letzten sieben Monate der Anne Frank"
von Willy Lindwer
Brief von Nurit Kahana, im April 2011:
Revelations about Anne Frank’s last days, a film documentary dealing with the Holocaust in Europe in a retrospective on one of today’s leading directors and author of "The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank"
What happened to Anne Frank in the months after she finished writing her diary, when she was caught, with her family, and sent to the concentration camp Bergen Belsen? How did handicapped people survive the camps? And what was Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal’s life story?
Chilling tales of Anne Frank’s last days in the camp (“This was not the same Anne, behind the barbed wire fence, that I had known before. There was a defeated look in her eyes”) – testimony by one of the last women to see her alive in Auschwitz). This testimony of the Holocaust in Holland and in Europe is shown this week in seven films directed by leading director Willy Lindwer in all the Israeli Cinemateques.
“I had no choice but devote myself to the making of documentaries on the subject of my people’s fate. Ever since I studied filmmaking at the Dutch Film Academy in the late ‘60s, I had the urge to do this,” says Willy Lindwer to me in an interview.
Lindwer’s films deal with human distress in general, not only during the Holocaust, and have received international recognition. In 1988 he was the first Dutch director to be awarded the International EMI prize for “The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank". In addition to this movie, Linwer published also a book titled by the same name ("Anne Frank: Die letzten sieben Monate – Augenzeuginnen berichten" aus dem Niederlandichen von Mirjam Pressler, 1990, S. Fischer, Frankfurt). Lindwer is a widely published author of several books as well, among them "Camp of Hope and Despair, Witnesses of Westerbork, 1939-1945", (Publisher Balans, 1990).
“I have made 22 documentaries about the Holocaust, many of them dealing with events in Holland during the Second World War,” he says.
Lindwer was born in 1946 in Amsterdam. His parents had fled from Poland in the 1930s following a wave of anti-Semitism there, and settled in Amsterdam. “My parents were hidden during the war, and so was my eldest brother. This is how they survived”, says Lindwer. “Only 10% of Dutch Jewry survived the Holocaust”
In answer to my question how he came to focus on a subject as difficult as the cinematic documentation of the Holocaust, in a mostly commercial-driven industry such as cinema, he explains: “When I started my own company, AVA Productions, in 1985 (after I had worked for 14 years for the Dutch television), I produced and directed different commercial films and TV series, but my first priority was the creation of films about the Holocaust and about the State of Israel. In those years interest in the subject of the Holocaust was just beginning. Survivors could not talk about it, the subject was too sensitive. My film “The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank” came as a revelation for many people, in Holland and in the whole world. It was the first time women were able to talk about their experiences in Auschwitz. The story of what happened to Anne after her hiding period was not well-known until my film was released, and the book I wrote on the subject was published.
Among the films that are shown in the retrospective in honor of Lindwer are Simon Wiesenthal’s “Freedom is not a Gift from Heaven”, released in 1994, a film in which the hero of the film tells his story for the first time, and “Anne’s Silent Struggle”, which tells the dramatic story of how deaf Jews survived the Holocaust. Anne is today 82 years old and lives in Holland. A young deaf filmmaker, Tom Linszen, who worked with Lindwer on the film, communicated with Anne in the sign language.
"For the hearing, Auschwitz is characterized as a place of horrible sounds, shouted commands, screaming, shooting and cries of torture. For the deaf, the terror was silent"- is one of the brilliant insights of this very special documentary film.
Lindwer’s personal story is no less interesting than the subject of his films. At the height of his professional achievements, Lindwer decided on a change of direction in his life, following insights obtained when making his films on the Holocaust in Europe. “I immigrated to Israel in 2004 with my wife. Our daughter came earlier. She is married here and is the mother of 5 children. My son and his wife, too, are planning to live here shortly,” he says. “Europe is – again – not a good place for Jews to live. Was it ever? We know what happened in the past and I have no illusions that the situation will take a turn for the better. The social atmosphere has drastically and irreparably changed in the last twenty years, in Holland and all over Europe. Jews can be safe in their own country. I am a Jew with a Zionist identity and I am not willing to give up my Judaism, nor do I want to live in an environment which is hostile to Jews."
This retrospective Willy Lindwer’s films celebrate 40 years of cinematic activity. The event takes place under the auspices of the Organization of Immigrants from Holland and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Israel.
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