This affecting documentary tells the story of the Holocaust through fresh eyes. Fumiko Ishioka teaches young children in Tokyo about the Holocaust. When a traveling exhibit from Poland comes to Tokyo, it includes the suitcase of Hana Brady, a young Czech girl about the students age (13) who lost her life at Auschwitz. Ms. Ishioka and her students begin a project to learn as much as they can about the Holocaust. This film is as much about their sobering journey to understanding as it is about the Brady siblings, Hana and George, and their parents. All of whom, except George, lost their lives to the Nazis.
The class researches and discovers that Hana’s older brother is still alive and living in Toronto. George had been unaware of the existence of Hana’s suitcase, or indeed of her end. He had suffered the daily torture of the memories of his being the protector of his little sister and, in his mind, having failed. When he is contacted by the children in Tokyo, he and his daughter travel there to meet them and see Hana’s suitcase. It’s a powerful moment, and must have been a moment that those kids will never forget. Many of them vowed to dedicate their lives to teaching, peace and tolerance. One can guess that they are following through on this dedication.
But the children tell the story themselves. Children in classrooms in Tokyo, Canada, and the Czech Republic. Children telling the story of tragic events in other children’s lives can be almost heartbreakingly powerful. That’s why this is not just another retelling of the Holocaust. This one really makes a difference – one hopes.
When I visited Prague many years ago, I spent a day at Theresienstadt and at the Ghetto Museum. Being in the The Ghetto Museum and standing before the bureaucracy of extermination is a moment in time that is seared into my brain forever. I’ll never forget it. A few of the pictures I took on that trip…