Seventy-three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, 66 percent of U.S. millennials — and 41 percent of Americans overall — cannot identify what Auschwitz is, according to a recently released study commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Statistics like these, coupled with the dwindling number of living Holocaust survivors, illustrate the need to develop new ways to document the Holocaust and educate future generations about the atrocities that occurred.
Over the coming week, several metro DC venues will feature two such productions, the award-winning post-Holocaust documentary “After Auschwitz” and the world premiere of the theatrical concert “Iron & Coal.”
Life After Liberation
In “After Auschwitz,” filmmaker Jon Kean examines the question, “What happens after surviving an unspeakable horror?” The film presents six stories of remarkable women who survived the Holocaust and went on to build lives in the United States, but never truly found a place to call home. The exclusive presentation of this documentary will run from April 27 - May 3 at the AMC Hoffman 22 in Alexandria, Virginia; the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax, Virginia; and the Old Greenbelt Theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
For survivors of the Holocaust, liberation was both an incredible moment and a devastating one. It marked the beginning of a life-long struggle. Most wanted to go home, but there was no home left in devastated post-war Europe. Many came to America and wanted to tell people about their experiences, but were silenced. “You’re in America now, put it behind you” is what they were told. The women Kean followed became mothers and wives with successful careers, but never fully healed from the scars of the past.
“We normally learn about the Holocaust as if it started with Germany invading Poland, and liberation was the end of it,” said Kean. “Allied soldiers triumphantly told Jews in camps, ‘you’re free, go home.’ But what happened to survivors on the day after liberation? And the day after that? That’s the film I wanted to make. By seeing the world through the eyes of these amazing women, we not only hear unique female voices, we witness stories of resiliency and determination that audiences have never heard before.”
Although "After Auschwitz" deals with a specific group of survivors, it is universal in the questions it ponders about moving on after tragedy and adapting to a “normal” life. It’s a story we see repeated by survivors of other genocides — a sad recurring reality that haunts the women portrayed in the film.
The Intergenerational Impact of Trauma
“Iron & Coal” explores how the struggle to adapt to normal life after trauma extends to subsequent generations. An adaptation of composer/lyricist Jeremy Schonfeld’s rock concept album of the same name, “Iron & Coal” reflects on the true story of his father, Gustav, who survived the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp as a 10-year-old boy.
The theatrical concert, directed by Kevin Newbury, explores Gustav’s struggle to cope with the trauma and lingering survivor’s guilt, and his determination to rebuild his life. TheStrathmore and Beth Morrison Projects will present the world premiere of “Iron & Coal” in the Music Center at Strathmore on Thursday and Friday, May 3 and 4, 2018, at 8 p.m.
“We take great pride in supporting work that helps us reflect on history and bring fresh perspective to stories of strength and resilience.” said Strathmore’s artistic director, Joi Brown.
“Iron & Coal” reaches across time to tell story through three characters — Old Gustav (played by Rinde Eckert), Young Gustav (played by Lincoln Clauss), and Jeremy, portraying himself for this performance. Lush arrangements of rock-infused anthems are merged with traditional Jewish prayers and classical music as Gustav’s harrowing story is told from his son’s perspective. Three intersecting storylines explore Gustav’s real-life experiences as a child, the profound impact they had on him as a man, and how those experiences shaped Jeremy, as the child of a Holocaust survivor.
For more information on “After Auschwitz,” visit www.afterauschwitz.com.
For more information on “Iron & Coal” or to purchase tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.