On 5th of September 1942 a transport arrived in Estonia bearing one thousand Czech Jews. Roughly a hundred women between the ages of 19 and 25 were separated from their families who were taken by bus to another, apparently "heated" concentration camp. The terrified girls soon formed various groups in which they gave each other total support. With time they began to act together, like a single, large organism. The optimism. Their instinct for self-preservation urged them to ignore the Holocaust. It was not until 1945, while they were convalescing in Sweden, that they discovered the truth about what happened to their families… Lukáš Pribyl spent seven years putting together his unique project about the little known fates of Czech Jews during the Holocaust. In this, the third part of the documentary series Forgotten Transports, he combines testimonies from survivors with shocking archive footage and documents, which together offer insight into the destiny of women in a "man's" war.
Forgotten Transports to Latvia
In his documentary, director Lukáš Přibyl focuses on the transportation of Jews to the Latvian ghetto in Riga and to the local Salaspils camp, which is spoken about less frequently than other concentration camps. In 1942, 3,000 men, women and children were transported to this place from Bohemia and Moravia. In the film, survivors from Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria, who now live on different continents, tell their stories. Their tales are accompanied by archive pictures of the places they talk about, photographs of the victims and their murderers. They are also accompanied by details from important documents. The memories of the deported don't just plumb depths full of sadness and cruelty, but also recount friendship and love and even include topics such as sexuality and menstruation. The recollections of the interviewees therefore construct a mental map in which good and evil are not polarised, but where these categorisations are blurred in relation to people's characters, nationalities and their motivations in life. The film, therefore, is not just a reminder of these eastbound deportations, but also flashes a warning light at a time when some people still question the existence of the holocaust.
Forgotten Transports to Poland
Breaking down our notions about "Holocaust documentaries", the film focuses on humanidentity and its changes. It deals with choices, people, escaping Nazi ghettos, laborand death camps in the Lublin region of Poland, had to make in order to adapt and survive in utter extremity, on the run, in hiding – with a great deal of ingenuity,much humor and tremendous optimism. This documentary tribute to the human spiritis completely devoid of commentary, contemporary and make-believe footage and employs only impeccably researched time-and-place precise materials and fascinatingwords of the witnesses. From playing a deaf-mute fool, armed resistance to a touchingtale of forbidden love, the handful of witnesses share their past, for the first time. This documentary offers a surprising picture of survival "as we don't know it".
Forgotten Transports: To Belarus
It is the second of the four 90-minute-long films by Lukáš Přibyl, which are a mosaic of memories of the Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who were deported into the concentration camps and ghettoes in Latvia, Belarus, Estonia and eastern Poland. Those were places, which, unlike the infamous Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau or Terezín, are not widely discussed, but which witnessed equally cruel destinies of hundreds of thousands of people.
The documentary is a portrait of H. G. Skilling, a Canadian by birth and a Czech at heart. A Toronto native, Skilling became interested in Central and Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia in particular during his studies at Oxford. From the 1930s, the historian and political scientist happened to be present at all crucial points of Czechoslovak and Czech and Slovak history – the death of President Masaryk and the death of Czechoslovak democracy, the Nazi occupation and the Communist coup, the beastly fifties and the hopes of thaw dashed by Soviet invasion, the stolid timelessness of “normalization” as well as the “Velvet Revolution”. Told through the words of his friends, associates, dissidents as well as prominent U.S. politicians, the visual style of the movie combines interviews in unusual settings, animated present-day still photography and archival material (including Secret Police pictures) to create a detailed story of a man who deserves to be remembered.