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    Hiding and Seeking

    Sixty years of secrets

    In the new documentary "Hiding and Seeking," survivors — some of whom hid the others from the Nazis — offer yet another perspective on the question, can Holocaust histories become too much of a bad thing?


    In the recent update of her monumental study, "Film and the Holocaust," Annette Insdorf estimated that for every Holocaust documentary that actually gets seen, there are at least six others made. (She lists almost 70 — an average of one every two months — made since 1990.) In the last year alone, we've seen at least five Holocaust docs, including "Secret Lives," "The Nazi Officer's Wife" and "Bonhoeffer," and two features, "Taking Sides" and "The Statement."

    Full title: Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance after the Holocaust.
    Directed by: Menachem Daum, Oren Rudavsky.
    "Hiding and Seeking," is a deceptively simple home movie cum documentary by Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky. But it speaks directly to the above Holocaust documentary question — posed in an article last June by New York Times' writer Barry Gewen — that prompted a flurry of letters. Most reiterated that there could never be enough Holocaust films because each experience was singular.

    But some singularities are more singular than others and "Hiding and Seeking" features yet another aspect of the holocaust experience, previously undocumented. "Hiding and Seeking," the second of Daum's proposed trilogy on Jewish responses to the Holocaust (his first was "A Life Apart: Hasidim in America") is a deceptively small and personal film about the immense question of "intolerance of the other."

    During World War II, Daum's father-in-law and his two brothers were rescued by Christian neighbors in his native Poland. Yet the father-in-law, like many other Holocaust survivors, considers all Poles to be "incurably anti-Semitic and beyond redemption." And these are the views he's passed along to his grandsons, Tzi Dovid and Akiva, who are yeshiva students in Israel. For Daum, a secular humanist born in a DP camp (as was his wife, Rifka), this film became his hope of stopping the intergenerational transmission of hatred within his own family.

    A visit to Poland finds Jews as scarce as hen's teeth. But it also uncovers several small miracles, including the discovery of two of the actual rescuers still living on the same Polish farm where Rifka's father and his two brothers were hidden 60 years earlier. The rescuers explain what great personal risk they took hiding three Jewish boys, and their disappointment at never hearing from any of them again is as palpable as it is surprising.

    The film moves us in unsuspected ways as six decades later father and sons join together to honor the saviors of their father-in-law/grandfather/uncles. But there is no Hollywood happy ending. While Daum's sons are clearly moved, they are not convinced nor do they give up their intolerant ideas. As one of them says, "they [the Polish people] would probably do it again," an eerie echo of myriad testimonies in "Shoah," Claude Lanzman's harrowing 1985 filmed oral history of the Holocaust in Poland.

    FEBRUARY 7, 2004

    Reader comments on Hiding and Seeking:

  • Documentary film: Hiding and Seeking   from Abruzzo04, Apr 19, 2004
  • Thought Provoking   from Peggy Durfey, Feb 5, 2006
  • Letters were exchanged...   from Jay Schwartz, Jul 28, 2007

  • Post a comment on "Hiding and Seeking"