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I Have a Message for You: A Short Film

A haunting film about one survivor’s unfathomable decision to save herself and the surprising denouement.

My grandmother Lea once told me a story about the woman who lived next door to her in Tel Aviv, of her capture by the Nazis in Belgium and of an unfathomable decision she had to take to save herself. I never forgot it, and am pleased to share it with you in this Op-Doc film.

Even as a teenager, I was familiar with stories from the Holocaust. My grandfather had survived the horrors of the camps himself, and his stories formed a large part of our family’s shared narrative.

But this woman’s story felt different. Her pain and horror were woven with love, loss, guilt and redemption – and the epilogue was truly extraordinary. Many years later, once I’d become a documentary filmmaker, I decided to find out whether the woman was still alive.

She was. Klara was 92 years old and still living in the same Tel Aviv apartment. I flew out to see her the following week and asked her to tell me the story I’d heard from my grandmother in her own words.

We sat in her living room, the camera started rolling, and she began. She was sharp, funny and generous, and when looking into the darkness and recalling that difficult time, she did not spare herself one bit. When finished she seemed emptied, for the first time looking as old as her age.

I was moved, even transformed, but told her how sorry I was for having stirred up her feelings and memories like that. I’m not sure she fully absolved me, but she did say she was happy I had come to see her.

Throughout my lifetime the Holocaust has felt like one of the defining narratives of the West. Almost three generations later, the mind still struggles to make sense of what happened in that time. But one commandment, one kernel of a logical response, seems to be expressed by all who have lived through the horror: Never forget.
 

The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Joseph Cohen, November 14, 2017 12:38 AM

Documentary

This was one of the most uplifting stories of the holocaust I have ever seen. It was a wonderful story and done extremely well. It was a surprise near the end to see her husband with her. It filled my heart with joy to see the two of them together.
Thank you for bringing this wonderful story for others to see.
Sincerely,
Joe Cohen

(5) Jewish Mom, November 13, 2017 6:18 PM

She does believe in G-d - perhaps she's angry at him

Klara explicity says that receiving her father's message of approval was a gift from G-d and then she goes right on to say that she doens't believe in Him! The way I understand this contradiction is that while she clearly knows that she received a gift from G-d, she is angry at Him for the Holocaust and has not been able to reconcile the conflict. That's her way of expressing her confusion. She doesn't merely believe in G-d as a matter of faith; she has knowledge of His presence - she knows that her survival both as a child in the hospital with G-d "transferring" years and during the war were G-d's miracle. Her pain bars her from fully acknowledgeing it, even though it slipped out. Let's not be critical of her - we can't fathom the pain she suffered. Allowing her story to be publicized is a great merit for her, as it demonstrates G-d's Divine Providence. If she's still alive, I hope she repairs her relationship with Him. It's never too late.

(4) Judy, November 13, 2017 1:08 AM

Very meaningful

Presented very well, touches the heart. I felt saddened that klara does not attribute the fact that she survived with her husband and meeting the Dutch woman who gave her the life altering message from her beloved father, so she no longer had to wonder or feel guilt, and yet not see the Hand of Our Creator. I'm happy for her that she hears the message.

(3) Anonymous, November 12, 2017 11:14 PM

All those miracles and no belief in G-d?

She doesn't believe in G-d after all the miracles He performed for her, but she believes someone can hand over his years to her?

(2) Karla Ober, November 12, 2017 9:22 PM

He was a mensch.

What a beautiful and heart-felt presentation of the difficult events of Klara's life. No one should ever have to make the kind of decision that, because of the nazis, she had to make. That her father understood her decision and did his best to let her know that he understood and approved of it should earn him a place in paradise and a "Best Father Ever" award.

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