Film explores local ties to Holocaust PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT, Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Thursday, 12 June 2014 08:29
The late William Leons, a Holocaust survivor from Holland, is interviewed during the filming of  the documentary “Bearing Witness: The Voices of Survivors.” (Photo provided by Heather Elliott-Famylaro)
A film that captures the vastness of the Holocaust using the stories of six area residents as a lens has sparked an educational initiative.
"Bearing Witness: The Voices of Survivors" by Heather Elliott-Famularo, of the Bowling Green State University School of Art, will be screened Sunday at the Maumee Indoor Theater, 601 Conant St. in downtown Maumee. Following a by-invitation reception, the film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public space permitting. For information call 419-372-2222.
Though the film was broadcast on WGTE-PBS as part of the Toledo Stories series in 2012, and was audience choice award winner at the 2013 Palm Beach International Film Festival, this will be the first time "Bearing Witness" will be shown on a full screen in high definition with surround sound.
The event kicks off a Summer Institute for K-12 teachers at BGSU.
Developed by the filmmaker and Tim Murnen, of the School of Teaching and Learning, "Responsibility in the Shadow of the Holocaust," will explore local ties to the Holocaust and help teachers develop related school curriculum.
Murnen said there's a certain urgency in offering the program now. "The generation of survivors is dwindling."
Seeing those individual stories, he said, is important to understanding the depth of the tragedy. "None of us have an idea of what 6 million is," he said. But learning the stories of six people starts to bring home impact of such large-scale inhumanity.
"As I got to know these survivors it became my passion," Elliott-Famularo said. "They are so incredible people, so generous."
The institute has 17 area teachers enrolled. They will travel with Murnen and Elliott-Famularo to Eastern Europe later in the summer for a month-long journey tracing the experiences of the local Holocaust survivors.
Elliott-Famularo said that the institute drew "so many incredible applicants." In the end, the organizers sought to select teachers who represented the diversity of Ohio schools.
Funding for the institute came from the Ohio Humanities Council and funding for the trip came from the Fulbright-Hays program in the federal Department of Education.
The project was inspired back in 2010 when Hindea Markowicz, the director of the Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center in Toledo, brought together six Toledo-area survivors of the Holocaust to speak to the Sunday school classes at three synagogues.
The survivors were: Rolf Hess, from Germany; Philip Markowicz and Aron Wajskol, from Poland; William Leons, from Holland; and Clara Rona, from Hungary. Leons recently died.
Elliott-Famularo documented interviews with the six and BGSU colleague Dena Eber photographed them. Those portraits will also be displayed.
The need for the documentary and education on the Holocaust was driven home for the filmmaker when she first started doing research on the project.
When she went to the internet and sought information on survivors from the Auschwitz concentration camp, the first eight or nine search results were legitimate - then came site after site devoted to groups that deny the Holocaust happened.
"Wow," said Elliott-Famularo, "this is what students get when they go to the internet."
While the internet provides much valuable information "it's also a great opportunity for misinformation and lies."
Knowing about the Holocaust is "really important ... but there is all this propaganda denying the Holocaust even happened."
The idea of the workshop is to show teachers how they can draw on local resources to teach about the Holocaust, and by extension other global issues.
Elliott-Famularo saw this as she worked with BGSU art students designing the graphics and maps for the film. "It was a collaborative effort."
They learned about the Holocaust as they worked. "The whole project has an overflowing trickling down effect on individuals," she said. "Hopefully we'll get to the point we can really share this with the world."
They will offer teachers an immersive experience bringing them to area sites, and having them talk to local people, touching on a variety of angles.
The teachers will visit Congregation B'Nai Israel and meet Cantor Ivor Lichterman. His father was the last cantor at the great synagogue in Warsaw.
They will also visit the Greek Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toledo. Greece is also on the itinerary for the European trip in July.
Elliott-Famularo said that the Greek Orthodox Church was the only church to stand up to the Nazis as an institution. Greek Orthodox priests forged baptismal certificates to save the lies of Jews, she said.
The visit will highlight the ancient links between the Orthodox church and Judaism.
The institute will also introduce students to how electronic media and local resources can be used for student research.
It can help students, Murnen said, "look at local events and move outward from there."
It's important, he said, to have students not just answer questions but ask questions.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 June 2014 02:09

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