|Directed by:||Ron Steinman||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||57 mins.|
|More Info:||Wikipedia Entry||Category:||History & Remembrance|
The Holocaust did not only take individual lives — it wiped out entire communities. A staggering five thousand shtetls were destroyed by the war. Luboml, My Heart Remembers reconstructs for an hour one such small town as it once was, to explore the vibrant rural Jewish life that — once so central to European Jewry — is now forever lost.
“Life before death and destruction” is the inspiration for the story filmmaker Aaron Ziegelman says he wanted to tell. “I wanted to know about the people in the camps before they were brought there…I believe the first instinct [to make the film] came after seeing the movie Schindler’s List.”
Luboml exposes what the Nazis destroyed. Of the 8,000 Jews who lived in and around Luboml, only 51 survived the Holocaust, and today, not a single Jew lives there. Luboml as it once was –- a simple peaceful society –- has been uprooted, and before this film, only existed in memories. Using survivor interviews, archival film footage and photographs, Luboml resurrects the past to depict a tightly-knit community, like many shtetls that dotted Europe’s landscapes. Its residents shared both a religious tradition and a sincere concern for each other. Every area of life — from work to holidays, and weddings to funerals — is described with colorful anecdotes and lively details by the few who survived.
Isolated from urban societies, the shtetl life of Luboml was a quaint blend of emerging technology and old-fashioned practices. Most citizens lived without refrigerators or running water. “We always had a cow and a garden in front,” one survivor reflects.
But the citizens didn’t think of themselves as primitive. They were proud of the new cinema house and electric lights in the town’s streets that went up in the idyllic period before they knew what danger lay ahead. At night, after dinner, young people would slip out of their homes to go on long walks together, guided by those electric lights.
Luboml reveals the sense of brotherhood among Jews in the quaint towns. “Every place you went, people knew you,” says an old man. The town’s citizens worked together at the market square at the center of town, and they prayed together at the Great Synagogue. When someone died, they mourned by joining in a procession through Luboml to the graveyard.
In fact, the Jewish population of the shtetl was so full of concern for one another that economics became somewhat irrelevant. When one family didn’t have enough money to provide for itself, neighbors would anonymously donate food. One survivor recalls, “We didn’t know if we were rich or poor. Most people were in the same class,” while another chuckles, “I could have been poor, but I didn’t know it.”
But Judaism, which had brought the townspeople together, became the reason for their destruction. The seeds of anti-Semitism in Luboml, which had played out in name-calling and children’s teasing before the war, morphed into a serious threat with Hitler’s rise. The Nazis entered the peaceful market town in tanks. Fear and helplessness overcame the town. One survivor wrote, “Only if one’s hands have been amputated can you understand at all what a Polish Jew is going through.” A lucky few fled from Poland.
Despite all the time that has passed since its destruction, those survivors who once lived in Luboml still remember their hometown dearly. “Every night, before I fall asleep, I am in Luboml,” mourns one survivor who fled Poland during the war. “Still today, I am in Luboml.”
The Nazis destroyed Luboml during the war, but all those who lived there have preserved it in their hearts and memories. That preservation allows this film to provide a rare glimpse of the shtetl life that was. As one survivor recalls, “It was warm. It was beautiful. It was happy. All that is gone.”