By LEORAH GAVIDOR | Downtown News
The Holocaust is fading from collective memory. Survivor Rose Schindler and local filmmaker Randall Christopher hope to keep that from happening. On a chilly November evening at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan, the two shared stories in front of a packed audience.
Rose Schindler, 89, was born in Czechoslovakia. In 1944, the German army came to her small town and ordered the Jewish residents to prepare for a trip. Her family did not own any suitcases; they had never traveled. Her mother told her and her siblings to put on a few sets of underwear and as many clothes as they could. Her father hid the family jewelry and some money on the farm where they lived, though soldiers had directed them to turn in valuables “for safekeeping.” They boarded the trains. She and her two sisters, one brother, and their parents ended up in Auschwitz. Rose was 14.
Randall Christopher, local animator and award-winning filmmaker, didn’t learn much about the Holocaust in school. Growing up in the Orlando area, he didn’t know anyone Jewish. One day, reading the New York Times, Christopher came across a story about Nazi Adolf Eichmann, the high-ranking Nazi in charge of logistics for the “Final Solution.” He escaped capture after the war and fled to Argentina, where Israelis hunted him down in 1960. He was executed in Israel in 1962. Christopher was enthralled by this part of history — how had he not heard of it before? He set out to learn all he could, and decided to make a film.
“The Driver is Red,” an animated short that has won 42 awards, tells the dramatic story of Eichmann’s capture in Argentina. Screened as an introduction to Rose Schindler’s talk, the film offers a brief but powerful glimpse into one aspect of Holocaust history. Christopher hopes it inspires people to learn more. He has made it available for free viewing online so teachers can show it in classrooms and anyone can watch it.
When the war ended and Rose Schindler made her way back to the rural part of Czechoslovakia that she had called home, she found the family house empty and unlivable. Her parents and brother had been killed at Auschwitz. She retrieved the hidden jewelry and found her father’s pocket watch. She showed the audience the watch chain she still wears around her neck.
“This is what keeps me going.”
Rose and her husband Max, who met in London through a post-war program for survivors, made their way to the United States in the early 1950s. Rose has made it her life’s purpose to educate people about what she and Max and others experienced in concentration camps, traveling around San Diego to meet with schoolchildren and audiences. With standing room only at Bread & Salt, the crowd listened intently while Rose talked candidly.
“After what happened to you, how can you trust human beings?” an audience member asked.
“You have to trust people, what else can I do?” she replied. Her book, “Two Who Survived,” tells the whole story.
— Leorah Gavidor can be reached at email@example.com.