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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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Anneliese & Helena Reischl

A 12 year old and a 92 year old – the pairing with the biggest age difference. Ms. Reisch comes from a small Czech town near the Waldviertel border and belonged to a German language group. At the end of the war she flees to Salzburg together with her father where she still lives today. Linguistic affiliation shapes their lives and this conversation makes it very clear how hard it may be for the audience to reflect this time towards the end of their lives. The 12 year old is our youngest conversation partner, her direct and unbiased approach to ask questions is almost refreshing, especially how she succeeds in never doubting the love of her great-grandmother.

Historical focus: South Bohemia, Upper Austria, Salzburg, language border, linguistic affiliation, Sudeten Germans, Czech Republic

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Who we are

Born in Vienna Katharina’s first passion was the cello, before she became an actress. She was trained in Austria and LA, performed in countless films and theatre productions. Her career brought her also to the »SALZBURGER FESTSPIELE« as well as to the stunning performances of Jaqueline Kornmüller’s »GANYMED« in the Museum for Arts in Vienna or »IN THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY«, staged in the Austrian Parliament. Katharina already participated in political discussions when she was a student, and she committed herself to social, ecological and health issues.

For several years she moderates several commemoration events in Austria, such as the Holocaust Memorial Day or the “FEST DER FREUDE”, the annual celebration of the liberation from Nazi Germany on May 8th 1945. In 2007 she founded the “Backyard – Manufaktur für Film” production company together with her husband Fabian.

Fabian studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and started his career as a cinematographer for TV and motion pictures, before he began to write screenplays and to direct films that focus on actual social topics and political developments. In addition to several screenplays he wrote a couple of articles for newspapers, as well as two novels and a travel narration. A special focus of Fabians work lies on trauma & generations.

Our small production company is based in a backyard close to Vienna’s most famous Naschmarkt. We produced the documentary »Greece in Bloom« at the peak of the Greek debt crisis in 2012. Only two month after the tragedy of Lampedusa on Oct. 3rd 2013, when 366 people drowned a few meters off the European borders, we started to shoot the documentary »Lampedusa – No Island«. Two years later we made a film about Vienna’s »Integrationshaus«, an institution which was founded in the middle 1990’s and which is specialised on the integration and treatment of traumatized unaccompanied minor war refugees. Meanwhile Katharina is the chairwoman of the board of this institution.

We have one adult daughter and two cats.

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Light of Hope

A year ago, on November 8th 2019, we joined the “Light of Hope” – event. Remembering the November Pogroms of 1938 a big crowd of people marched from Vienna’s Heldenplatz (Heroes Square), where Hitler was frenetically welcomed in March ’38, to the Judenplatz (Jewes Square), where the big memorial reminds us to this darkest period of Austrian history.

Most of the Viennese people were convinced german-nationalists and hunted the Jews, deported them, destroyed or stole their property. Many participated in leading functions in the Holocaust-death-factories of the Nazis.

During the night form 8th to 9th November 1938 the manhunt reached it’s peak. After that most of the Viennese Jews, nearly 200.000 people before 1938, disappeared – most of them to the concentration camps Auschwitz, Theresienstadt or Mauthausen.

This night is also know as the “Reichskristallnacht”, which is a highly cynic word. It suggests that all Jews were rich and that the pogrom took just action against their goods – the word “crystal” shall symbolise richness.

This narrative tries to play down the brutal murder. It is one of many words from the Nazi’s narrative which are still in use in the common Austrian language.

We desperately wish that the “Light of Hope” is a sign for a change of the 100 year old tradition of blind extremism end nationalism which roots go far beyond 1938.

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The Jewish Cemetery

A small group of volunteers regularly takes care of the Jewish Cemetery in Vienna 18th district, Währing. We visited them work on November 1st, 2018.

As you know we filmed a lot of different commemoration events. The mood on this day was unique and touching. For the mostly catholic Austria November 1st is a holiday that refers to the catholic “Allerheiligen”. A day on which many visit the graves of their ancestors.

During all the work I didn’t see any more impressive and intense event of commemoration. All the Austrian families, who are buried here, all Jewish, all killed by Austrians. Most of their relatives were extinguished in the death factories of Auschwitz, Dachau, Mauthausen or one of the other concentration camps. Those don’t even have a grave.

A special thank to our dear friend Niki Kunrath, who organises not only these meetings with passion – but many other commemoration events in Vienna, too.

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Austria

Heinz Fischer was born on October 9th, 1938 in Graz, Styria. He took office as President of Austria on 8 July 2004 and was re-elected for a second and last term on 25 April 2010, leaving office on 8 July 2016. As a young lawyer he uncovered in 1965 the political scandal of the anti-Semitic professor Taras Borodajkewycz at the Vienna University of World Trade.

Franz Vranitzky (born on October 4th, 1937) is an Austrian politician. A member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ), he was Chancellor of Austria from 1986 to 1997. On 8 July 1991 Vranitzky he acknowledged a share in the responsibility for “the pain brought, not by Austria as a state, but by citizens of this country, upon other people and peoples”, thereby departing from the hitherto official portrayal of Austria as “Hitler’s first victim.”

Both, Vranitzky and Fischer, appear in our film contributing important views on Austria’s political development after WWII.

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Marko Feingold 1913 – 2019

Marko M.Feingold passed on September 19th 2019 in Salzburg. He was president of the Jewish Community of Salzburg until spring 2019 and supervised the Salzburg Synagogue. He was born May 28th, 1913 and reached the age of 106 years. He was the oldest Holocaust survivor in Austria.

When Marko Feingold visited us in December 2017 he was already 104 years old. He traveled from Salzburg to Vienna by train. Due to the fact that he had no grandchildren he was leading the dialogue in front of our cameras with the charming Miriam Brownstone.

Marko Feingold was one of the most active and most famous contemporary witnesses who survived the Holocaust and one the most important fighters against Antisemitism in Austria. He is already missing.

Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

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Aba Lewit

The far-right Austrian magazine “Aula” has described the Jews who were liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945 as a land plague. Holocaust survivor Aba Lewit has complained. His application was dismissed from a court in Graz, Austria.

On Thursday, October 10th, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights has proved Lewit’s complain right and condemned the Republic of Austria, whose protection for Holocaust survivors has completely failed in this case.

Aba Lewit is one of the protagonists in our series »Talk to Me” and in the documentary film we are currently finishing. His story is one that must be told if we like to take responsibility for the future of our children and grandchildren.

The whole team of “Talk to Me” thanks Aba Lewit for his dedication, courage and steadfastness.

Link: Article in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse

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Hungary

Of course the series is closely connected to Austrian history, but many dialogues go far beyond that. The episode I like to introduce to you this week focuses on the Nazi regime in Hungary. But Europe’s post war history, the iron curtain play an important role, as well as the fears that rise from nowadays political developments – in Hungary as well as in other parts of Europe and the USA, too.

Ilona Baczynski has not talked about her story until recently. Not even all members of the family knew that she is Jewish and escaped the Holocaust only by luck. Her grandson Nicolas seems eager to know the exact details of her life between Hitler’s terror and the Soviet threat finally finds a supposed happy ending in Vienna decides to keep her roots to herself after she has married her Catholic husband.

Historical focus of the episode: Hungary, Budapest, Horthy, 1956, Vienna, Cold War, State Treaty

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Richard & Solomon Wadani

Richard Wadani’s son emigrated to Australia over 40 years ago. Due to the long distance, he has seen his grandson only twice in his life, the language barrier made discussions within the family quite difficult. Thanks to a simultaneous translation, the two can now talk directly with each other for the first time. Richard Wadani is born in Prague, but belongs to the Austrian ethnic group which becomes German after the Anschluss. His family has to leave Prague for Vienna, where Richard is recruited by the Wehrmacht and gets to see the suffering of the people in Ukraine. Again and again he steals food supplies from the Wehrmacht to distribute them to the people. He is convicted for theaft but succeeds in avoiding a punishment and he comes to the Western Front from where he deserts to England. There he joins the Czech army. When the war is over, he finds his mother back in Vienna, while she already reached an age at which she cannot and does not want to leave Vienna anymore. In Vienna, Richard meets lots of hostility and disregard for deserters. His biggest success is the construction of the Deserteursdenkmal in Vienna. His grandson is a young man who passionately asks questions and who listens to many of Richard’s stories for the first time in his life.

It was a very touching and intense moment to meet the Wadani – family. Thank you for your cooperation!

Historical focus: Prague, Vienna, Ukraine, deserters

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