It was a great pleasure last night to attend the UK premiere of A Town Called Brzostek.
Sensitively directed by Simon Target, it tells the story of how Prof Jonathan Webber worked with the current Polish inhabitants of Brzostek – a small town in South-Eastern Poland – to commemorate the thirty per cent of its pre-War population who were Jewish, and perished in the Holocaust.
Prof Webber’s great achievement was not only to restore Brzostek’s Jewish cemetery, and have a monument erected in the nearby forest where 260 of the town’s Jews were shot – but to do so in cooperation with the locals. The whole village became involved, including the priest and mayor.
After the film was shown, a lively Q&A debate ensued featuring Prof Webber and Simon Target. One of the key points the film makes is that it is as much a truth that many Poles risked their (and their families’) lives to save Jews during the Holocaust as that others collaborated with the Nazis. This questions the traditional view, held by many Jews, that many Poles are anti-Semitic. An impassioned Holocaust survivor questioned what he should make of such a proposition. An equally impassioned Polish woman asked the audience to understand how much Poles also suffered during the War, and to encourage reconciliation – particularly between young Jews and Poles.
The film was premiered at the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley. If it shows there again, or any other place – go and see it.