UNSPEAKABLE: An Animated Holocaust Documentary
Between the years of 1933 and 1945 the Nazi war machine committed unspeakable acts of horror that forever changed the story of the Jewish people—and almost 70 years later, it is nearly impossible to truly understand the atrocites that occured during this time. It is only through telling and re-telling of individual narratives and personal histories that one can begin to understand the true impact and legacy of the Holocaust.
Through animation and first-hand testimony, UNSPEAKABLE offers these remarkable stories of survival. We are at an important moment in history where the last survivors of the Holocaust are slipping away and the window of opportunity to preserve their still-living memory is almost closed. Scores of wrenching images have been burned into our collective memory through a myriad of Holocaust films and documentaries: bodies piled upon bodies, the face of a crying child as it is wrenched from its mother’s arms, the emaciated man huddled in the corner overshadowed by towering SS officers. This footage plays a vital role in preserving history. And yet, animation, which lacks the narrative and physical boundaries of traditional film, offers an opportunity to witness these experiences through a new lens and help continue the essential dialogue that these events really happened and can happen again if society lets these lessons fade from view.
This film is personal for many involved in its making—we are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of family members who survived and perished during the Holocaust. Visually inspired by paintings of the director’s 98-year-old grandfather, a survivor who used a paintbrush to tell the story he found so difficult to describe in words,UNSPEAKABLE offers a powerful and unique portrait of atrocities which must never again be allowed to occur.
But we can’t do it alone.
Through a groundswell of community awareness, our goal is to have people of all ethnicities, religions, and classes come together in support of this project and, in turn, take a stand against genocide. This project will help educate, inspire, and preserve the legacy of the individuals and families affected by the Holocaust for generations to come. Only through the generosity of others will we be able to make this vision a reality and give a voice to victims both past and present.
Our initial focus will be to create an 8-10 minute short film, telling one of the 52,000 stories from The Shoah Archives. This animated short will be used as an educational tool at synagogues, churches, and schools worldwide. In addition, the short film coupled with your donations will build the foundation for a feature-length animated film, allowing us to begin initial story development and research.
The feature-length film will interweave multiple stories, illustrating the wide breadth of experiences endured by survivors: outsiders in a time and place when nothing was more dangerous than being thought of as different. Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, and intellectuals all suffered under the Nazi regime, and it is these stories that will be explored. Our narrative journey begins before the war with life in shtetls, and moves through the Nazification of Europe and the horrors of concentration camps, finally coming to liberation and reintegration—and the impact of the war on those who survived and their families.
If you would like to send a check, please make payable to “Artspire, a Program of NYFA” and mail to FACULTY NY 68 Jay Street #812 Brooklyn NY 11201
UNSPEAKABLE: An Animated Holocaust Documentary is a sponsored project of NYFA, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of UNSPEAKABLE: An Animated Holocaust Documentary must be made payable to NYFA and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Member since: May 21, 2014
When I was nine years old my grandmother passed away after a long and arduous battle with cancer. I stood at the back of the crowded synagogue next to my older brother. My new patent leather shoes pinched my feet and my wool dress was itchy. I didn’t know my grandmother well, but I thought of her generous smile, her love of dancing, and her remarkable doll collection that was the envy of all the female cousins. As I stood there listening to the rabbi speak in a foreign tongue, my great-aunt Yetta flung herself onto my grandmother’s coffin where she commenced to wail and keen. I looked nervously to my brother and asked what was wrong. He took my hand and said: “Nanny Lisa was the only family she had left.” Only when I was older did I realize that my great-aunt, like many survivors of the Holocaust, had seen, lost, and survived so much more than most of us ever endure. For Yetta to lose the one sibling she had left—the sister who embodied the only remaining link to her own childhood—was a loss she simply could not bear.
My paternal grandparents were two of the estimated 3.5 million Jews who somehow survived the concentration camps. Like many survivors, they rarely spoke about their experiences. We, their descendants, have uneasily gathered their stories, slowly piecing together fragmented tales to create a narrative representing our legacy. As my grandparents’ generation disappears, it is our duty as their progeny to keep their stories of survival alive.
My grandfather Irving was Nanny Lisa’s devoted husband. He started painting when he was a child and only recently gave it up. At 98-years-old, his hands are now too feeble and he cannot see terribly well. Yet his paintings tell a story he often found too difficult to describe in words. These paintings are the inspiration behind Unspeakable, a tribute to my own familial legacy – and to the legacy of all those affected by the Holocaust.
Nasya Kamrat is an award-winning producer and director with a passion for telling stories that are socially impactful. With over 10 years of experience in visual story telling, Nasya’s background in multimedia theatre and film allows her to bring a cross disciplinary approach to all of her projects.
Member since: May 21, 2014
Member since: June 3, 2014
Rachel Friedman is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure (Bantam Books). She’s written for The New York Times, Guernica, BUST, Creative Nonfiction, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Bon Appetit, and The Hairpin, among others. She’s a contributor to The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals and The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volume 9.
Member since: June 2, 2014
UNSPEAKABLE, at its core, is an animated documentary about the survivors of the Holocaust—a weaving of stories that will create a historical documentation of what happened and the lasting effect that such an atrocity had on the survivors, their children and their grandchildren. It is a film created n hopes of educating current and future generations so that the mantra of “never again” becomes a reality to all people, everywhere.
This film is timely not only as a lesson in history, but also to show the similarities to what’s happening right now, all over the world. We as a global community need to be reminded again of what can happen when the human in humanity gets lost. The UNSPEAKABLE happened to the Jews and minority people during the Holocaust, and our vision is that this film will create a conversation—a dialogue that will ensure that the UNSPEAKABLE does not happen again.
There are many inspiring films about the Holocaust, but unlike most films of this genre, we have chosen to animate this documentary. We believe that by animating these stories, we will be able to reach the audience with a higher level of engagement. By creating a sense of separation between what is being said and what is being seen, our intent is that the viewer will be able to fully immerse themselves in narrative without getting overwhelmed by the all too graphic imagery. As an animated documentary, UNSPEAKABLE has the chance to reach a wider demographic, one frame at a time.
Joshua Balgos is an animator and director who specializes in visual storytelling through many forms of animation and filmmaking. His practice originates from a contemporary film art background in crafting layered and provocative stories commenting on identity and societal issues. After finishing his MA studies at The Royal College of Art in London, Joshua has continued to produce video and animated films. His work have been shown globally at film festivals, museums and art exhibitions including the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Webby Awards, Huashen Culture Park, Zendia Moma, Kuandu Museum of Fine Art, Shanghai E-Arts Festival, Off Cuts, Sundance Film Festival, Liverpool Biennial, Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Rapture TV, Super Shorts Intl Film Festival, EmergeandSee, Portabello Film Festival, London Institute of Contemporary Art, and Onedotzero.
Member since: June 3, 2014
Born in Israel in 1952 and immigrating to Brooklyn, NY, in 1957, David is the son of Irving Kamrat, whose artwork is featured in UNSPEAKABLE. David has spent his entire life studying the Holocaust. After pursuing advanced Jewish Studies in Hadar Hatorah and Morristown Rabbinical College, David and his wife Jane established Emunah Farm in the 1970s, one of the first kibbutz-style settlements in upstate New York. David is the founder of JAM and All, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. The mission of JAM and All is to bring Jews, Muslims and people from all faiths together by creating a community that fosters dialog, education and cultural exchange.
Member since: June 3, 2014
A few months ago I attended a Passover seder on the theme of social justice. We sat around the table talking about Malcolm X, Gandhi, Moses, and eventually Anielewicz. We read his last letter and spoke about “Jewish resistance.” We contemplated the age-old question of “what in the world would you, in this day and age, be willing to rise up against?”
As I listened I couldn’t help but think about my great aunt Ilona Karmel, the novelist, teacher, and poet. She was born in Krakow before the war and survived with her sister, my grandmother, despite being run over by a tank during a death march in the twilight of German’s rule over Poland. I thought about how she and my grandmother wrote poems in the concentration camp and hid them by sewing them into the hems of their skirts. I thought about how when the tank crushed their legs and killed their mother in front of them they tore open their skirts and gave the poems to a cousin who left them for dead. I thought about how they survived. I thought about my grandfather being handed the poems in the days after liberation and what he must have felt clutching the body of their work, the art of their suffering.
Years ago, when my great aunt was still alive my father told me that my great Aunt was part of the Krakow ghetto resistance. I was young and steeped in the tales of Anielewicz. Hearing that she was part of that tradition was like hearing that she was a super hero. I wanted to ask her, to hear more but my dad said she didn’t like to talk about it, that he had asked her once and her reply had been, “oh that was just girlscout crap.” My father explained to me that she had worked in the offices sending illegal messages around the ghetto and organizing the troops and that she had been ashamed for not being allowed to actually fight.
Recently I’ve been thinking that she meant something else. Recently I’ve been thinking that political resistance is important, that change is fundamental for our survival, and that rising up against the evils of alienation, corruption, and degradation a necessity. But at the seder I couldn’t help but feel that Anielewicz’s fight is only one way.
As we poured the next cup of wine and dedicated it to resistance, I raised my hand. I told everyone that I wanted to add to our picture of resistance: that writing poetry in a camp while people die around you is a revolutionary act. Painting images of things that no one should ever have to see is a revolutionary act. Writing novels, telling stories, forming a community of souls bound by a narrative is a revolutionary act. It may not force change and it may not destroy enemies, but it strives to explain and understand and it strives to preserve and illuminate. And, in its striving, it diminishes the evil, alienation and degradation in the world. This striving is why I’ve joined “The Unspeakable” team. This striving is why I write and create. This striving is what I think about when it’s Yom HaShoah 71 years after the uprising in Warsaw and 71 years since my aunt Ilona and my grandmother Henia wrote poetry and began sewing.
Aaron Wolfe is a screenwriter, film editor, and Moth GrandSLAM winning storyteller that’s been featured on the Moth Podcast as well as the Moth Radio Hour. His award-winning short film “Record/Play” was an official selection at The Sundance Film Festival and was shortlisted for the 2014 Oscars. When he’s not busy working on “Unspeakable” and being a new dad, he’s busy writing the feature adaptation of his short film for Focus Features.
Member since: June 5, 2014