By JAYNE JACOVA FELD
As a student at Kellman Brown Academy, eighth-grader Coby Friedman has had numerous interactions with Holocaust survivors. But until this fall, when he started work on a documentary film called “Names, Not Numbers,” did he really come to understand the importance of memorializing every survivor’s story, not just the famous ones.
“It made you realize how many crazy, incredible stories survivors have of luck and the people who risked their own lives to save them,” observed Coby, who not only interviewed Marlton resident Charles Middleberg but worked behind the scenes researching aspects of the Holocaust, editing, and working the camera. “It makes you realize they all have special stories.”
Middleberg, who as a child in occupied France pretended to be Catholic, is one of four local survivors who were interviewed by KBA eighth-graders and featured in the movie that debuts during the Cherry Hill Volvo Cars Jewish Film Festival of the JCC, 7 p.m. Mar. 21 at the Carmike Theatre. Created with help and advice from journalists, filmmakers, and Holocaust scholars, the film will also be archived and available for viewing at Yad Vashem as well as the JCRC’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum & Goodwin Education Center. KBA worked with Better Together Names, NOT Numbers, a program started by a New York City-based Jewish educator that has gone national with generous support by a prominent national foundation. The Voorhees-based Jewish day school also partnered with the Holocaust Center and the Jewish Community Foundation, Inc.
Although the stories of local Holocaust survivors have been recorded in the past, the KBA project was a unique project welcomed by the survivor community, said Holocaust Center Director Helen Kirschbaum.
“Every opportunity for more people to understand this time in history is important to the survivors,” said Kirschbaum. “Every time they are interviewed and recorded is another opportunity for people to hear their testimonies.”
Besides Middleberg, the other participants included Helene Bouton, Izydor Einziger and Fred Kurz.
From researching in preparation for meeting Middleberg to crash courses in oral history interviewing techniques and filming, Coby said he enjoyed all aspects of the project. The hardest part was whittling down the interviews to fit the film.
“I can’t speak for the other survivors but a lot of what he said was very good information we felt needed to be in the film,” he said. “It was really hard to get it down to a 20-minute segment.”
Liron Algrably said she was moved listening to Bouton’s answers to her group’s questions, especially when she spoke about the friend she made on the train ride to Auschwitz who died at the death camp.
“This is important because some people say that the Holocaust didn’t happen,” Liron said. “These survivors willing to tell us their stories is proof that they’re not just making it up.”
Makayla Bazzle said she is excited to watch the movie with Kurz, whom she has seen several times at Temple Beth Sholom, her synagogue, since meeting him through the project.
“I really think it will be breathtaking watching a survivor’s story with the survivor that I interviewed,” said Makayla.
The survivors and KBA students will meet for dinner and a ceremony at the school prior to the showing.
For tickets and more information about the Film Festival, visit http://katzjcc.org/film/