Yael Reuveny’s investigation into her great-uncle’s disappearance during the Holocaust debuted at Haifa in 2013, where it won the Best Israeli Documentary. Other fest berths included DOK Leipzig, Cottbus, and at the Miami, Toronto, and Palm Beach Jewish fests, among others.
Reuveny is part of Israel’s third generation, the grandchild of Holocaust survivor Michla Schwarz, whose stories of survival and loss the filmmaker grew up listening to. Michla – who believed herself to be her family’s sole survivor after her beloved brother Feiv’ke failed to make a pre-arranged meeting at a train station in Lodz, Poland – moved to Israel, raised a family, and cursed Germany for the rest of her unhappy life. Reuveny recognizes that her own decision to move to Germany would not have been met with approval by Michla – as it is, her mother, Etty, Michla’s daughter, isn’t particularly happy about it either – but Reuveny was drawn there because of the fate of Michla’s family. Shortly before her grandmother’s death, Yael learns that Feiv’ke survived the concentration camps, but surprisingly elected to stay in the same small German town where he had been imprisoned, changed his name to Peter, and married a German woman. Reuveny sets out to understand why – and why Feiv’ke never showed up in Lodz or ever contacted Michla – and in the process explores the impact of Michla and Feiv’ke’s splintering on three generations of their families. While personal quests can more often than not feel incredibly self-indulgent, in this case Reuveny successfully broadens the questions raised by the decisions of her great-uncle and his offspring – not to mention her own – into a thoughtful consideration of modern Jewish identity and the legacy of the Holocaust.