‘It’s important that my kids know this’
Questions for Brad Rothschild
Kinderblock survivors, from left, Alex Moskovic, Israel Lazar, Pavel Kohn, and Naftali Furst outside the main gate of Buchenwald on the 65th anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation. From Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald
April 3, 2013
On April 11, 1945, shocked liberators of the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, received a further jolt when some 900 teenage boys emerged from a barracks known as Kinderblock 66.
When the filmmaker son of one of these survivors told New Jersey-raised Brad Rothschild the story of his father’s internment in Kinderblock 66, he said his first thought was that a movie had to be made about the barracks and its miraculous survivors.
The teenagers were the last remnants of families who had perished in the ghettos and camps of Nazi-occupied Poland and Hungary. The boys had been segregated in a part of the camp farthest away from the main gate and SS command.
There, the young inmates, though living in cruelly harsh conditions, were protected by members of the block’s communist underground, led by Antonin Kalina, a Czech, and Gustav Schiller, a Polish Jew. “I have no Jews here; I have only children,” Kalina would say of his commitment to saving these boys’ lives.
In 2010, on the 65th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, several of the estimated 200 remaining survivors of the barracks returned to Buchenwald. Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald — with Rothschild serving as one of its producers — chronicles the return of four of the survivors, Pavel Kohn, Alex Moskovic, Israel Lazar, and Naftali Furst.
In commemoration of Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 90-minute documentary will be screened at the Digiplex Theatres in both Cranford and Sparta April 12-18 and at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown on April 22. Rothschild will be part of a Q&A in Cranford on April 14 following the film.
In an interview with NJJN, Rothschild, 43, discussed the film and its significance to him and his family.
NJJN: How did you first learn of this story?
Brad Rothschild: The executive producer of this film, Steve Moskovic, was the producer of the first film I made (Homeland) in 2008. His father, Alex, was one of the boys in Kinderblock 66 and Steve wanted to make a film about him.
NJJN: What was your role as producer?
Rothschild: Because survivors went in all different directions after the camp’s liberation, some as far as Australia, we worked with a renowned professor of Jewish studies at Michigan State [Kenneth Waltzer] who was very knowledgeable about Kinderblock 66 to help identify and locate our four subjects — two Israelis, an American, and a Czech. I speak fluent Hebrew and travel to Israel regularly, so I had contacts there and was able to help get our Israeli production needs met. We went to Israel to begin filming our two Israeli subjects in March 2010 and then traveled to Buchenwald that April with all four of our subjects to film their return to the camp for the 65th anniversary of its liberation.
NJJN: The film was shown at Buchenwald’s liberation anniversary commemoration last year. What was the response there?
Rothschild: The German citizens who ran the Buchenwald Museum were in tears.
NJJN: What is your New Jersey background and your background as a filmmaker?
Rothschild: I grew up in Westfield and Plainfield, where my mother still lives and where I visit regularly. Though I now live in New York City with my wife and three children, New Jersey is still a huge part of who I am. I went to Solomon Schechter Day School in Cranford [now Golda Och Academy in West Orange].... After college, I lived in Israel for two years and was a speechwriter for the Israeli ambassador to the UN from 1995 to 1997. Though I got my MBA and took a detour into the business world...I always envisioned a career in filmmaking and started writing screenplays.
NJJN: What is your hope for this film and for the legacy of Kinderblock 66 and its survivors?
Rothschild: One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced through my participation in this film is the personal connection I’ve made with the subjects. I speak once a week with Naftali, who lives in Israel and is now part of my life. It’s important that my kids know this and see that these boys — now men — survived their experience. During a recent visit that Alex and I made to a classroom in Riverdale to speak about Kinderblock 66, I told the kids that it was both our privilege to be alive while Alex was alive as well as our responsibility to make sure that his story is heard. It preserves the legacy and confirms that it happened — and that’s what we can do with this film.
If you go
What: Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald
When: Friday-Thursday, April 12-18, 7 p.m.
Where: Digiplex Cranford and Digiplex Sparta theaters
Information: Digiplex Cranford, 908-276-9120; Digiplex Sparta, 973-729-2100; digiplexdest.com
Part of the Digiplex’s DigiNext Film Festival, a series of independent films that span all genres.
Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and survivors will take place on Sunday, April 14, following the screenings at both locations; Brad Rothschild will take part at the Cranford theater, along with survivor Alex Moskovic, and his son, Kinderblock 66 executive producer Steven Moskovic.
When: Monday, April 22, 7 p.m.
Where: Annunciation Center, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown
Information: cse.edu/holocaustcenter, 973-290-4387
Part of the Yom Hashoa/Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration sponsored by the Holocaust Education Resource Center at the College of Saint Elizabeth; the New Jersey Jewish Film Festival is a cosponsor.
Yom Hashoa events
Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed on Sunday, April 7. Below is a list of some of the commemorative events being held by area synagogues and organizations.
The College of Saint Elizabeth will hold a series of Yom Hashoa events on its Morristown campus.
The school’s Holocaust Education Resource Center will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Monday, April 8, 7:30-9:15 p.m. in the Annunciation Center in a program cosponsored with the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest.
Testimony will be given by survivor Sarah Wiener. Participants will include CSE president Sr. Francis Raftery; Howard Rabner, COO and CFO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ; Mark Weitzman, Simon Wiesenthal Center director of government affairs; center codirector Dr. Harriet Sepinwall; and Cantor Joel Caplan, Congregation Agudath Israel, Caldwell.
Survivor Fred Heyman will share his memories of being at the Rosenstrasse protest in Berlin with his mother in the effort to save his father from deportation to Auschwitz at a free screening of Rosenstrasse on Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at the Mahoney Library. Dr. Anthony Santamaria, director, CSE Film Studies Festival, will introduce the film, which is cosponsored by the NJ Jewish Film Festival.
Kinderblock 66 — about hundreds of teenage boys interned at Buchenwald who were saved from near-certain death — will be screened on Monday, April 22, at 7 p.m. in the Annunciation Center.
CSE in-class sessions open to community members include: Survivor testimony from Stella Rabner, introduced by her son, NJ Supreme Court chief justice Stuart Rabner, on Tuesday, April 9, 12:30-1:45 p.m., St. Joseph’s Hall. Testimony from survivor Erwin Ganz, Thursday, April 11, 9:45-11:25 a.m., St. Joseph’s Hall; and from Lona Hess, 5-6 p.m., Henderson Hall.
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‘Live to tell’
Leben, um zu sagen (live to tell), a documentary produced by Dan Bauer, will be screened at Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah, Clark, on Sunday, April 7, at 2 p.m.
The 30-minute film explores Bauer’s family’s journey from Nazi-occupied Vienna to America and is told through the eyes of his 101-year-old grandmother and other relatives.
Bauer is director of public and community relations at McCarter Theatre Center at Princeton and the nephew of Beth O’r/Beth Torah members Suzanne and Michael Miller of Westfield.
The free screening will be followed by a discussion.
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Congregation B’nai Israel, Basking Ridge — Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest director Barbara Wind will speak after Shabbat services on Friday, April 5, at 7 p.m.
Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael, Springfield — Dr. Paul B. Winkler, executive director, NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, will present Why New Jersey Leads the Nation in Holocaust Education on Sunday, April 7, at 11 a.m.
B’nai Shalom, West Orange — A screening of Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good will be held Sunday, April 7, at 6:45 p.m.
Drew University, Madison — A screening of The Boys of Terezin, with a special appearance by Sidney Taussig, will be held on Wednesday, April 10, at 10 a.m. at Baldwin Gym.
Florham Park-Madison Interfaith Council — Harry Ettlinger, a survivor, World War II veteran, and member of the “Monuments Men” who helped return stolen artwork in Europe to their owners, will speak at an interfaith service at Grace Episcopal Church, Madison, on Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m.
Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest — A Yom Hashoa commemoration with area survivors will take place on the Aidekman campus, Whippany, on Friday, April 5, at noon. A Lunch & Learn with Shoa survivor Gina Lanceter will be held at 12:30.
Montclair State University — A lecture, The Warsaw Ghetto: History and Memory 70 Years Later, with author Samuel Kassow will be held Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. at University Hall.
Oheb Shalom Congregation, South Orange — “The Holocaust: One Story at a Time,” an account of survivor Marsha Kreuzman’s experience, will be presented Sunday, April 7, at 11 a.m.
Seton Hall University, South Orange — The 36th annual South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Yom Hashoa Commemoration, preceded by the Walk of Remembrance at 3:15 p.m., will be held on Sunday, April 14, at 4 in Jubilee Hall. Keynote speaker is Larry Pantirer, son of “Schindler Jew” Murray Pantirer.
Temple Sholom of Fanwood/Scotch Plains — A Service of Remembrance and Hope focusing on children who endured the Holocaust will be held on Sunday, April 7, at 7 p.m. Guest speaker is Josef Korngruen, who was on a Kindertransport.