Forgotten Transports to Belarus | Screening and Discussion

When: 2012-01-25 17:00 - 2012-01-25 19:00
Where: American Center, Tržiště 13, Praha 1 – Malá Strana
Entry fee: Volný

“Forgotten Transports” stand out from the multitude of Holocaust documentaries because its director, Lukas Pribyl, did more than track down survivors or burrow through film archives and deportation records. Over 10 years and visits to 30 countries, he hunted down photographs of SS camp commanders and snapshots taken by local residents and workers who might have encountered inmates, sometimes trading bottles of vodka for the artifacts. The impression conveyed is that a photographer was along for the nightmare ride of the Czech Jews.  Together the films trace the experiences of 76 of the 270 survivors among the thousands of Czech Jews deported, not to the familiar Theresienstadt ghetto or to Auschwitz, but to less-well-known camps like Jagala and Kaiserwald. Mr. Pribyl chose that approach because his grandfather was sent to an obscure camp.

In English.

Forgotten Transports to Belarus

Belarus between 1941 and 1944 was an apocalyptic place with nights lit by flames from hundreds of torched villages and with soil soaked in the blood of countless victims. It was a country where the remains of ruined cities were lined by hanged corpses, its dusty roads crisscrossed by mobile gas chamber vans (nicknamed "soul-snatchers") and the deep forests were home to "great wolfs, wolfs man-eaters" who subsisted on the flesh of victims from vast mass graves. Forgotten Transports to Belarus present the absurdity of war, the fact that choices made in extreme conditions are rarely black or white. The film contains stories of immeasurable brutality and sadism, but also of unpretentious heroism and friendship. It talks of murderous psychopaths who committed murder to "calm themselves down", but also of German officers who attempted to help the Jews. About the partisans’ disdain for death, as well as the irrepressible desire to live. In places where human life had the price of a bullet, Jews who arrived on transports from the west had little chance of survival. Some succumbed to despair but others desperately fought for their lives. Out of the 7.000 Czech Jews deported to war-time Belarus, 22 survived. The film follows the fate of these men doggedly fighting for survival – in the ghettos or with partisans after escaping to the forests – employing much ingenuity, stamina and bravado.