Our students benefited from the opportunity to watch the Israeli film Six Million and One follow by a discussion with David Fisher, the film’s director. Fisher’s father survived Auschwitz and the Gusen labor camp in Austria where he was forced to dig an underground factory to build airplanes. He never spoke about his experiences in detail, but after his death Fisher discovered his memoir. The memoir was the catalyst for the film. Fisher journeyed to all the places his father was interned during WWII, first alone and then with three of his siblings. The film includes footage from both those trips as well as an interview with American veterans who liberated Fisher’s father at Gunskirchen. Excerpts from his father’s diary are included throughout the film.
During the post screening discussion Fisher shared what it was like to discover his father’s diary and realize how little he knew his father or find a different father in its pages than the one he knew. Fisher said his father was not intellectual or cultured and that he was very impressed by his father’s writing. It made him sorry he hadn’t been able to communicate with his father during his lifetime. Fisher explained that the film is multi-layered. It tells the story of him looking for his new father and answers as to how and why he survived. It is also a story about the living ones, the second generation, him and his siblings – who they are and how they view their father.
Fisher stated that the film is a personal story – it is about the one not the six million. A big component of the film is the relationship between the four siblings and how they view their father and deal with being the second generation. Some of Fisher’s siblings refused to read their father’s diary and don’t understand why he can’t leave the past behind and focus on the present. All the siblings are very different and some are more affected by being the children of survivors than others. The journey as documented by the film gave the siblings a chance to have some poignant and humorous discussions and clear the air about growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust and how their parents’ trauma affected them.
Finally, the film also seeks to ask and answer social questions about Austria and the people who live in such close proximity to the camp at Gusen; who are they and what responsibility do they want to take on themselves and why? An interesting component of the film was looking at the people who currently live near these sits, how they feel about the foreign visitors, and whether they see a need to preserve these sites and keep them open to the public. Fisher tried to free himself of prejudices but he recalled that it was difficult to be in Austria and meet the people. In addition to wanting to introduce his siblings to their father’s story he wanted them to accompany him on the second trip for moral support. Having the chance to discuss the film with the director right after seeing it enriched the entire experience.
Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/