After “Angel of Ahlem,” I wasn't sure I could make another Holocaust film.
I had stood with a survivor at Auschwitz, where boxcars unloaded him as part of the human cargo to be gassed and cremated or spared for use as slave labor. I had walked a path at Chelmno with a survivor whose parents had been killed there. I watched with a heavy heart as he contemplated the last moments of their lives.
The Holocaust, the genocide of 6 million Jews, was unimaginable. I had read about it but always kept my distance. It was statistics, killing on a grand but impersonal scale. And then my colleagues and I made a film about it.
We walked in the shoes of survivors as they relived the past and showed faded photographs of murdered family members. We visited childhood homes and listened to stories about the roundup and slaughter of entire families.
The Holocaust was no longer impersonal. It had names, dates, faces, locations. Filming these stories was an emotional roller coaster, and I was ready to get off.
But one day my colleague Sandy Dickson called and asked me to take a look at a book she read, “The Diary of Petr Ginz.” She assured me it was a different kind of Holocaust story. She was right. It was about hope as well as tragedy, about freedom as well as confinement. Most of all, it was about a child prodigy whose creativity and imagination trumped deprivation and even death. Read More