Exploring lesser known historical places and discovering untold stories
Why are some history stories told, but not others? Learn about the anti-colonialism movement, racism, Antisemitism, resistance, the LGBTQIA+ community, family histories, the Holocaust and much more. This is a video series of stories uncovering lesser known narratives and places in the context of Nazi injustices.
Discover these untold stories and be amazed.
Humanity in Action Fellows and Senior Fellows produced these videos. They received a supporting stipend.
Salonico, as the then-predominantly Ladino residents called it, was once a city with a thriving Jewish community. Settled there after 1492, they sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire following their purge from Spain. The community thrived over the centuries, accounting for 60,000 out of the 157,000 Thessaloniki inhabitants, but came close to total destruction when the Nazis deported and murdered more than 90% of their community.
Nikos Vrantsis believes that there is a lesson to be learned from this tragic past. He sees a connection between past events and today’s new social divisions drawn on the same basis of property scarcity.
“This short documentary follows the traces of Jewish life in the city of Thessaloniki and finds answers to why its Jewish vibrance was silenced”
The Poetry of Amelia Roselli
Directed by: Sabrina Anna
Millions of people today are fleeing oppression and being forced into exile for their safety. Multilingual poet and anti-fascist activist Amelia Rosselli attempted to translate her experience of exile into words. As a consequence of her father Carlo Rosselli’s anti-facist work against Mussolini, Amelia was condemned to a life in exile before she was even born. This is the story of her poetry, and why it can at times feel so disorienting and unknown.
The German city of Hamburg used to have a thriving Chinese community prior to World War II. On May 13, 1944, the Gestapo sent members of that community to labor camps, where they were tortured and forced to work to their deaths. Chinese-American activist Sharon Chin examines this untold Nazi atrocity, while sharing her hopes for the future.
“We visited the former Chinatown and found small traces of history…”
The director of the short film “Life ‘Unworthy’ of Living”, Tomasz Cebulski believes that the way society treats people with disabilities directly reflects our morality and humanity. For his research, he visited two former psychiatric institutions where people with disabilities were murdered in the 1940s as part of Nazi Germany’s euthanasia program.
What can we learn from history? How do we stop political and social discrimination against people with disabilities today?
“Can our inability to be compassionate lead to genocide?”
Nikola Lero is determined to bring the whispers of Holocaust memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina to a larger audience and address the lack of memory around certain spaces that used to be important for Bosnian Jews. In ‘Places that Whisper,’ Nikola examines what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina during World War II, where 70% of the Jewish population did not survive the atrocities of the Holocaust by the end of the war.
“Besides the heritage of pain, engraved in a couple of stones, we won’t see much”
Anton de Kom’s activism is an illustration of that. Even after being persecuted by the government for his anti-colonial thoughts and writings since the early 1930s, de Kom still joined the Dutch resistance against the Germans during World War II. This is the story of Anton de Kom, whose words still inspire many activists around the world.
“There is an important link to be made between colonial history and the Holocaust”
Before 1943, 67% of the population of Krynki, Poland was Jewish. Today, there are no Jews left. This is the story of Beata, who explores her family’s relationship to Krynki, the town where her father and grandfather were born and where she would spend most summers as a kid. Unaware of the tragedies that occurred under the ruins where she used to play as a child, Beata’s research reveals the value and pain of looking into one’s own family history.
“What do you actually know about your town’s history? What about your family’s history?”
Fred Bachner and Thomas Blatt – survivors of the Auschwitz and Sobibór Nazi extermination camps – valued documenting the truth over any retributive aspects of justice. This video serves as a testament to their efforts traveling to testify at Holocaust trials across Europe, and even in Thomas Blatt’s case, interviewing Nazi Karl Frenzel to document Nazi crimes in a way that had never been done, and to preserve the truth at all costs. Their daughters carry on their work 77 years later, as Holocaust revisionism and denial grows stronger. The short film ‘Intergenerational Justice,’ directed by Anoush Baghdassarian, tells the story of these survivors and why being committed to truth is crucial for intergenerational justice.
During World War II, not only were members of the LGBTQIA+ community brutally persecuted by Nazis in Poland and Germany, but the spaces in which they could exist authentically were also destroyed. Nowadays in contemporary Germany and Poland, memories of communal LGBTQIA+ history prior to World War II are being forgotten. Yet, with the continuous injustices they face in Germany and Poland, those memories can illuminate key aspects of the experiences of LGBTQIA+ members who are alive today.
In ‘Redefining Memory’, Adam-Joseph Ropizar emphasizes why it is crucial to shed light on the memories of LGBTQIA+ communities and spaces during and prior to Nazi persecution.
“Ropizar suggests that only with authentic communal spaces can the LGBTQIA+ communities not only survive, but also thrive.”
Hundreds of ‘human zoo exhibitions’ took place in Europe and the United States between the late 1800s until the late 1950s. During World War II, these ‘exhibitions’ forced people of color to cook, eat, and fight in war games under the prying eyes of white Europeans and US Americans. While ‘human zoos’ create a history of cultural, ethnic, and scientific racism, they are also a part of a history of resistance; a history of daring to look back.
“Human exhibits were made to cook, eat, and fight in war games as well as do other intimate activities under the curious prying eyes of white Europeans.”
This short documentary follows the story of Vale, a young and active member of Hashomer Hatzair Germany. The Jewish youth movement has existed since the early 1900s. Vale’s great-grandfather Norbert Meyer was an active member in the 1930s before he fled the Nazis and moved to Chile. Today Vale hopes to connect with her past, while building the movement back up.
“I hope that it will become like it was back in the days, a really big youth movement.”
Before 1933, Germany was a centre for the LGBT+ community and culture including trans and gender non-conforming people. Berlin’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft lead the way on gender and sexuality research. Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, the founder of the institute, coined the term transsexualism. Hitler’s Nazi government brutally targeted the trans community and destroyed the work of the Institute. Trans people have come a long way since the policies of the Nazi’s that were meant to silence them, but the community still faces stigmatisation, harassment, and persecution.
“I thought this would be a story about death, but it’s a story about life.”
Three generations after her Jewish family vanished from Europe, Melissa moved to Berlin with her German husband. Now they have a baby, and Melissa is reflecting on what it means to have victims, perpetrators, and bystanders in her family. She travels to southeastern Poland, seeking answers about a shoebox of Holocaust-era letters and photographs that was discovered after her grandmother died. Melissa’s family has mostly forgotten their past, but she learns that in Poland her family has not been forgotten at all. The Last Daughter is a book and feature-length documentary in the making. Follow her journey @thelastdaughter_film on Instagram.
In ‘Becoming Like Never Before’, Timo Geschwill explores his family’s history during the National Socialist Regime in Germany. He looks back at the various stories of family members that either participated and collaborated as perpetrators and/or suffered as victims in different ways from the established conditions. Along the way this journey turned into a story about healing, about silence, about reinforcing and perpetuating trauma leading to the question how the past permeates through different generations into the present.
In ‘On the Trail of Krakow’s Mezuzot‘, Janina Nashalska-Babik takes us on a tour through Kazimierz – the former Jewish district in Krakow. She explains the meaning of mezuzot and shows their traces as well as other remains of Jewish life in Krakow. Janina developed an impressive archive and continues her search for untold stories and forgotten palces of memory.
>> Suggestions for teaching scenarios to accompany the video “On the Trail of Krakow’s Mezuzot” are available in Polish and English.
The video series is part of a larger project: Untold Stories | Forgotten Places of Memory