transcribing the interviews said she did not want to be Jewish.
In 1942, the war came to Ukraine. One survivor recalls being unable to tell the difference between artillery fire and a storm. Motorcycles sped down the streets. These motorcycles carried Germans and they had guns. Papers were flying from the motorcycles and were carried on the wind. Everyone was rushing when war was declared. One child was up in a tree picking cherries. Something exploded above them and threw them from the trees. He was with his friend and his friend was killed as a result of the explosion. That child grew up that day.
When the war came to Ukraine, they immediately began executing Jews. One child remembered seeing the trucks where Jews were being carried. A child was crying in the truck. They stopped the truck and took the baby out and killed the baby. The Germans went marching from door to door looking for Jews. One survivor recalls three ditches being dug and nobody knew how they were dug or who dug them. It all went fast.
One mother managed to get her family to the back of the line. The Germans were hitting people in the back of the head and then the machine gun fire went off. They were using tracer bullets to kill people. One survivor tried to get as low to the ground as she could. She was determined to crawl away. She had her sister by the hand and they managed to escape from the fire. This survivor recalls a woman singing a Yiddish song and she thought this woman lost her mind. Then she remembers a man in black shouting “God, where are you?” This survivor crawled to the edge of the cliff and a German was coming in her direction. She must have blended in because of her light hair and played dead. He never found her and it was then she was able to get away.
As a student, the focus was always on Poland, Germany, and Anne Frank. I have never heard about how Ukrainian Jews suffered. This is a different documentary. I would stay strange because it blended both the Holocaust and the Soviet times. It was survivors telling their stories. It would serve as a good backup if you cannot find any additional documentaries on the Holocaust. This documentary is told in Ukrainian with English subtitles.
Prisoner Number A26188 Henia Bryer is a documentary about a Holocaust survivor. Her niece, Lisa Bryer made the documentary. Henia Bryer came from a well-to-do middle-class family from Poland. She lost her father, sister, and brother in the Holocaust. She survived four concentration camps and the Death March. She tells her story in this documentary.
Bryer remembers when the German Army invaded Poland. The people were in a panic and within 14 days the Nazis occupied Poland. The propaganda machine immediately began. They put up speakers around town and the campaign was started. Henia remembers the blue and white armbands they had to wear. Bryer did not look like a Jewish girl. Even the German soldiers questioned her as to why she was wearing the star.
In 1941 she and her family were sent to the Randon Ghetto. It was referred to as “the large ghetto,” but it was a small place. Ten people were confined to one room. The Nazis would randomly knock on doors and pull people out. The Nazis would shoot those people. Henia’s younger brother was taken away to a munitions factory. She never saw him again until after the war. He never talked about his experiences.
In 1942, 20,000 people were taken out of the ghetto. A majority of the people went straight to the death camps the others were shot. Henia immediately went to work. She had an abscess on her tooth that she had to get taken care of. The abscess burst because of the pressure was on it. That same day the Nazis shot everyone in the hospital. Her older brother was shot as well because he was physically disabled.
Her remaining family members were taken to a concentration camp. They were herded unto cattle trucks and were taken to Majdanek Concentration Camp outside of Lubin, Poland. They had one suitcase. They had to strip naked into the snow and were taken to the showers. They were given barely shoes and uniforms. It was cold.
They got a glimpse of the women SS. These women were cruel and full of hatred. Henia wondered where they found these women. There were four camps for the prisoners and then a fifth camp for the crematorium. Henia was then moved to Plazow after six weeks. Her mother was sent to another camp. In the Plazow camp, people were from Krakow. It was an enormous camp. This was the camp featured in Schindler’s List. The camp commander was portrayed exactly how he was in real life. If he did not like someone he would shoot them.
The women were divided into teams of ten and they had to pushcarts along the track to the quarry. It was a nearly impossible job. Elsa, the chief of the SS Women, came to the camp. She had the most steely eyes Henia recalled. She was worse than the men. She took particular delight in hurting children and “was not normal.” She was looking for domestic help and Henia was picked to be a domestic help. Henia thought she was picked because she did not look Jewish.
Henia talks about the escapes she made and how she survived each camp. She was sent to Auschwitz after Plazow. Her father was beaten to death. Her younger sister was sent to the gas chambers because she was young. Someone who worked for her father managed to get her clothing. This is a survivor’s tale of the Holocaust. It incorporates pictures and her survival tale.
This documentary would be an excellent addition to a Holocaust curriculum. I hope a teacher would consider showing this documentary in the classroom.
We Shall Not Die Now
For January we will continue a look at Holocaust documentaries. This documentary is called We Shall Not Die Now. The task of the survivors is to tell their tale to ensure that this does not happen again. They want to strengthen the dignity and strength of human life. This is a longer documentary: an hour and forty minutes and is broken up into different sections. This will make it easy to break up if showing in the classroom.
This documentary was created by a nineteen-year-old filmmaker, Ashton Gleckman. He worked hard to film the survivors and worked with the various memorials set up to remember the Holocaust. This documentary also uses previously unseen footage from the Lanzmann family.
This documentary features the stories of the survivors of the Holocaust. They bring in historians to bring in context to what the Jews were facing. The Nazis rose to power and the survivors recall what happened as they watched what happened. Some managed to flee Germany, however, others were caught and sent to concentration camps. They talk about the systems in place that allowed for the easy transportation of Jews to death camps.
The first part of the documentary dives into the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. It is called the “Dawn of Genocide.” Hitler exploited Germany’s feelings about the loss of World War I. The historians point out that Hitler meant what he said and he said that he was meant. The Holocaust survivors recall their feelings about watching what happened. They talk about the neighbors who betrayed them and how home did not feel like home anymore.
Hitler projected all of Germany’s ills on the Jews and ordinary people lapped it up. Then the final solution was unleashed. The Jews had to be cut out of the world. They started small concentration camps and then after the Nazis invaded Poland. They started the ghettos and would build even bigger concentration camps. Now the Germans produced a well-oiled assembly line for the murder of Jews.
Then the Nazis betrayed the Russians. Operation Barbarossa was launched. They broke all the rules of war when it came to the Russians. The Nazis were going to go after the soldiers and civilians. They had orders to kill Jews, men, women, and children. Mobile death squads were formed. Annihilation was the strategy behind this mindset. They killed nearly two million people this way.
This caused the Nazis to switch tactics. Instead of going out to kill people, they would transport the Jews to stationary killing stations. Here they would be gassed in vans. The exhaust from the vans would be pumped into the back killing the people inside. They would then be buried in mass graves. Eventually, these gas vans would turn into gas chambers.
The second part of this documentary is about liquidation and deportation. The survivors had a feeling something was going to happen. The deportations broke families apart and became imprinted on the memories of the survivors. One survivor talks about the trains. The cattle cars used for transportation were hell on earth for these people. People died on these trains even before they got to the camps. The death camps were situated on railroad lines so the Nazis could transport their victims easier.
Just watch this documentary, because I cannot say what I routinely say when it comes to my reviews. Just watch this documentary. This would be an excellent documentary to show in a class on the Holocaust. It brings in both survivors and historians. The survivors recall their harrowing stories of survival from the ghettos to the concentration camps. There were times that this documentary was hard to watch. So I would recommend showing this particular documentary to a class on the Holocaust.
For January we are exploring documentaries on the Holocaust and today I will be reviewing The Secret Diary of the Holocaust documentary.
In 2005, a school notebook was discovered. It was written by a 14-year-old girl named Rutka Laskier. The diary was discovered in the floorboards of her home. She was dubbed the “Polish Anne Frank.” In here she recorded the last few months of her life in the ghetto of Bedzin. She wrote about the atrocities that she saw, the hunger, and the physical hardships she endured. This documentary tells Rutka’s through the eyes of her half-sister, Zahava Scherz.
The diary that Rutka wrote was kept hidden for 60 years. Her half-sister Zahava was not aware of Rutka’s existence until she was 14. She was looking through her family photo albums and discovered a picture of two children: her half-sister Rutka and her half-brother. It was a shock and surprise to her. Her father did not talk about the family that died in the Holocaust. So in Zahava’s mind, there would be no conversations about her half-sister.
That is until 2005 when the diary was discovered. When the diary was found, Zahava found herself going on a journey to discover her half-sister. The original handwritten diary is kept at the Yad Ysehm museum. Rutka’s diary provides a unique testimony about life in the ghetto. Menachem Lior was the scholar who found the diary. He was also a friend of Rutka’s.
Zahava was able to read a translation of the diary. She was able to hold the original diary. The diary covers three months from January and April 1943. Rutka was a veteran of the ghetto at 14 years old. Rutka’s diary provides vivid detail about the ghetto and the Nazi’s atrocities. It is the voice of a child becoming an adult. Menachem Loir, who works at the Yad Yshem museum, knew the diary was Rutka based on comments about a boy that was made in the diary. Rutka had a crush on Menachem’s friend.
Then Zahava makes her way to Poland to discover more about Rutka’s life. She grew up with no extended relatives and felt empty. So she decided to go to Poland to get to know this family that had been killed. She goes to Bedzin and sees the man who published the diary in Poland. He takes Zahava to the house where she hid the diary. During the war, the house was owned by a Polish family who was forced to move out. However, the family was allowed to check up on the house.
Stanislawa, a member of the family would be the one who looked over the house. She met Rutka and they became friends. On a tour of the house, Zahava sees where the diary was hidden. Rutka hid the diary between steps. Stanislawa had shown where Rutka could hide the diary and found it in the spot where Rutka hid it when the family returned to the house. Stanislawa treated it like her personal memory of Rutka and it was only by chance that the diary was discovered. As a thank you, Zahava gave Stanislawa a copy of the diary.
Zahava then tours a school in Benzin. The diary is now part of the Polish curriculum in Benzin. She discusses with the students about the diary. The students then read passages from the diary. Continue to watch this documentary to find out more about Rutka’s and Zahava’s story.
This is a fantastic documentary about the Holocaust. This one I would highly recommend showing to a history classroom, no matter what grade level. Zahava’s story about discovering her sister is very touching. There is no hesitation when it would come to show this documentary in a classroom. If I had a list of Holocaust documentaries to show, this one would be at the top of the list.
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