KUED Channel 7 commemorates National Holocaust Remembrance Day with the television premiere of two remarkable documentaries: Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers on Tuesday, May 3 at 8:00 p.m. and Independent Lens "A Film Unfinished" on Tuesday, May 3 at 11:00 p.m.
Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers is a powerful film about Polish heroine Irena Sendler and her wartime conspiracy of women who outfoxed the Nazis and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children. Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker when the Nazis invaded Poland. After Polish Jews were imprisoned behind the ghetto walls without food or medicine, Sendler and her team smuggled aid in and began smuggling orphans out, hiding them in convents, orphanages and private homes in the city and the Polish countryside. Before the Nazis burned the ghetto to the ground, Sendler rescued over 2,500 children.
Irena Sendler was eventually captured by the Gestapo, imprisoned and tortured after refusing to divulge the identities of her co-workers. Sendler's friends bribed a guard and she escaped just before her execution was scheduled. She then went into hiding.
Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers features the last interview with Sendler before her death at the age of 98. Rare archival footage, family photographs and evocative re-creations shot in Warsaw bring the lives of the rescued children, Sendler and her co-workers into dramatic focus. The film is a testament to the power of moral courage in the darkest of times.
In 1954, 60 minutes of raw footage once belonging to the Third Reich was discovered inside a concrete vault in East Germany. Shot in 1942 in Poland's Warsaw Ghetto, the film juxtaposed shocking images of starvation and despair against scenes of wealthy Jewish residents enjoying fine dinners, dancing in nightclubs, and attending the theater. In 1998 -- 44 years later -- two additional film cans were found, revealing that the vignettes of the "good life" had been staged by the Nazis to create a hideously false impression. Independent Lens "A Film Unfinished" probes deeply into the making of this now-infamous Nazi propaganda film.
Presenting the raw footage in its entirety, "A Film Unfinished" contains diary entries, court transcripts featuring testimony from a cameraman who shot the propaganda film, and scenes of ghetto survivors reacting as they watch the film. After more than 70 years, no one has been able to find a single document revealing the identity of the film's makers, its purpose or why it was never completed.
Director Yael Hersonski, points out that the Holocaust not only presented inconceivable horrors, but also, for the first time, systematically documented those horrors. What does the footage, created by the perpetrators, tell us about the victims?
"For me, it begins with the victim's gaze into the camera," says Hersonski. "That gaze contains what is perhaps the only emotional truth not crushed under the wheels of propaganda, the only truth that remains forever, as if to testify: 'I was there, I existed in this world that words cannot describe.'"
Why the Nazis chose to make, then abandon, this propaganda film will never be known. What A Film Unfinished showcases, is the importance of bearing witness, and the reminder that image does not necessarily mean "truth."
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