The Songs They Sang

June 7, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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An Australian-made documentary telling the story of musical performances held inside the Jewish Ghetto in Vilna from 1941-1943 will be screened as part of the Melbourne’s Glen Eira Storytelling Festival.

The independently made The Songs They Sang, will be screened twice on Sunday June 14. at the Glen Eira Town Hall, Caulfield,

Producer Anna Monea said she was pleased that the documentary has been included as part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival which runs for two weeks from Saturday June 13.

The film explores the resilience of the people who created and performed the music in the face of systematic persecution and extermination by the Nazis.

Directed by Rohan Spong, it centres around the stories of Shmerke Kaczerginski and Avrom Sutzkever, who steadfastly continued to compose poems and songs about their experiences of persecution, loss and grief, and organise public performances, despite their horrific circumstances.

Their refusal to relinquish their culture brought hope to a people under siege, and offered them brief respite from fear and despair.

Filmed in Israel, France, Lithuania, America and Australia, it features interviews with survivors of the Vilna Ghetto—including Melbourne-based Deborah Zuben—re-enactments of the musical performances by soprano Deborah Kayser and Vilna songs arranged by Joseph Giovinazzo.

Included is harrowing footage of a visit by a survivor, Frania Bracorskajc, to Ponar forest outside Vilna, where her family and friends used to holiday before the war. During the Holocaust, the forest became the site of the massacre of more than 20,000 men, women and children from the Vilna Ghetto.

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