FEBRUARY 5, 2016 | OLAM | 9
F E AT U R E
LA on a speaking tour, showed up in my living room,” says Fouce, pointing out that all her meetings with her primary information sources were serendipitous. By adding his eye-witness account of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen to her other sources, Fouce knew she had compelling material for her film. In “No Asylum” we see the horrors of the liberation through the eyes of Major Berney. In April 1945, two surrendering German soldiers told him about a civilian prisoner camp some kilometers ahead. Nothing could have prepared the division for the nightmare they encountered. The major describes how the soldiers found 60,000 starved and ill prisoners. 13,000 unburied corpses lay around the camp; 500 prisoners a day were dying in a terrible typhus outbreak. Balancing the need to show respect to the victims and, at the same time, show enough to capture the trauma, was a “terrible” task, says Fouce. “We wanted to show as little as possible, but enough to make the point.”
DEATH CREEPS CLOSER In July 1942, the Franks went into hiding in the upper rear rooms of the Opekta premises. Eight people lived in the cramped quarters for 24 months until they were betrayed. They were taken to the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork and then transported to Auschwitz. While in hiding, Anne wrote the diary that was to immortalize her. “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!” she wrote. Her wish came true. During the final months of the war, tens of thousands of Jews were evacuated to Bergen-Belsen from Auschwitz and other eastern camps threatened by the advancing Soviets. The camp became severely overcrowded as the number of inmates increased from 15,000 in December 1944 to 42,000 at the beginning of March 1945, and more than 50,000 a month later. Fouce brings survivor Irene Butter
“Elfriede Geiringer en Eva Schloss (1989)” by Rob C. Croes / Anefo - Nationaal Archief. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -
to tell us about meeting Anne in Bergen-Belsen. The lively fifteen-year-old budding author had become a thin figure wrapped in a blanket begging for clothes. Anne and Margot died of typhus in February or March 1945 just weeks before the camp was liberated. S O L E S U RV I V O R Otto Frank was the sole survivor of
BEHIND THE SCENES
WHAT MOTIVATED PAULA FOUCE?
aula Fouce’s love of moviemaking goes back to her childhood. Descended from Spanish immigrants who landed in Hawaii in the late 1800s, Fouce’s grandfather, Frank Louis Fouce Sr., owned movie and live theaters in downtown Los Angeles that featured Mexican vaudeville acts and Spanish-language films. In 1961, Fouce’s grandfather and father founded the Spanish International Communica-
tion Corp., the forerunner of Univision, the first Spanish-language television network. “One of the best parts of the hours spent hanging out at the theaters were the candy guns that my brother and I would use to shoot candy into our mouths,” says Fouce with a laugh. Listening to her spontaneous laughter, I conclude that it’s her ability to grab the detail that conveys the moment that makes her documentaries stand out.
I n 1 9 8 4 , F o u c e wa s trapped in the riots in India following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by Sikhs. Gandhi, a Hindu, had ordered an attack on the Sikhs’ holiest place of worship. Retribution followed on both sides, with thousands killed. “The time I’d spent with the Hindus had been idyllic. Now I was experiencing the opposite. Surrounded by violence, I was almost killed,” says Fouce. This contrast became
the Frank family. A small monument in Bergen-Belsen commemorates Margot and Anne. Sadly, it does not mark their graves because we don’t know in which of the ten mass graves they were buried. Anne’s diary, a collection of three books and scattered papers, was found by Miep Gies, one of the righteous people who had helped hide the family. “She was saving it to give to Anne when she returned,” says Eva Schoss, “but three weeks after Otto’s return from Auschwitz, when it became clear that Anne wasn’t coming back, she gave it to Otto.” Certainly, “No Asylum” is particularly relevant today with the world facing its worst refugee crisis ever. But survivors viewing the film come away with a more personal message. “They come away feeling that the intolerance depicted is happening again,” says Fouce. With the rise of anti-Semitism badly disguised as anti-Israel measures, it’s impossible not to ask the question: Will the world look away again?
the impetus for Fouce’s quest to understand intolerance and hatred. Her quest led to the production of two documentaries on the yogis of India and, more recently, the book Not in God’s Name, in which she tries to make sense of religious conflict. “No Asylum,” which documents the tragic consequences of intolerance and racism, was the next step in Fouce’s fight against prejudice.
What you see: With the cost of the footage for such a documentary sometimes reaching $130 a second, Fouce is particularly grateful to the following individuals and institutions: Leslie Schwartz and Dean Robinson, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, Las Vegas Holocaust Research Center and Anne Frank Fonds, among others. What you hear: Having grown up in Europe, where he was exposed to Holocaust education, Italian composer Luciano Storti was particularly excited about scoring the film. His original compositions which accompany the visual tension and horror on the screen turn the viewing into a heart-wrenching hour.