Scandal in Ivansk
This is not my story. It belongs to history. A history as fragmented and hard to read as the Jewish gravestones I found in the Polish village where my ancestors once lived. It is a story of piecing together those stones and so remaking history. Of coming to a new understanding of the Holocaust. Of the separation of Poles and Jews by those events. And, of the way some of them come together again today to see their shared history in a new light.
Five years ago, filmmaker David Blumenfeld came upon a website recounting a Holocaust testimony about events that took place on October 13, 1942, in Ivansk, Poland - the town his grandfather came from. In this historical memoir, Holocaust survivor Yitzhak Goldstein described a moving scene in which, the day before the Nazis arrived to Ivansk, the entire shtetl gathered at the Jewish cemetery to bury their holy Torah scrolls.
The following day, according to Goldstein’s account, “a group of local firefighters helped the Nazis round up the Jews who were then sent to their deaths in Treblinka”. Blumenfeld’s great grandmother and uncle were among those who perished and this is both a personal story about finding one’s roots, and a universal story about memories and the subjectivity of history. The Goldstein testimony goes on to describe the Rabbi’s speech to his community while they stood in the cemetery, 60 years ago. In his dramatic sermon, he made those who survive the war promise three things: To one-day return to Ivansk and retrieve the Torahs they were about to bury. To re-establish a Kehilah (Jewish community) in Ivansk . And to tell the world about what the German nation with the help of the Polish population did to us here.
60 years later, the film, Scandal in Ivansk, follows Blumenfeld’s journey to fulfill these three wishes of the Rabbi of Ivansk – to pass down these memories to his children lest they be forgotten.
In his journey, Blumenfeld follows a group of descendants back to Ivansk led by a Philadelphia doctor, Dr. Norton Taichman. Their mission: To restore the ancient Jewish cemetery and memorialize the place of their ancestors.
As the group meets the Polish non-Jewish neighbors in Ivansk, fragments of the Jewish tombstones begin to show up at city hall, as a portrait of the Ivansk shtetl is pieced together. They are surprised to hear stories of friendship and warm relations between the Poles and Jews of Ivansk.
As the cemetery restoration project continues – cutting away 60 years of overgrowth and neglect, cinematically, the renewal of the cemetery parallels the relationships that are rebuilt with the local Polish population. We meet a Pole who was forced to drive one of the transports of Jews to the trains; the best friend of a young Jewish girl who was raped and killed by Nazi officers, and Polish witnesses to the Nazi atrocities. It becomes clear that these ghosts have also haunted the residents of Ivansk. A young Pole from a fiercely anti-Semitic home dedicates himself to helping the Ivansk restoration project, and represents a new Poland that is ready to reconcile with the dark moments in its history. However, just weeks after the cemetery re-dedication ceremony, a complaint is registered with the authorities about the wording of the memorial and a front-page scandal breaks out putting the entire project in jeopardy.
Will filmmaker David Blumenfeld discover what really happened in Ivansk? Scandal in Ivansk is a film that explores the subjectivity of memory, history and truth.
Grantee Recipient - Rabbi Israel Miller Fund: Matching Funds
About the Filmmakers
DAVID BLUMENFELD, DIRECTOR/ CINEMATOGRAPHER/ CO-PRODUCER
David Blumenfeld has worked as a director and cinematographer on Streetball Hafla (YES Cable); Circumcise Me (Doc Channel, YES Cable); and numerous features for Discovery Channel, PBS, BBC, Channel 4 Britain.
AMI DROZD, EDITOR
Ami Drozd is a Polish-born editor who worked as chief editor for Channel One in Israel for 24 years. He has edited numerous documentary films including Taxi to Goundar, Ringlblum Diary, and he recently directed and edited a feature film, My Australia.
ZK STUDIO, CO-PRODUCER
ZK Studio is a Polish production company that specializes in creative documentary films with a strong social hook. Their films include: Living in Light, Seduction Camp, and Good Morning Lenin, amongst numerous others.
Dr. Marcin Urynowicz – Public Education Office of the Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw Poland
Dr. Mordechai Paldeie – Former Director of the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust authority, lecturer at Yeshiva University and Queens College (CUNY) in New York. Born in Belgium, Dr. Paldiel and his family of six fled to France where a Catholic Priest who was able to smuggle the entire family into Switzerland rescued them.
A leading authority on rescue during the Holocaust, he has written several books including The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, Whosoever Saves One Life: The Uniqueness of the Righteous Among the Nations, Sheltering the Jews: Stories of Holocaust Rescuers and German Rescuers of Jews: Individuals versus the System. In 1991, Dr. Paldiel was the Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Holocaust Studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. He received a B.A. from Hebrew University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion and Holocaust Studies from Temple University