The Invisibles

After Berlin was declared judenfrei in 1943, approximately 7,000 Jews continued to hide in the Nazi capital, often in plain sight. Only about 1500 –1700 survived. What did it take to survive World War II as a Jew in supposedly Jew-free Berlin? Spur of the moment decisions; a sixth sense for imminent danger; practiced bravado; a blond dye job; razor-sharp instincts; fake papers; a lucky break. The Invisibles leaves us inspired by the shrewd resourcefulness and defiance of young people and by the courage of the many non-Jews who hid and assisted them.

The Invisibles, presented by the Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival and through a generous grant provided by the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and sponsored by The Skidmore Office for Jewish Student Life and Temple Sinai, will be shown on July 22, at 7pm, at the Wilson Chapel on the Skidmore campus.

Gathering testimony from survivors is an essential work of historians, even more so now since the “news” is increasingly vulnerable to manipulation. And with anti-Semitism on the rise, Stephen Spielberg established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation in 1994 as a place to archive the taped stories of survivors. Survivors are dying off daily now. The interviews in The Invisibles are an important piece of the story. Said one survivor, “I don’t know if I was scared or not. I just know I had the will to live.”

The film is four separate narratives, woven together, pulled along by the interview subjects providing their testimony for the camera. These survivors, in their 80s and 90s, still have vivid memories. They are all engaging storytellers. “It’s always the details that stick with you,” says one.

German director, Claus Rafle, who is not Jewish and had a Nazi grandfather, was nervous about this sensitive point in his background and its bearing on Jewish history and reception of his work. However, the film became popular in Israel as the heroics were embraced.  He discovered that those who aided the ones he portrays in the film are all deemed “Righteous Among the Nations.” It was only the neo-Nazis who vilified his film.

Rafle and his team pulled off one of the toughest tricks in narrative movie-making. They meshed recent documentary interviews with top-notch re-enactments. The approach is so well conceived and executed that this German language film, with English subtitles, proves more effective than a straightforward dramatization.The Invisibles will be shown on July 22, at 7pm, at Wilson Chapel, Skidmore College campus (815N Broadway, Saratoga Springs). A panel discussion and dessert reception will follow. $5 donation requested. 

Call 518-584-8730 opt. 2 to RSVP. or office@saratogasinai.org.

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