Diary of a Holocaust-era teenager Eva Heyman brought to life on social media

The film progresses to relate the progressing nightmare of Jews in Hungary during the war, and how Heyman’s world was shattered by the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944

May 1, 2019 11:35
Diary of a Holocaust-era teenager Eva Heyman brought to life on social media

The story of Eva Heyman, a Hungarian Jewess living through the Holocaust, has brought to life on social media. . (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Wehrmacht soldiers marching through a city center, swastika banners festooning central boulevards, and locals flying the Nazi flag are just some of the images from a documentary about the short life of Eva Heyman, who was murdered in the Holocaust, which will be posted on Instagram and Facebook on Holocaust Memorial Day this Thursday.

The central feature of the initiative, called the Eva Project, is a 50-minute movie based on the life and experiences of Heyman, a 13-year-old Hungarian Jewish girl who kept a rich and poignant diary of the terrifying times in which she lived and died.

Throughout May 1 and 2, vignettes of the movie depicting crucial incidents in Heyman’s account will be posted on the Internet to bring her story to a 21st century audience in a format that forcefully and jarringly brings to life the reality of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Conceived and funded by businessman Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya, the film depicts dozens of incidents from Heyman’s diary, including her dream to become a photojournalist, and her romantic hopes and relationships.

The film progresses to relate the progressing nightmare of Jews in Hungary during the war, and how Heyman’s world was shattered by the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944. By May, the 21,333 Jews of her Transylvanian city, then known as Nagyvárad in Hungarian and Groysvardeyn in Yiddish but today called Oradea in Romanian, were forced into a cramped and unsanitary ghetto. Deportations began on May 24.

“Dear diary, you are the luckiest one in the world, because you cannot feel, you cannot know what a terrible thing has happened to us. The Germans have come!” wrote Heyman in her entry for March 19, 1944 as the Nazis occupied Nagyvárad.

Two months later Eva was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered in October 1944, according to Yad Vashem. Her diary ends shortly before she was deported. Her mother, who survived the Holocaust, discovered the document in Nagyvárad in 1945 after liberation.

The movie depicts many of the events recorded in Heyman’s diary, documenting the progressively direr situation she found herself in, and finally portrays her on the cattle car in which she was deported to Auschwitz.

“Dear diary, I don’t want to die; I want to live even if it means that I’ll be the only person here allowed to stay.” she wrote on May 30, just before she was deported.

“I can’t write anymore, dear diary. The tears run from my eyes,” were the last words she penned.

Some 400 people, including a Ukrainian production team and British cast, were involved in the making the film, which was shot in Lviv, Ukraine over the course of nine days. Tanks, armored personnel carriers, command cars and train carriages were employed as props to make the movie realistic.

The film cost several million dollars although the Kochavis are not revealing the exact cost of the production.

According to Maya Kochavi, one of the principal goals of the project is to increase consciousness and knowledge of the Holocaust amongst the younger generation, Jews and non-Jews alike, and social media felt like the best way to achieve this, she said.

Kochavi said that both Jews and non-Jews are “disconnected” from the events of the Holocaust, a situation exacerbated by the fact that the last generation of survivors will soon no longer be around to tell their story.

This, she said, is a problem for both the Jewish community and non-Jews as well. Many of those disconnected from what transpired during the Holocaust believe the genocide to be “fake news” or greatly exaggerated, she said.

“As the survivors are dwindling in numbers, it is very hard to convey the magnitude of the Holocaust to the new generation. The strongest way is to sit with someone who went through it, and to not have advantage of witnesses who survived is very troubling to the Jewish community,” she said.

“We thought about how we can get our audience to listen to and understand the Holocaust, to make it personal and tangible, and that’s when the idea of social media came in,” she said.

“The concept is to try and make the new generation feel like it is in the Holocaust, that they are experiencing it, that it is happening through their point of view, and Instagram is like a magical tool for us to do this.”

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