Baltic Truth

One man’s fight
for his family’s Baltic legacy

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Holocaust education is not just memorizing that Hitler killed 6 million Jews but understanding how millions of ordinary people were convinced that killing Jews was required.
HISTORY

Survived the first killings of the Holocaust

July 18, 1941 – Most of the Jewish population, 175 people, of a small Latvian town Akniste were murdered by the local Latvian nationalists. Akniste was proclaimed a Jew free town by the time German troops arrived days later. 

20 year old Mozus Berkovich survived simply by a miracle. Studying in Riga, he visited his family in Akniste almost every week end. On July 14th Mozus telephoned his father, who told him not to come home as something bad was about to happen. This was the last time Mozus would hear his father’s voice. 

The only testimony of these horrific events was recorder in Boston by his grandson Eugene Levin 6 month before Mozus  passed away in June 2013.

Mozus Berkovich
Filmed in Boston, MA December 2013

Footage that was not meant to be seen by the world

Footage that was not meant to be seen by the world

Execution of Liepaja Jews
Many German soldiers filmed with their private cameras during World War II, but only lately have some of these private films become part of public archives and begun circulating in documentary films and historical television. An early example is an archive film depicting mass shootings in the Latvian town of Liepaja in July 1941, recorded by Reinhard Wiener, a German marine sergeant and amateur cinematographer. From a wartime trophy, the footage transformed into an evidence through its first public screening during the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem.

Riga Ghetto uprising melody 

Filmed in Riga, Latvia, March 30, 2019
Marger Vesterman is one of the very few who survived in Riga ghetto
Several hundred Jews in the Riga ghetto attempted to organize resistance activities against the Germans. Small groups sought to escape from the ghetto and join partisans in the surrounding forests. In October 1942, German police with Latvian auxiliaries discovered 80 members of the Jewish underground outside the ghetto along with Israil Dvorkin, a friend of Marger Vesterman and an author of the resistance song. In reprisal for partisan activities more than 100 people from the ghetto were executed, along with almost all of the Jewish policemen on suspicion of participating in resistance activities.  As a teenage prisoner of Riga ghetto, Marger Vesterman assisted resistance fighters with hiding weapons. Today, Marger Vesterman is the only survivor who remembers this song by heart.

American troops brought freedom 

Filmed in Toronto, Canada, June 18, 2019
Elly Gotz: “We were ready to kiss the boots of American soldiers, when the gates of Dachau opened”

Elly is a survivor of Kaunas ghetto in Lithuania and Dachau concentration camp. He was freed by American troops on April 28, 1945. Unknowingly, the soldiers handed out food to the emaciated people. A few hours later, pestilence began in the liberated concentration camp. When you spend several years on bread and water, any other food becomes poison. Only a small number of the saved prisoners who ate, survived.

Survived punitive operation “Winter Magic”

Filmed in Rositsa, Belarus, August 02, 2019
Yadviga Virshuta saw her home go up in flames
Operation Winterzauber was an anti-partisan operation from February 15 to March 30 1943 aimed at creating a depopulated zone of 30 to 40 km along the Belarusian–Latvian border. The executions were carried out by Latvian punitive battalions in the villagers' own homes, with the bodies covered in straw and the houses set on fire. 439 villages were completely burned, 13,500 were killed and 7,000 ended up in concentration camps of Latvia, Poland and Germany.  Yadviga, 10 years old at that time, survived with her mother by hiding in deep ravine along side the road in the snow, covered with white sheets for 24 hours. Later joining partisans in forests of Belarus. 

Most of Latvian Jews refused to believe in the possibility of the Holocaust

Filmed in New York, NY at Park East Synagogue, November 17, 2019
As a child, George Schwab ended up as prisoner in 4 death camps
George remembers that his father resolutely refused to believe the stories of the murders of Jews in Germany and even served on the official committee organizing the meeting of the German army. Two weeks later, George's father was arrested. He was brutally beaten until an eyeball fell out of his eye. While he was looking for it on the floor, they shot him.

Survived 5 death camps

Filmed in Riga, Latvia, March 29, 2019
When someone was killed next to Israil Hurin, he personally burried that person 
At 18, a prisoner of Daugavpils Ghetto, where Israil Hurin lost his entire family, along with 28,000 Jews. He managed to survive the Ghetto and later on Salaspils, Kaiservald, Shtuthoff and Dancig concentration death camps.  Hurin was liberated from Dancig by Red Army in spring of 1945.

From kindergarten to concentration camp

Filmed in Salaspils, Latvia, July 23, 2019
Nadezhda Kipich is terrified of barking dogs since childhood in concentration camp 
A significant number of the prisoners of the Salaspils, Latvia concentration camp were children. Nadezhda Kipich arrived to death camp at the age of 4, along with thousands of other Belarusian children. Most of them have not had a chance to see freedom, they died of starvation and disease. According to Soviet historians, 7,000 children died in Salaspils.

Killing face to face

Filmed at Elie Wiesel Center at Boston University, December 15, 2019
Steven T. Katz, Ph.D.
“The earth moved for several days until everyone died”
According to Stephen Katz, a professor of history at Boston University, anti-Semitism is a combination of ideology and psychological pathology. In the Baltic countries, the seeds of anti-Semitism fell into fertile soil in the 1940s. In the first 8 months of the war, almost the entire Jewish population was eliminated there.

Craving for revenge for Bolshevik occupation

Filmed in Ithaca, NY, February 16, 2019
Andrew Ezergailis, Ph.D.
“Jews were being killed as revenge for dissatisfaction with Soviet regime”
Professor of History at Ithaca College, NY Andrew Ezergailis believes that if it were not for the Soviet occupation of 1940, the Holocaust in Latvia would have been on a smaller scale. Latvians avenged the Jews, suspecting them of conspiring with the Bolsheviks, executions of Latvians, deportations to Siberia. Jews were called communists therefore labled to be killed. 
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War criminals

are buried as heroes

You can find names of executioners

who are laid to rest as heroes of Latvia

at state sponsored gravesite memorial in Akniste.

Among them are the remains of Vilis Tunkelis,

Deputy Commander of the township and the leader

of the execution of Akniste Jews.

They were executed and robbed

Filmed in Akniste, Latvia, July 31, 2019
Eugene Levin, heir to Berkovich family, emigrated to USA from Latvia in 1989.
Eugene Levin, grandson of Holocaust survivor Mozus Berkovich, is outraged that executioners of his family, who are called heroes in the official history of Latvia are buried near the mass grave of his relatives.
Filmed in Riga, Latvia, March 16, 2019

Remembrance day of the Latvian Waffen SS Legionnaires 

Latvian parliament deputies also attend the event

March 16, 1943 is considered the day of the creation of the Latvian SS units, who fought on the side of Hitler. Following the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, this day is annually celebrated by a mass rally with the participation of members of parliament.

Article on timesofisrael.com

They don't like the truth about the Holocaust

Filmed in Boston, MA November 18, 2018
Ruta Vanagaite, the best-selling author of the sensational book "Ours"

Following the publication of the book "Ours", which describes the participation of Lithuanians in the Holocaust, the writer began to receive threats. She had to leave her homeland. Now Ruta Vanagaite resides in Israel.
More on newyorker.com

Filmed in Ukmerge, Lithuania, July 28, 2019

Monument to the killer and a thief 

Juozas Krikštaponis is the national hero of Lithuania, who fought against the Bolsheviks.
In the Lithuanian city of Ukmerge, a monument was erected to a war criminal, despite the proven fact that Juozas Krikštaponis was an active participant in the Holocaust crimes, his participation in the formation of Jewish ghettos and the appropriation of Jewish property was undisputable. “The monument to the partisan who died in the battle against the Soviet occupation in Ukmerg will stand until the government decides otherwise,” Ukmerge mayor Rolandas Janackas.

Waffen SS legionnaires were remembered on V-Day

8th May 2019, Lestene, Latvia
This event is attended by the speaker of the Parliament of Latvia as well as  MPs.
Annually, on May 8, commemorative events are held in Lestene, Latvia in honor of the Waffen SS legionnaires who died in battles with the Red Army. "Waffen SS Legionaries are the pride of the Latvian people and the state. Our duty is to honor these patriots of Latvia from the entire depths of our soul" – Defence Minister of Latvia, Artis Pabriks (2019)
Filmed in Bauska, Latvia, July 28, 2019

They fought for Hitler

In the Latvian city of Bauska, a monument was unveiled to the locals who fought in 1944 against the Red Army.

Bauska’s defenders were Latvian Nazi collaborators. After the German army was defeated, they had no choice but to fight against the Soviet Union, knowing that they would be executed for their crimes if captured by Red Army. The Jewish community of Latvia was outraged that this monument was erected.

Letter to the president of Latvia by Jewish Community Leaders

Filmed in Kaunas, Lithuania, July 29, 2019

Chaplain of Death

A memorial plaque to chaplain Zenonas Ignatavichius was unveiled on the outskirts of Lithuanian city of Kaunas

Zenonas Ignatavichius was a chaplain of the 12th auxiliary police battalion responsible for the murder of 20 thousand Jews in Belarus. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, states that the chaplain was also an accomplice in crime.

The Jerusalem Post article

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The Production Team

          Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman

Producer / Director / Cinematographer
USA, Canada
          Eugene Levin

Eugene Levin

Producer / Director
USA
         Andrejs Hramcovs

Andrejs Hramcovs

Screen writer / Co-Director / Producer
Latvia
          Vadims Repeckis

Vadims Repeckis

Editor / Videographer / Sound / Graphic Design
Latvia
          Divvy Ahronheim

Divvy Ahronheim

Writer / Interviewer
Canada
         Mamed Sadykh-Pur

Mamed Sadykh-Pur

Composer
Kazakhstan

Dim Bom Productions, LLC is seeking your support to bring this very important film to the screen.

There is a lot more work, but we can’t accomplish any of this without you.

“Baltic Truth” is concluding another year of filming, making an impact to Holocaust education around the world like never before. We couldn’t have achieved what we have done without your generous support.

To continue filming and editing in time for the 2021 Jewish Film Festivals around the globe and to expand our cinematographic impact to combat the many challenges facing WW2 history and Holocaust education today, “Baltic Truth” needs your continued support.

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Thank you !


Contact us: ejlevin-at-baltictruth.com

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