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Auschwitz, Israel, Austria

At the very last moment, Heinz Krausz is put on a train by his mother which takes him to Trieste, where the father, who has already fled, places him on a ship to Palestine. While his mother is deported to Auschwitz and survives there with the help of an Austrian SS man, Krausz joins the Palmach and actively participates in the founding of Israel. With a letter to Ben-Gurion his mother gets Heinz back to Vienna to help rebuild their lost factory. His grandson Theo understands the importance of the state of Israel for the Jews. Theo is just about to graduate high-school and although he has studied the history of the family he has many questions, though, especially about the ambivalence of his great-grandmother’s survival and the confrontation of his grandfather with anti-Semitism in Austria after the war.

This dialogue appears in the series as well as in the documentary.

Historical focus: founding of Israel, Palmach, Ben-Gurion, Auschwitz, Italy, reconstruction, Jewish Community Vienna

Theo Krausz in conversation
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Behind the Scenes: Marko Feingold

Marko Feingold was born on May 28th 1913 in todays Slovakia, which belonged to the monarchy of Austria-Hungary at that time. He grew up in Vienna’s 2nd district Leopoldsatdt. In 1939 he was first deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, than to the concentration camps at Neuengamme, Dachau and Buchenwald.

Marco Feingold died on September 19th, 2019 in Salzburg, at the age of 106 years. Today he would have celebrated his 107th birthday.

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IN MEMORIAM RICHARD WADANI

Today we mourn the loss of Richard Wadani. Richard was a fighter for freedom throughout his life.He opposed the Nazi regime and was, unfortunately, one of the very few who refused to serve in the weapon of the terrorist regime.That makes him a role model for all of us. Today more than ever! Our thoughts and condolences are with his family.

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Mockup

Before we went to the stage we set up a mockup of the train compartment in order to adjust camera angles. Of course we had to apply some changes to the original compartment, but I think one doesn’t notice.

This setup is a crucial point for a low budget production. Every mistake has significant effects to the film.

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PRODUCTION STATUS

Talk to Me – The Series

Thanks to the support of many, including the Indiegogo – donations, the financing of the series is almost closed. Due to the current situation we have therefore decided to start the production with the preparation work, the editing of the dialogue sequences and the research for the historic aspects. We plan to shoot the missing sequences in the autumn, by which the Corona Lockdown should be overcome. We are optimistic to have a closed financing by then.

Documentary film

The postproduction works for the documentary film will be finished by end of May. The film will be released with the German title “Der Schönste Tag” (The most beautiful day). We are still negotiating with distributors, but the timing for the release is a mess due to COVID-19. Right now all film premiers are delayed, most festivals are canceled or postponed. We will schedule our premiere carefully.

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Gerhard Botz

We congratulate Gerhard Botz to his 79th birthday!

Born on this day in 1941 he is one of the most recent Austrian historians. In our documentary he has a very important part talking about narratives and the political dimension of history. He spans a big arc to the presence. What can we learn from history?

What means “fake” news? Why is the Islamic State destroying 5000 years old sites? And what has that all to do with Holocaust?

It’s worth listening to him!

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My shoes are broken

This is my diary’s entry from February 1st 2019 – exactely one year ago. We where traveling to Terezin, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mauthausen and Dachau to shoot additional footage.

European landscapes and in between concentration camps that have been made into memorials. Visitors lost in small groups over the endless yard of the Dachau concentration camp. Affected students whispering piously, teachers lectureing with soft voices.

Thousands of kilometres, pictures, words, so many memorials and museums. The ice flower at the window of a barrack in Mauthausen. I think of Aba Lewit. Whoever survived the Holocaust was lucky. Luck. Pure luck. Coincidence.

We are pressing our footsteps into the untouched, hard snow of the concentration camp in Landsberg am Lech. My winter shoes are broken. The rubber dissolves from the leather, small black pieces crumble, putting their own trail in the snow. Herbert Schrott’s father froze here in the winter of 1944/45. A few weeks later the camp was freed by the US Army.

The head of the Landsberg am Lech memorial tells me that the camp was always as clearly visible from the road like it still is today. The upperclass from Landsberg was invited to concerts in the camp. The ladies came in summer dresses wearing large hats. Everybody knew it. The Volk has democratically elected Hitler into power. The united German Reich has decided to extinguish over 6 Millions Jews.

I am filming the view of the camp, paning from the street to the semicircular concrete barracks, over which the snow has settled like a cloth. They look like the dwellings in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. A trilogy by the way, which is interspersed with Nazi symbolism. Confusing. I feel sick.

We’re heading south, crossing the alps to Carinthia. Another dark chapter in Austria’s WWII history: Frenetical racism, nationalism and hatred, greed.

And my shoes are broken.

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Years Hidden

Lucia Heilmann is talking about her grandfather being deported from their shared apartment in Vienna. Soon after, she has to leave school and be on the run together with her mother. A Viennese craftsman succeeds in keeping the two hidden in his workshop and crates, thus protecting them from being deported to a concentration camp. Her grandson attracts attention with his tattoos and hairstyle. As if by a pull, he becomes enthralled by the narrative, and his reactions become more and more immediate and personal.

Some years ago, after Lucia participated in stage appearance of eye witnesses in Vienna, she found a swastika painted on her door and received an antisemitic and neonazistic letter.
The Austrian police told her that they can‘t do anything, because writing a letter is not a crime.

Lucia is a very active contemporary witness. Her story reminds us on how cruel the Nazi regime was and it teaches us, how fragile democracy is.

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Katja & Vesna Sturm-Schnabl

The very fact that Katya’s granddaughter Vesna has a Creole mother creates its own atmosphere. Katja Sturm-Schnabl comes from a large farming family in Carinthia, which belongs to the Slovenian ethnic group. Through the eyes of a child she experiences the deportation and death of her sister. Her return from the camp is not easy, the Slovenian survivors are not welcome and are being harassed. She talks about her arduous journey into the Austrian society, how she was confronted with racism and hostility at the Academy of Science and how she finally took therapy, which she was only able to start in the 1990s. Vesna leads this conversation very actively, at times she becomes very passionate and seeks the connection to her current life.
Historical focus: Slovenes, Yugoslavia, linguistic minorities. Labor camp, Umvolkung, Carinthia, Gottscheer, return, minority discrimination, until Ortstafelstreit.

Katja’s granddaughter Vesna
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Backgrounds

Putting a train compartment into a studio sounds easier than it is.

The Austrian Railway Company OEBB supported our project from the very beginning. Shooting the backgrounds was a special challenge. After some discussions about it the OEBB offered us to use diesel locomotive.

For several reasons we choosed to drive from Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria, to Graz, Styria. The OEBB removed on door of the locomotive. Our friends from Neuner SFX helped us rigging 3 ARRI Alexa cameras with ident lenses, and DOP Carlo Hofmann was able to record two an a half hours of background movement!

A very special thank to Dr. Traude Kogoi and Walter Neumann from the OEBB who made this possible.

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