Published on April 21, 2016 by Howard Reich
“Prisoner of Her Past” has played Toronto during past film festivals, but the documentary returned to the Ontario capital for a remarkable occasion: Holocaust Education Week 2015.
This annual, citywide event features lectures, concerts, panel discussions and films, this year’s proceedings focused on “Liberation: Aftermath & Rebirth.” The “aftermath” theme befit “Prisoner of Her Past,” for echoes of the Holocaust drive the film and haunt the life of its subject – Sonia Reich, my mother.
A capacity audience crowded into Beth Torah Congregation on Nov. 5, the audience paying close attention during the screening and offering a profusion of questions afterward, moderated by Rabbi Yossi Sapirman.
One observer asked whether I wish I knew more about what happened to my mother during the Holocaust.
I responded that, as a journalist, I always want to know more.
But Dr. Ken Schwartz, who spearheaded bringing the film to Holocaust Education Week, offered a different perspective. He said that in treating patients who are survivors, he doesn’t need to know the details of what happened. More important is the overall arc of the story and how patients and doctors try to come to terms with it.
I had to agree. Survivors have a right to privacy, and they alone must choose what is revealed and what is not. The rest of us simply must be open to listen.
The following day, Nov. 6, Dr. Schwartz and I presented the film at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences, a geriatric center world-famous for its work with and for Holocaust survivors. Doctors, nurses and other caregivers attended the screening and, once again, offered ample questions and observations.
By showing at Baycrest, “Prisoner of Her Past” was playing Ground Zero for Holocaust survivors, an honor for the film and, I hope, a benefit to the medical professionals who watched it.