When I think about the story behind the story I come to the conclusion that when you point a camera or a microphone at people you may change their lives, or the subject may change many people’s lives.
The Holocaust is a human atrocity that needs to be studied by all human beings with the hope that when learning from the past it can be prevented in the future. Sadly it is not being taught. It is easier for people to bury their heads in the sand, not face reality, or deal with such failure of the human race.
As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, dealing with any subject that relates to the Holocaust is vitally important for me. After all, the people who managed to survive are almost all dead. I always ask, when they have all perished, will anyone remember?
Student Documentary On Social Service Relationships
The other night, at the home of my friend Dr. Yzhar Charuzi I watched the docufilm, ‘Facing Arthur’, in which the two characters prefer to deal with reality – hard core honesty combined with emotion.
Three graduate students had gone out to record, on film, the relationship between clients of the Jewish social service organization caring for Holocaust survivors
Dorot, and a group of young German home service aids. In their travels they opened a door at 116th Street and Broadway, New York, and found themselves in the apartment of Arthur Lederman.
A touchy point for me was that Arthur Lederman, Dr. Charuzi’s second cousin, is not a fictional character, rather a 101 year old man who, until 1938, lived in the Free City of Danzig (German: Freie Stadt Danzig), today Gdansk, Poland. In September 1938 Arthur fled Europe to New York leaving behind his entire family, who were all murdered by Hitler’s Nazi savages.
The Story Of Christophe
In Germany, the country that perpetrated the Holocaust, many people already know very little what two generations ago Germans were capable of doing. The Germans of the 21st century prefer to bury their heads deep in the sand of denial; they do not wish to take responsibility for what their grandparents had the impudence to do.
But then not all Germans. Some have the courage to face reality and deal with it. One, at the time when the film was made, is twenty year old Christoph Erbsloh, a descendant of a Nazi soldier.
Christoph is a conscientious objector and in Germany instead of serving in the military, people like him do community service. Christoph, who was interested to know about the events of the Holocaust, and studied its history, found an organization that works with Holocaust survivors and participates in the community service program.
He joined Action Reconciliation / Service for Peace (ARSP) (www.actionreconciliation.org/), the Berlin based German peace-organization “Aktion Suhnezeichen Friedensdienste” that sends about 150 young German adults annually to countries which were affected by WW II in order to work with the peoples who suffered through the Nazi regime; i.e. Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Israel, Great Britain, France, Poland, USA, Commonwealth of Independent States (former USSR) and the Czech Republic. These volunteers work in a broad variety of peace, social-justice and social service organizations.
Christoph was sent to New York and the first time he met Arthur Lederman was in November 1999. For two years, each Thursday, he attends and spends the day with Arthur.
Developing A Relationship
The camera follows the two men for two years and through its lens the audience experience the positive development of their relations; it is between two men who are two generations apart but have a very abominable commonality.
The viewer is shown the extraordinary, moving and gradually developing relationship between the young German, Christoph, and old Arthur, too frail to leave his New York City apartment where he lived for sixty years, who managed to escape the Holocaust but is deeply affected by the loss of his entire family to Hitler’s atrocities. Although being very different people, a strong bond forms, and changes both of them forever.
In Poland, Arthur was a renowned concert violinist. Christoph is a budding cellist. The two discover that while history is unchangeable, they have much in common and much to talk about. By facing Christoph, Arthur can look the enemy’s descendent in the face; facing Arthur, young Christoph confronts the legacy of Germany’s Nazi generation and his own place in a modern Germany. Their relationship becomes a metaphor for the meaning of atonement and the [possibility of] reconciliation between a murder and his victim.
When the two men parted, one can sum the movie by quoting Arthur Lederman: “We must keep in mind that it takes a long time to make a friend; it takes a short time to lose a friend!”
It takes a long time to make a friend
Arthur passed away in 2004, at the age of 104, and with that, one other Holocaust generation survivor took the pain of the entire Jewish nation to his grave. Christoph went on with his life, apparently now married and living in Berlin, Germany. As of this writing, though I tried making contact with him through Facebook, he did not reply.
The pain of the wound of the Holocaust is still somewhat fresh with every Jew. I wonder though how long before it is totally healed and forgotten; I hope never. Because with the end of the Holocaust came the vow NEVER AGAIN!
Get the movie Facing Arthur (2005).
Susan Sarandon (Actor-narrator), Michael Rey (Director), Stefan Knerrich (Director)
Facing Arthur: Movie Trailer: