The young woman looks into the video camera and reflects, "I've always had a sense of impending doom that I absolutely felt on the skin." Another woman in her 40s says, "I was born in Germany, but I had a passport that said, `Homeless foreigner.' " A man born in Poland after World War II talks about walking in Warsaw at the age of 5 and seeing a policeman with a dog that looked like his. As he attempted to pet the German shepherd, the policeman snarled, "Get the Jew." The dog grabbed the little boy around the ankle and began dragging him along the street. The boy's mother came running to rescue the screaming child, but when she attempted to lodge a complaint at the police station, she was told, "We will not take a complaint, and if you persist we will arrest you for slandering a socialist authority." The little boy, now grown, looked directly at the camera and says, "At that point I knew I was Jewish."
The 28-minute video "Say I'm a Jew" is the work of award-winning French film artist Pier Marton and will be shown at the Art Barn beginning Sunday, April 7, during a commemoration of "Days of Remembrance 1991 - Holocaust Memorial Week," April 7-12.Marton combines the filmed journey of the post-Holocaust generation with an installation of a simulated railroad car in which participants view his video while seated on rough benches. A black walled entrance blends stark photographs of the European-born Jews from the video with philosophical statements by Marton. Participants can respond to their experience by adding their comments in chalk on the black walls.
"My father was in the French Resistance," Marton said during an interview. "He was an artist and photographer, so he created false ID papers and pamphlets and helped hide German deserters. He was arrested by the Gestapo and almost shot. He refused to wear the yellow star - he could see where it was leading to and said, `Let's organize,' " Marton said. "My mother was in hiding in Hungary very much like Anne Frank. There were eight people including a baby hiding in the back of a commandant's office," he said.
Marton's father lived in a top-floor apartment near an armaments factory in Paris and created an escape through the rooftop by sawing through an iron grill. The grill was left in place but could be removed quickly. "I grew up seeing this thing to go out through - I knew you had to have fast legs to stay alive."
In the video, Marton's own remarks are almost cryptic: "I tried growing up as a French person but I was told `You're not French - you're a Jew.' " He elaborated on an incident during the setting up of his exhibit. "We lived in that apartment building many years. My father took first communion pictures for our neighbors, I helped their son learn English. But one night when there had been somedrinking, they accidentally pushed my motorcycle down. When I went to get them to sign insurance papers for the damage, they shouted, `You are all Jews, I'm not signing insurance papers with a Jew!' " Marton said.
As with many of the post-Holocaust generation, Marton found feelings of regret about being Jewish. "There was a level of oppression and self-hate growing up as a Jew in Europe. There was not wanting others to know you were Jewish, like you were a weird person or a Martian of sorts," he said. "There was the notion that the people around you were involved in the war and that even though there was a peace treaty, what had really changed?"
"Say I'm a Jew" shows the growth this generation has achieved in dealing with the pain and nightmares inherited from their parents. The voices on Marton's video speak of acceptance and pride and healing. Marton was involved in co-counseling, where he developed ethnic pride. Just over a year ago, he visited Auschwitz in hopes of finding documentation for his great-grandfather and his grandmother who perished there.
"I was there in winter when it was cold and foggy and there were not the crowds as in summer. I went through huge cabinets but could not find record of them. I was walking down a corridor and suddenly, you're there - the gas chamber. I went down into that darkness to learn there is such a place as Auschwitz and that I could go on to find the light that is coming from Judaism," he said.
"I am not only aware of the darkness, but I can touch the light that will feed me," Marton said. "There is a work to be done. There is no place when we can say it's over. I cannot do all the healing by myself. I need a partner to dance with, to create a dialogue that will look at theology and create a safe space for Jews. This exhibit is not about creating guilt - it's about what we can do to fight racism and anti-Semitism.
"The prophet Joel said tell your children about the Exodus. Here we are a generation after the Holocaust and it is as unbelievable as the waters parting! My parents' generation will slowly disappear, but the energy that created the Holocaust is still there," Marton said. "To forget is to kill twice."- Days of Remembrance is being sponsored by the University of Utah Office of Diversity and Faculty Development, the Middle East Center, the Associated Students of the University, Hillel, the United Jewish Council of Salt Lake City, the Utah Humanities Council and the Salt Lake Arts Council.
Weeklong events mark Holocaust Memorial Week
Sunday, April 7: Exhibit opening, "Say I'm a Jew" by Pier Marton (through April 29); The Art Barn, 54 Finch Lane. Public reception, 6-9 p.m. "Exposing the Pain," remarks by Marton at 8 p.m. Art Barn hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Information: 596-5000.
Wednesday, April 10: A workshop, "The Holocaust," 1 to 5 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center. Ronald M. Smelser, history professor at the University of Utah, will teach the session. Registration is for History 391R through the U. Division of Continuing Education. Call 581-6461 for tuition information.
At 7:30 p.m. a panel discussion, "Shame and Identity," will begin at the Art Barn, 54 Finch Lane. Participants: Pier Marton, Laurence Loeb, Harris Lenowitz, Colleen McDannell and Ronald Smelser.
Thursday, April 11: Memorial Service and Ceremony of Proclamation at noon in the Capitol Rotunda. Rabbi Frederick Wenger will officiate and read a memorial prayer. Holocaust survivor Dr. Michael Schafir will light a candle, and Gov. Norman H. Bangerter and Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis will read proclamations.
At 7:30 p.m. at the Mark Greene Auditorium, Francis A. Madsen Building (business building, U. campus), Peter R. Black, chief historian of the Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice, will discuss "The Pursuit of Nazi War Criminals in the United States, 1979-1991."
Friday, April 12: Mina Iancu, deputy director of the Department of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem (Museum of the Holocaust, Jerusalem), will speak at noon at the Alumni House, U. campus. Her topic: "Righteous Gentiles and the Holocaust." Righteous gentiles are non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II. Iancu, a child of Romanian Holocaust survivors, is the world's leading authority on gentiles who sheltered Jews.