In the early 1990’s, Lawrence Langer, considered by many to be the world’s foremost authority on Holocaust testimonies, managed over 80 hours of interviews with local Holocaust survivors and witnesses, personally conducting most of the interviews. The project was spearheaded by Brookline residents Leon Satenstein and Regina Barshak as part of a Town Commission with the support of then Brookline Community Relations Director Steve Bressler.
The interview tapes ended up in a metal closet for over 20 years.
The documentary film based on those interviews, Soul Witness, The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project, will be presented in a special screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on April 19 at 7 pm. The film sold out at the theater in January.
Judi Bohn of Facing History and Ourselves will serve as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
Following the screening, Adam Strom of Facing History and Ourselves will moderate a Q&A with family members whose testimonies are featured in the film, along with Brookline Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Lloyd Gellineau, and Soul Witness Director/Producer, R. Harvey Bravman.
Family member Dena Salzberg will be a Q&A panelist at the April 19 screening. Her parents and two uncles were part of the original interviews.
“For so many years my father held back some of his true feelings about his Holocaust experiences,” Salzberg said. “The interviewer did an amazing job bringing those feelings out. The film is an amazing production of what our parents and relatives lived through. I was very moved by their testimonials.”
Cheryl Lefman, whose father is featured in the film and who was herself featured in NBC Boston and Boston Globe features on the film, will also join the panel on Wednesday evening.
“I am forever grateful to Harvey Bravman for his tireless efforts in bringing the survivors’ words to life; and for helping fulfill my father’s promise to his father, that he survive to tell his story,” Lefman said. “He’d have been gratified that this documentary was made and his voice was heard.”
Mona Weiner and Sheila White played instrumental roles in ensuring that their father’s story was included in the film project. Their father, Chaim’s interview, had been conducted completely in Yiddish. Weiner and White were able to translate and log their father’s video testimony so that Bravman could include excerpts from his testimony with subtitles. For their work, the two sisters are listed in the credits of the movie. Sheila White will be a member of the April Q&A panel.
Before the January screening, BrooklineHub.com and Facing History and Ourselves hosted a reception at the Brookline Courtyard Marriott, so those families were interviewed for the project could bond and share experiences.
“The reception for the families and friends of the survivors [featured in the film] gave us the opportunity to have conversations with those that we had a natural affinity for, given our shared background and history,” Lefman said.
The January screening sold out all 432 seats at the Coolidge’s main playhouse shortly after the trailer was released.
The documentary is intended for a general audience with an advisory for children under 13.
The April 19 Special Screening is founded and hosted by 501C3 nonprofit, Brookline Hub, Inc. Principal sponsors for the event are The Town of Brookline, Facing History and Ourselves, the Brookline Community Foundation and the Coolidge Corner Theater. All told over 40 local businesses, individuals and non-profits have so far stepped forward to help finally unearth these lost treasures.
The Special Screening is a non-profit venture. All contributions – personal and business – are tax deductible. Some tickets for the April 19 special screening are still available.
Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
Check out videos from the January Screening.