World War II ghetto site of festival for budding filmmakers


Yet another film festival was added last week to the long list of similar events held throughout the world. This new festival is unique in that it concentrates on the work of budding film makers and students. It is also unique in that it was held in the North Bohemian town of Terezin - once home to the infamous Terezin ghetto and concentration camp - something which influenced the themes of the 100 films shown at the festival. Radio Prague's Alena Skodova talked to the president of the festival, writer, scriptwriter and university lecturer Arnost Lustig, who explained how the venue of the film festival had influenced its content.

"It was a ghetto where there were 140,000 people interned and the Little Fortress, which was a prison of the Prague Gestapo. So, this is the theme this year."

Terezin has a special stigma for you as well.

"I was here, but it's 55 years, so it's distant history for me, but it's an important part of my emotional history and an important part of my experience."

A film was shot here and you were the script writer.

"It's based on a book published in England, I think in '61 and it was my first film and I wrote the screenplay together with the director and today, after many years I saw the film and I was quite impressed, because I am so far from '61 and I'm looking at it more objectively. The writer is only a small part of a bigger collective of artists."

And at Washington University you teach subjects which are very close to films.

"I teach screen writing and the second course is history of World War II in film and literature."

So you share your experience with the students.

"Yes, definitely."

How do they look at your experience, how do the present American people look at World War II?

"They are 20 years old and it's far for them, but by instinct they feel that it is present in a way. So, they wan to know, they want to be informed, they want to be strong by being informed"

With all your experience from World War II you said you hate the word Holocaust. Would you tell us, why?

"I don't like it, I cannot say that I hate it, it's not such a passion. I don't like it, because it's a composite of two Greek words - destroyed by fire. Jews were destroyed by fire, but only when they were dead. But before that they were stripped of all rights, they were humiliated, like no one was humiliated in the history of man and then they were killed.

"They were humiliated, stripped of all rights, all property, of everything that creates civilization for man and then they were... they were not completely burned, because they used, for instance, their hair for fabrics and insulation for submarines. They sometimes used their bones for fertilizers. And then they were destroyed by fire. So, I don't really hate this word, I only think it is unscientific, inaccurate. But at the same time, because people are using it, it carries the psychological and symbolic definition, it means what it should mean in spite of it not being accurate."