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Kindergarten in Hell

Documentary film 50 min.
Intended for screening in Holocaust Memorial Day 2005

 

Introduction:
Itzik Weinberg was born in 1938 in Krakow, Poland. When he was 9 month old the Germans conquered Poland, and his family was transferred to the Ghetto. In June 1942 all his family was murdered in the Gas Chambers in the Belzets Camp. 4 years old Itzik and his 3 years old brother Avner were now orphans and they were smuggled from the Ghetto by their aunt Malca. For two years they were hiding among gentile villagers, each day changing hiding place in order to save them from the Nazis. In February 1944 the brothers were smuggled through Czechoslovakia to Hungary in the hope that the war will not arrive there, but after only a month, in Mars 1944 the Nazis conquered Budapest. In June 1944 aunt Malca succeeded to put the the two kids as hidden passengers to the Kastner Train, believing that those on the train will arrive to Israel and be saved. The negotiation between Kastner and Eichman failed and the Rescue Train arrived to Germany and its 1685 passengers were locked up in the Bergen- Belzen concentration camp the brothers found themselves again in the middle of Hell, alone, without any relative at all. Avner started crying and 5 and a half years old Itzik calmed him and became his "father". They had luck because a young girl named Naomi took them under her protection and lodged them near her in the women flank in the camp.

Description of the film:

1. Itzik:
Itzik hosts the film crew in his house in Tivon. He presents the wall rugs that he creates in the last years and explains how these rugs express abstractly his holocausts experiences. He tells that for many years he repressed these experiences, and only now, 60 years later, he allows himself to express the trauma and his feelings.

2. Avner :
Avner is checked up in a sleep laboratory in Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat, his hometown. He says that since his childhood in the holocaust he never had a good night's sleep. The camera follows him to his work in hotel Magic Palace in Eilat. Avner tells that most of the people that he works with are not acquainted to his traumatic past or to his everyday difficulties. He says that he hides the pain and his sadness behind his sense of humor, and that he learned to adopt himself in seconds to every situation. He almost never talks about the holocaust, which is a black box for him.

3. Hiding in Poland:
Itzik and Avner drive to visit Peretz Malkovich who was a partisan. He met them in Czechoslovakia while they were escaping. Peretz tells about their aunt, who looked like a Christian And had the courage to walk openly among the gentiles he says that her eyes were so sharp that she could recognize who will shelter them and who will turn them in to the Germans. Avner tells the camera that they had no time to be kids. The survival war was so cruel that he and his brother had to grow up instantly. "We were hiding in hay wagon and Itzik shut my mouth so that I would not weep and disclose our hiding place". He jokes and tells that at the time he hated his brother because he thought that he wanted to choke him.

4. Kastner train:
Meeting with Tzadok Raab at his daughter's house in Ofra. Tzadok remembers the journey in the Kastner train. He was then an instructor in the Bnei Akiva youth movement. He tells that he was informed about the two polish orphans that were put and hidden on the train. He treated them with devotion all through the journey. He shows the photograph he took on the train; in it we see the two kids on the background of the Bnei Akiva emblem painted on door of the train. Tzadok tells that at the time of the journey a rumor spread that the Germans will not keep the agreement with Kastner, and that the train leads its passengers to their death. It made all the passengers extremely anxious.


5. Bergen-Belzen:                                                                                                              Itzik tells that in the first night he and Avner remained alone in the center of Bergen-Belzen camp. They did not know where to turn. Avner started weeping and Itzik tried to calm him down. Finally a young girl from the train travelers approached them her name was Naomi. She took them under her custody and she housed them beside her in the women's quarters in the camp. Itzik tells that the next day in the morning Naomi approached the Nazi commander the camp and requested to enclose him and his brother officially to the traveler list of 'Kastner-Train'. In response to her request the commander yanked his gun and aimed it at them. Naomi begged him until he agreed to leave them alive.

The film will focus on the reconstruction of the kindergarten this miraculous Naomi organized for them in Bergen-Belzen. The two brothers will reconstruct and tell what happened to them in shack 11 in the camp. We will create a mini studio and in it a three floors wood bed, like the beds that were in the concentration camp. The bed and the two brothers will be photographed on green screen background in order that it will be possible to edit layers in After Effect and to combine the interviewed people with archive and still pictures of the period. In order to remind the brothers situations from the kindergarten we shall bring objects and instruction aids from the camp such as drawing sheet, colors, card games, a drawing of their clothes in the camp, a picture of shack 11 in Bergen-Belzen that turned to be their first house etc. there will also be an encounter of the brothers with Judith that was then a young girl and participated in that kindergarten.

From the narrative of the two orphans it becomes clear that Naomi tried hard to conceal from their eyes the horrors of the camp. Each day there was an educational and cultural program. She taught them songs, told them stories, she taught them to write and to draw. Avner tells that by means of these painting lessons he learned to recognize colors - until then his world was black and gray. Itzik tells that in Bergen-Belzen the train exploitative suffered awful congestion and many died from diseases and from sub nutrition. Compared with this to him this was the happiest and the calmest period in his short life. For the first time in his life he had a worm and almost normal house. Avner adds that at night on account of the nightmares they slept embraced with Naomi and her worm body returned to him the confidence in humanity. Itzik says this was the first time he remembers in which they slept more from three consecutive nights in one place.


From the brothers' stories it becomes clear that Mimi Book helped Naomi build for the kids an island of sanity inside the inferno. (The situation reminds the film "The Good Life"). Teenage girls joined the kindergarten huddling on the narrow couch with the Weinberg brothers. The two women took care of everything they needed. Itzik tells that at night he heard women cry from within their deep distress: 'Guevald, god, where are you?' One morning he asked Naomi:' What is God? ' and Naomi answered dryly : There is no God '

Judith tells that after half a year, in December 1944, according to the agreement that Kastner made with Eichman, the people from the train that remained alive were released and were transported to Switzerland. In Switzerland the kids recovered slowly to normal life. Just as things began to lighten up for them, they were cast again into a great tragedy. Naomi put an end to her life. In that the same dreadful day she received horrifying news: they informed her in a telegram sent from Budapest that her lover was murdered by the Gestapo, and they informed her that she will not be able to adopt the two kids that she loved so much. In September 1945 the kids were transported to the Barry harbor in Italy and from there they sailed to Israel.

6. Conclusion:
Avner tells that he and his brother started the period of the Holocaust as Polish speakers. In the train and at the camp they learned Hungarian and forgot completely their mother tongue. In Switzerland they learned German. As they came to Israel they learned Yiddish in an orthodox boarding school until a relative transported them to a Bnei Akiva institution in which they had to talk Hebrew and only Hebrew. Itzik tells that this period made him a man that does not fears from change and struggles. Further in his life he learned to deal with all the challenges that stood before him. Also the period vaccinated him and his brother from diseases. They both skipped all childhood diseases. Nowadays Itzik deals in the commemoration of the million and a half children that were murdered in the holocaust.

The situation is fascinating because, since the Holocaust, the two brothers talked between them very little about their horrifying experiences, and we expect that the filmed meeting will be very exciting and very revealing one disclosing. We'll get acquainted to the relationship between the two brothers that during long years suppressed the topic and now at first, after 60 years, they feel mature enough to share their experiences each other and with the audience.

 

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