History Slam Episode 138 – Cheating Hitler: Surviving the Holocaust

By Sean Graham

Cheating Hitler: Surviving the Holocaust will be screened on Wednesday November 6 at the Bell TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, after which there will be a special talkback with the three Holocaust survivors featured in the film along with the director and producer. The world broadcast premiere will be on November 11 at 9pm on History Channel.

Survivor Rose Lipszyc visits Majdanek Concentration Camp where her father was last seen alive.

During the 75th anniversary of D-Day back in June, we were reminded that as we continue to move further away from the Second World War the number of living veterans continues to decrease and that we need to honour their service and do everything possible to preserve their stories. While veterans got all the press in June, there is another group of people who experienced the war whose stories also need to be heard while we still can: Holocaust survivors. Each year, the number of survivors of the horrors of the Nazi’s genocide decreases. While there are organizations dedicated to preserving their stories, the ability to hear about the violence, fear, and, in a lot cases, courage that embody their experiences first hand represents a powerful opportunity. For a lot of survivors, telling their stories is not only about teaching younger generations about what happened, but also about warning the world that, without vigilance, it could happen again.

In the powerful new documentary Cheating Hitler: Surviving the Holocaust, three survivors tell share stories of the Holocaust. All three were children in the 1940s, but their re-counting of the experience is as vivid as if it it happened yesterday. In following their stories, viewers also see researchers work to answer questions and resolve lingering mysteries that have stayed with them throughout their lives. Beautifully combining the lost innocence of their childhoods, the inexplicable violence that came with the murder of 6 million people, and the perseverance of survival, the film exquisitely brings a level of humanity to the inhumane.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with the film’s director Rebecca Snow and producer Steve Gamester. We talk about the process of finding the three survivors featured, the research process, and the emotion in telling these stories. We also talk about the film’s style, the survivor’s different reactions to the research, and the valuable lessons that we can learn from survivors.

Sean Graham is a historian with Parks Canada, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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