Film aims to introduce the Holocaust to a younger audience

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Elliot and Jack, a Holocaust survivor, sit together on the couch while going through an old photo album in
Elliot and Jack, a Holocaust survivor, sit together on the couch while going through an old photo album in "The Number on Great-Grandpa's Arm." The film will be shown on April 22. (Photo courtesy of HBO documentary films)

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” a movie geared toward introducing a younger generation to the Holocaust, will make its Long Island premiere at the Gold Coast Arts Center on April 22, with a discussion with Holocaust survivor Irving Roth following.

The film, produced by Sheila Nevins and directed and produced by Amy Schatz, revolves around 10-year-old Elliot talking with his 90-year-old great-grandfather Jack, a Holocaust survivor.

By weaving their conversation together with historical footage and hand-painted animation, created by artist Jeff Scher, the documentary aims to create a picture of life before, during and after the Holocaust presentable to children.

“There have been so many stories and so many films and so many pieces that have been written about the Holocaust,” Lauren Wagner, the director of marketing and development for the Gold Coast International Film Festival and Gold Coast Arts Center, said on Thursday. “I don’t know how many of them have been geared toward a younger generation.”

The Holocaust was the systematic murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others by the Nazi war machine and its collaborators during World War II. Mass killings began in 1941, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and by May 1945, nearly two-thirds of European Jews were murdered.

Helen Turner, the director of youth education at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, which is a co-host of the film screening, said the film is an important “introductory tool” to a rather stark topic.

“I think the importance of the film is that we need to be able to start the conversation with young learners on this topic and keep the conversation going,” Turner said. “To discuss the Holocaust is imperative to education not only from a historical point of view, but from a humanitarian point of view.”

Michael Glickman, chair of the Gold Coast Arts Center’s board of directors and the president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which has an exhibit complimenting the film, said they saw a great opportunity to bring the movie to Long Island.

He also described it as “a piece of art that could be shared with children.”

“This is the first time a film like this has been done,” Glickman said. “This is going to set the trend for future film and material that is a position for children as they are taught about the Holocaust.”

Rebecca Sassouni, the president of the Sephardic Heritage Association, Inc., which is also a partner in the movie showing, said the film fits SHAI’s mission of educating Jewish children and that they were glad to help sponsor it.

And for Sassouni there’s also extra relevance and urgency today to educate people about the Holocaust because of ongoing genocides around the world and Holocaust survivors dying of old age.

“I do think there’s an urgency since so many of the Holocaust survivors are elderly and frail and will no longer be here to have their first-person accounts to share,” Sassouni said.

The screening will begin on Sunday, April 22, at 11 a.m. at the Bow Tie Squire Cinemas on 115 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck. The event is free, but interested attendees must RSVP online or by calling (516) 829-2570 due to limited seating.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage and Gold Coast Arts Center are holding the event in commemoration of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, in partnership with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County and Sephardic Heritage Association Inc.

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