Toronto Jewish Film Festival presents ‘999: THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS OF THE HOLOCAUST’

999: The Forgotten Girls Of The Holocaust (2023), is a profound exploration of triumph and tragedy. The documentary is directed by Heather Dune Macadam, with co-direction by Beatriz M Calleja.  The film delves into the poignant stories of the first 999 young Jewish women from Slovakia who entered the Nazi German death camp, Auschwitz. Based on Heather Dune Macadam’s book, “999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz,” this documentary is a powerful testament to resilience, courage, and the human spirit.

The film meticulously identifies and contextualizes the lives of these forgotten girls, restoring their individuality. It remarkably matches numbers with names bridging the gap between statistics and personal narratives. These young women were both the first and last females at Auschwitz, and their experiences deserve recognition.

Macadam and Calleja skillfully weave together various visual elements. They create an emotionally moving and powerful documentary through first-person interviews, archival footage, family photographs, narration, and montage editing. The motif of loss, sorrow, and individual heroism runs through the film, providing depth and structure. The survivors’ collective experiences shed light on the broader suffering during The Shoah (the Holocaust). Their stories serve as a painful reminder of man’s inhumanity to man but also highlight the triumph of human will and individual heroism.

Grief, pain, deprivation, and vulnerability permeate the film. These motifs stitch together the narrative against the backdrop of the camp’s brutality. The sorority of suffering, kinship, friendship, faith, and prayer played a crucial role in helping many survive. The film raises important questions about Slovakia’s responsibility for its crimes against Slovakian Jews. Under Josef Tiso’s presidency, Slovakia collaborated with Nazi Germany, deporting its Jewish population. The Bata Shoe Company’s involvement in the deportation scheme also warrants scrutiny.

“999” portrays survivors who triumphed over evil and serves as a visual legacy. It enshrines personal stories, ensuring that future generations learn about the Nazi genocide inflicted on Europe’s Jews during World War II. The documentary’s educational value is immense, honoring the memory of those who suffered and those who defied the odds.

Watch the trailer for 999: The Forgotten Girls Of The Holocaust  below

999: The Forgotten Girls Of The Holocaust will premier at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival in person May 31st, 1:00pm at Leah Posluns Theatre and Online June 2- June 3 

Tickets can be purchased here

[Review by Stefan Chiarantano]

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