At the beginning of 2016 production was completed on three new testimonies at the Ghetto Fighters' House. This is a new project created to meet the needs of the Education and Training department. Compared to existing testimonial films, which provide a complete chronological story, the films produced are significant not only for the personal stories they tell, but also for the ethical messages highlighted in the films. These messages are directly related to the humanist message of the museum and the educational programs we operate and are planning to develop.
In our experience, there is a real need for the creation of short, current testimonies which spark discussion that can draw from the horrors of the Holocaust messages of faith in humanity and respect for all people, and encourage compassion, tolerance and caring.
The survivors chosen to be interviewed and filmed focused their stories on unique aspects of their experiences that demonstrate how their worldview was influenced.
In these three testimonies we attempt to convey a story that will touch people and create a personal experience and at the same time highlight the meaning and insights of the survivor’s story.
Guterman was four years old when the war broke out. The family spent two years in the Ghetto. In 1941, during the expulsion from the Ghetto, his family hid with Polish families, moving from one hiding place to another several times. His father Simcha joined the Polish underground, and fell in battle on the first day of the Warsaw Uprising. Simcha Guterman, who was a playwright and poet, kept a diary and stashed pages in different hiding places. In 1960, pages of his diary were discovered by chance in Poland during building renovations.
Yaakov was hidden in a village. At the end of the war he was reunited with his mother, and in 1950, at the age of 15, he moved to Israel with his mother and stepfather.
Guterman, when he later became a widower, moved with his two children to live in Kibbutz HaOgen, where he married again and began a new family.
His son Raz served with the Golani Brigade and was killed in 1982 in the Battle of Beaufort in the first Lebanon War. After the death of his son, Guterman became one of the leaders of the protests against the war. He demonstrated, wrote newspaper articles, wrote poems and edited a book of protest poems and songs by Israeli poets against the war. Today he is a member of a bereaved families forum.
Guterman is a painter and illustrator. As his father before him, Yaakov is an intellectual and man of culture. Through the deep pain of losing both father and son, he struggles to maintain his worldview, advocating seeing the "other" as a human being, and fighting for a just society and for peace.
Esther Dublin née Leiberman was born in Lodz, the only daughter of young parents. She was in 5th grade when the war broke out.
Her father fled to Russia and was to return in the spring to collect his wife and daughter. Instead he was deported to a “Labor Battalion" in the Urals, where he died of typhus.
Esther and her mother were moved to the Lodz Ghetto, where they toiled in the workshops and suffered harsh living conditions of cold, hunger, and disease.
When activity of youth groups was secretly renewed in the Ghetto, her mother volunteered their tiny apartment for “Hashomer Hatzair” meetings. Esther recounts “From that time on, I held my head up high. We would meet twice a week (after work hours), sing songs in Hebrew, prepare for aliyah to Israel, learn about the land, communications and first aid. The older members taught us about Chaim Nahman Bialik. We sang "Be Strong", shouted ‘We will build the Galilee!’ organized evenings dedicated to authors and holidays, and arranged mutual aid organizations. We felt that this was our resistance against the Germans.”
When the Ghetto was destroyed in August of 1944, Esther and her mother were deported to Birkenau. Her 35-year-old mother was sent to the gas chamber.
In November Esther was transferred to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, to forced labor in the German aircraft factory. The young women in the camp, who were members of an anti-fascist movement, organized mutual aid. On the 9th of May they were liberated by the Red Army.
In August of 1945 Esther set out for Russia to search for her father. After ten days of wandering she returned to Lodz and was taken in to an orphanage in Helnovek, where she vowed to become a special education teacher.
After immigrating to Israel in 1957, Esther completed her MA studies in special education and worked with children and youth with special needs.
Esther Dublin’s testimony - like her personality - reflects the kindness, human solidarity, and concern for the weak that she learned at her mother’s knee. Her mother, who saved her from death in the ghetto, who freely gave what little she had for the work of the movement that gave pride to her daughter, who adopted children orphaned in the Ghetto – has remained with her throughout her life as if commanding her to follow a path of compassion and concern for the weak, battered by fate. This testimony is part of our educational action against discrimination and exclusion of "the other", and for compassion, tolerance and acceptance.
Dr. Janina Altmann
Janina Hescheles was born in 1931 in Lvov - then in Poland, now in the Ukraine. Her father was the editor of a widely distributed Jewish newspaper. She and her mother were transported to the Yanovska concentration camp, from which Jews were deported to death camps.
In 1943, close to their date of execution, her mother, hiding in a cellar with a group of rebels, pushed her out, not able to see her daughter shot in front of her.
11-year-old Janina wrote poems and memoirs. In the evenings, in the light of the fire burning in the nearby death pit, she would read her stories and poems to the other girls. It was her good fortune that the Jewish resistance heard of her recitations, and reported them to Michal Borowicz, an underground activist who had been smuggled out of Yanovska a short time earlier; Janina was smuggled out of the camp by a member of the Polish underground and hidden in the home of an activist, where she wrote a diary for three weeks after her escape. In 1944 she was taken to an orphanage, where she stayed until 1949.
Borowicz published Hescheles’ memoirs immediately after the war in a book “Through the Eyes of a 12-year-old”. In the early 80s he donated the original manuscript to Beit Lochamei HaGhetaot from his residence in Paris.
In 1949 Janina immigrated alone to Israel. She served in the army and studied chemistry at the Technion.
In her life she has combined writing and respected research work in chemistry, along with political and social struggles in Israel. Her books, "They are Still Alive" and "The White Rose", sent shock waves through the public. Dr. Yanina Altman lives in Haifa with her husband, physics professor Kalman Altmann. They have two sons and five grandchildren.
Michal Kirzner-Applebaum, editor of the Hebrew edition of her book, writes: "Beyond the historical significance as a testimony written in real time, this is a paean to the victory of the human spirit, stronger than all the forces of darkness. As a child Janina was exposed to incomprehensible cruelty and lost all her loved ones, but two things war failed to take away: her belief in humanity and hope ... it is inconceivable how a woman who had the worst childhood was able not only to admirably rebuild her life both personally and professionally, but can say that life is beautiful. This is a lesson for us all.”
Each one of these survivors and their testimonies addresses fundamental questions in the films:
• Moments that were turning points both emotionally and in in their worldview
• “Saving” encounters in their journey of the Holocaust - life-saving and saving humanity
• What to do with the baggage of memories
• Messages to their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and Israeli society
This is the premise for meaningful discussion of values that allows students to engage not only with the chronological story but to relate to the message of values, which is an integral part of the story. As visitors to the museum have a clear educational purpose, relating to choices and messages of the survivors and the necessity of learning ethical lessons from the Holocaust, the link is very accurate and significant.
The films were produced by filmmaker Hen Shelach. The archives staff along with the educational staff aided in all aspects of the historical research and materials associated with the films.
Today, films are an inseparable part of the educational activities we offer to visitors as part of the educational framework of the museum and a powerful depiction of the educational message both inside and outside of the museum. Three different stories allow the instructor to choose the film most appropriate for the audience with whom he works, and create an identification that leads to listening and deeper understanding.