Beginning April 20, the documentary feature film, “Soul Witness, The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project,” will be available for the first time on Video on Demand. The VOD launch coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). The film has sold out several screenings in the Northeast, including six sellouts at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. “Soul Witness” also screened in Pittsburgh to benefit the three congregations affected by the October 27, 2018, mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Thirty percent of video on demand sales will go to nonprofits dedicated to helping eradicate intolerance.
“Soul Witness” is based on more than 80 hours of Holocaust video testimony, conducted approximately 30 years ago in Brookline. The goal of the effort was to create a living memorial through Holocaust testimonies of local survivors and those who had witnessed the liberation of Nazi concentration camps while serving in the U.S. military during the Second World War.
Holocaust survivor Regina Barshak and Holocaust liberator Leon Satenstein spearheaded the project, which included Stephen Bressler, then Brookline’s Human Relations Director, and world-renowned Holocaust testimony expert Lawrence Langer. The project was part of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimony at Yale University’s affiliate testimony program. Brookline-based Facing History and Ourselves, led by Margot Strom, also played a key role in the project.
Over the course of 6 years, 36 Holocaust survivors and three witnesses were interviewed. Interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 7 hours. In total, over 80 hours of testimony was conducted.
The project, conducted by a hand full of dedicated people, was nothing short of epic. Due to reasons that are as yet mostly unknown, the tapes ended up in a metal closet for decades.
“Soul Witness” is intended to bring to light to this incredible project and those committed to it, while finally allowing the stories and lessons from those who courageously shared their experiences 30 years ago to be seen by the general public.
“R. Harvey Bravman’s Soul Witness is a quietly devastating oral history,” said Peter Keough, Boston Globe film critic. “This film is a tribute to the survivor’s courage, resiliency, and an all too timely reminder that it always can happen again.”
“This film is important both for the stories that survivors share, but also for the way their voices are presented,” said Mark Skvirsky and Tracy O’Brien of Facing History and Ourselves. “The structure and tone of the film ‘humanizes’ these individuals who might otherwise be perceived simply as victims.”
“There isn’t anything we can do about the Holocaust; it happened before most of us were born. I do believe we can do something about how we treat each other,” Soul Witness Director R. Harvey Bravman commenting on the film. “My hope is that this film will play a small part in helping to remind ourselves of the consequences of not being present and vigilant in the face of all forms of intolerance and unjustifiable hate.”
The film is intended for a general audience with an advisory for children under 13.
“Soul Witness, The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project” is available now on Video on Demand.