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Beth Am to screen unusual Shoa exchange
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Beth Am to screen unusual Shoa exchange

Documentary brings together the children of Jews and Germans

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

What happens when a Holocaust survivor, her daughter, the daughter’s nanny from Germany, and the son of an SS officer sit down for a conversation?

That is the premise of The Other, a 30-minute documentary that explores whether these individuals — and the groups they represent — can heal, reconcile, or learn to tolerate each other.

On Friday, Nov. 8, Temple Beth Am in Parsippany will host the premiere of the film, whose producer, Peppy Margolis of Clinton, runs Holocaust and tolerance programs as director of cultural outreach at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg.

The screening is part of a series, “Voices of the Holocaust,” dedicated to preserving conversations with survivors.

Margolis and filmmaker Harry Hillard will lead a discussion following the film. The Aurora Trio will perform a piece written for the work by composer and pianist Iouri Grichetchkine and Beth Am’s Cantor Inna Serebro-Litvak. Along with the two composers, the trio features cellist Adrian Daurov.

In a phone conversation, Margolis revealed the strange series of events that led to The Other.

Tovah Friedman, the survivor who appears in the film, was also featured in a documentary from 2011 that Margolis worked on, which looked at the effects of the Holocaust on the children of survivors.

One day, said Margolis, “Tovah was in my office and she told me that her daughter Talya had decided to hire a nanny and the agency sent her a girl from Germany, someone who had never met a Jew,” and Friedman, she added, “was really upset.”

Later, the nanny, Stephanie, was taking classes at RVCC, and came to Margolis for advice. Around the same time, Friedman was giving a presentation at RVCC, and Reinhold Woykowski, safety and facilities manager at the college, stood up and announced that he is the son of a Nazi. He apologized to Friedman for the way his father and family behaved during the Holocaust.

“I sat with my mouth open,” said Margolis, who was present at his public confession. Woykowski, who had been raised in Flemington, later told Margolis that any time he asked about the Holocaust, his father beat him.

Ultimately, Margolis asked Stephanie, Talya and Tovah, and Woykowski if they would consider sitting for individual interviews and then join together for a conversation. They all agreed.

Showing The Other at Temple Beth Am, said Serebro-Litvak, “places the impact of the Holocaust squarely in our own lives, not as people who experienced the Holocaust but as people who are their descendants.

“And the impact on our generation is something we are going to transmit into the future. We have to know how to deal with this. In our temple, we have survivors, their children, and their grandchildren.”

“I myself am a grandchild of a survivor,” said Serebro-Litvak, “and the question for me as well as for others like me is whether we can have a relationship with the grandchildren of the perpetrators of the Holocaust. That’s why this film is so important for us to show.”

The film follows Shabbat services, which begin at 7:30 p.m. The services, film, and performance are free and open to the public.

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