Holocaust Remembrance Day to be marked through movies and documentaries

No matter how much I thought I knew, there is always more to learn, and movies can help to look at the events of the Shoah from different angles.

 A SCENE FROM ‘My Father’s Secrets.’ (photo credit: FILMHOUSE)
A SCENE FROM ‘My Father’s Secrets.’
(photo credit: FILMHOUSE)

This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day will be held in Israel from the evening of April 17 to April 18 and there will be a number of documentaries, feature films and short movies showing in theaters and on television to help deepen our understanding of the tragedy.

Over the years, I have probably had occasion to watch more movies about the Holocaust than anyone other than a historical researcher and I have found that no matter how much I thought I knew, there is always more to learn, and that movies can help to look at the events of the Shoah from different angles. What follows is a sampling of what will be available in Israel around Holocaust Remembrance Day, but there are more films and programs that can be included in a single article.

Special programming in some cinematheques

Several of the cinematheques are featuring special programming to commemorate this Remembrance Day. Those who are fans of Michel Kichka’s graphic novels and cartoons will want to see the new, full-length animated documentary based on his work, My Father’s Secrets, which will be shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on April 16 at 8 p.m. The movie will also be shown at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on April 17 at 6 p.m., and this film and other Holocaust Remembrance Day films will be shown free of charge.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Kichka and Dr. Martin Auerbach, National Clinical Director at AMCHA. My Father’s Secrets is an engaging portrait of a quirky but troubled Belgian-Jewish family and focuses on a teen’s troubled relationship with his Holocaust-survivor father, who makes a second career out of sharing his story with strangers, but insists on total silence about the Holocaust at home. This is a movie that could interest teens and spark discussion with them about the events of the Holocaust and how they should be commemorated. The movie will open at theaters around Israel on April 20.

A program of three short animated films about the Holocaust by Tal Kantor will be screened at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on April 16 at 6 p.m. and at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on April 17 at 8 p.m. Holy Holocaust tells about a dark secret from the past that is suddenly exposed, creating a chasm between two close friends, Jenny the German, and Noa the Israeli; Silence is an animated docudrama about a child holocaust survivor who tells her story for the first time after 50 years of silence; and Letter to a Pig, is about a Holocaust survivor who reads a letter he wrote to the pig who saved his life, while a young schoolgirl hears his testimony in class and sinks into a twisted dream.

 A SCENE FROM ‘Budapest Diaries.’  (credit: KAN 11) A SCENE FROM ‘Budapest Diaries.’ (credit: KAN 11)

Director Oana Giurgiu will be present at the April 18 screening of her documentary, Occasional Spies at the Jerusalem Cinematheque at 6 p.m. The film tells the story of how, during World War II, the British Intelligence Office recruited Zionist youngsters to parachute into occupied Eastern European countries to rescue prisoners of war and help to create resistance movements.

At 7 p.m. on April 18 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, Fanny’s Journey will be screened. Lola Doillon’s 2016 movie is a story about a very appealing child and how she and her siblings try to survive the Holocaust in France.

THE TEL AVIV Cinematheque features an extensive program of Holocaust films on Holocaust Remembrance Day and the days preceding it, which include:

Jerusalem Cinematheque unveils renovated auditorium  (credit: Courtesy)Jerusalem Cinematheque unveils renovated auditorium (credit: Courtesy)

Witness from Hell, a documentary about three young Jewish women from Slovakia who survived the slaughter, which will be shown on April 14 at 1 p.m. and Museum, Yonathan Levy’s 2022 documentary that follows visitors to the historical site at the Auschwitz concentration camp and records their reactions, which will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 16. 

June Zero, Jake Paltrow’s off-beat feature film is about how a young boy was recruited to help build the crematorium that burned Adolf Eichmann’s body after his death by hanging. Paltrow’s co-screenwriter, Tom Shoval, will be present at the screening at April 17 on 4:30 p.m. to discuss this complex film. June Zero will be opening in theaters throughout Israel on April 20, along with a number of other Holocaust films, among them the ambitious Russian drama, Tzadik (aka Pravednik), a fact-based story of a resistance fighter who battled to keep hundreds of Jews alive in the woods of Belarus and bring them to safety.

There will be many Holocaust-themed films shown on television on April 17 and 18. On April 17, following the broadcast of the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem, KAN 11 will show a new documentary, Budapest Diaries. Directed by Shay Fogelman, it depicts the events of the final year of World War II in Hungary, as documented in personal diaries written in real time by Hungarian Jews, as well as by the Nazis who sent them to death camps and bystanders in Budapest. It’s a fascinating and heartbreaking story of some of the last Jews to be sent to their deaths.

Persian Lessons will be shown on April 17 on Yes VOD and Yes Movies Drama at 9 p.m. and on HOT Cinema One at 22:00 p.m. Directed by Vadim Perelman, who made the The House of Sand and Fog, this unique Holocaust tale is based on a short story by Wolfgang Kohlhaase and is about Gilles (Nahuel Perez Biscayart), a rabbi’s son from Antwerp, who survives a concentration camp by pretending to be Iranian when he learns that one of the guards (Lars Eidinger) has always dreamed of learning Farsi, which he claims to speak.

The recent documentary, Klarsfeld: A Love Story, by Martin Herring and Mike Lerner, focuses on the romantic and ideological partnership that has enabled Beate and Serge Klarsfeld to fight tirelessly for decades to bring Nazis to justice and it will be shown on Yes Docu on April 17 at 10 p.m. A number of Holocaust-themed movies will be available on Yes VOD to mark the day, including Agnieszka Holland’s Oscar-nominated, In Darkness, about Jews hiding in German-occupied Lvov.