Tunnel of Hope

August 12, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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A Shoah documentary that is not about death and destruction but about determination and survival, courage and defiance will have its world premier in Melbourne at the end of the month.

The premier, screening at the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick, forms part of the 30th anniversary of the Jewish Holocaust Centre.

The starting point is the successful escape of all 250 Jewish slave workers from a Nazi labor camp in Novogrudok, then East Poland now Belarus, via a 200 meter tunnel they had dug for months and days before they were due to be murdered. Two thirds of them managed to reach the forests and the partisans, and survive the war.

The escape became a defining event in the lives of the escapees with many of them keeping in close touch after the war.  Together with their children and grandchildren, who grew up with the story of the escape in their blood, a new, virtual family was created: the Family of Escapees.

In August 2012, three of the remaining six escapees alive today, accompanied by fifty children and grandchildren of escapees, arrived at the site of the former labor camp in an attemptto find the tunnel.  The archaeological excavations dug up not only piles of dirt and some physical remnants from that terrible era, but also dredged up many memories of life before the war, the horrors of the war itself and their amazing determination to survive.

The marvellous beauty of Novogrudok and its environs, the open fields and dense forests, stand in contrast with the dark secrets that are hidden just under the surface.   It is upon this backdrop that the children and grandchildren dig in the dirt as they sway from the optimism of verifying the tunnel’s existence, to the burden of the memories and pain, which they carry as the legacy of the escapees.

Thus the historical story of digging the escape tunnel and the present story of digging in search of the tunnel merge to become one story.

 

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