Friday, January 25, 2008

Guest at Cinema Orion: Mayer Franck

Mayer Franck (1928-2012). He appeared as himself in Pia Andell's documentary Matkustaja / Passenger (2011). He visited schools and met children and young people to tell them how it was. After the Orion meeting I used to see him at the Academic Bookstore and by the Stockmann Deli.

Mayer Franck (born in Zgierz near Lodz, Poland, in 1928), an Auschwitz survivor, settled in Finland in 1947. He was our guest in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 25 Jan 2008 in the screening of Ostatni etap, a film he saw for the first time. After the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939 the Franck family was sent to the Lodz ghetto, where Mayer stayed until he was deported to Auschwitz in July 1944. From there he was sent to another labour camp, Tzebin. In January 1945 the camp was closed, and during the march Mayer managed to hide in a barn. He was saved by farmers, spotted but ignored by SS men, and captured by the Red Army who suspected he was a spy but fortunately the examiner was also a Jew. Life in post-war Poland was terrible for Jews, and in January 1947 Mayer came to Finland to stay and founded a family.

Mayer's comments on Ostatni etap: 1) it's about the women's block, foreign to him, 2) every day I expected that the planes would come to bomb Auschwitz, 3) I expected to be taken to Birkenau, but the orders changed by the day, 4) every day there was the selection, 5) the selection was the worst, 6) the young cruel women with their Schäfers were more horrible than men, children were ruthlessly crushed, 7) the orchestra I never heard, 8) doctors I never saw, 9) we only had numbers, no names, 10) everybody belonged to a certain work unit, 11) we did not sleep in beds but on the floor (stone or sand), without clothes, without lavatories, piled on top of one another, 12) there was no tea but dirty water, 13) we were not in stone but wooden barracks, 14) one was provoked against another.

To sum up: for Mayer Franck, Auschwitz was basically like in Ostatni etap but worse. He still has nightmares every night and needs sleeping pills to be able to sleep.

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