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August 30, 2015 / 15 Elul, 5775
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Here I Learned Love


Itzik Weinberg – Still from 2011 documentary:
Here I Learned to Love: a film by Avi Angel. Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films

Itzik Weinberg – Still from 2011 documentary: Here I Learned to Love: a film by Avi Angel. Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films

Avner Kerem – Still from 2011 documentary: Here I Learned to Love: a film by Avi Angel. Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films

Avner Kerem – Still from 2011 documentary:
Here I Learned to Love: a film by Avi Angel. Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films

The movie continues to document how the boys and Malka miraculously were able to escape Poland into Hungary, only to be caught in the Nazi grip again. In one last courageous act, Malka tossed the boys on to a train everyone thought was going to Spain and then Palestine. It was the famous “Kastner Train” that had purchased the lives of 1670 Jews from Nazi controlled Budapest. From that momentous journey Avner comments that his childhood memories begin with the constant click-clack of the train. But it was not to be and instead they ended up in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp where another heroic woman, Naomi Meyer, their third mother, ‘adopted” the brothers and managed their survival until the train’s passengers were released to Switzerland in December, 1944. This 20-year-old woman nurtured the boys, taught them “everything, to write, to draw. Here I learned to love.” Itzik muses “the foundations of my whole life were laid here. In this hell, we flourished again.” Finally towards the end of the movie they visit Naomi’s grave in Switzerland. Crushed by the death of her fiancée and the refusal of the authorities to allow her to adopt the brothers, she had committed suicide.

As these scenes from their past unfold in words, we see the brothers Avner and Itzik in modern Budapest, at the present sites of their youth. The world rushes around them, unaware that they are treading on a sacred history, one of personal as well as national Jewish suffering and survival. Young couples with their children stroll about in a normal and peaceful life seemingly unaware of their city’s terrible history. Later Avner and Itzik have a drink with the filmmaker Avi. They muse how each spent their lives differently; one ignoring his history, running from it, and the other pondering it in writings and memoirs. Now they look down and see they are holding each other’s hand, perhaps the first time since they held hands to run away from the Nazis. They have found each other again and they embrace. This is where Avi Angel’s sensitive film transcends the terrible facts of two brother’s lives and forces us to understand that in the journey to confront our past that we must all take someday, we must be able to reach out, acknowledge, forgive and hug our brethren.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


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