Irish-Based Holocaust Survivor Breaks Silence
February 07, 2011
One of only a handful of Holocaust survivors living in Ireland today, Tomi Reichental [pictured left] will speak about his experiences as a child victim of Nazi terror in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during a presentation in the Martin Institute on Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m.
The subject of a documentary by Emmy-award winning Irish filmmaker Gerry Gregg, Reichental, now 75, lost 35 members of his family in the Holocaust. With the making the documentary, he broke almost six decades of silence to publicly explain what happened to him in 1944 as a nine-year old when he was rounded up by the Gestapo and dispatched with 12 members of his family to Bergen-Belsen.
After a screening of the documentary, filmmaker Gregg will join Reichental for the Martin Institute presentation.
Released in 2009, Till the Tenth Generation is the first major documentary about the Holocaust made in Ireland. In America, it is distributed by the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University. It will have its North American premiere at the 2011 Irish Film Festival Boston on Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre. For more information on the premiere screening, visit www.irishfilmfestival.com
Most of Reichental's extended family were killed in the Holocaust. [Pictured left: Tomi, his mother, and his brother.] After the war, he immigrated to Israel and then moved to Germany before finally settling in Ireland in 1959. In Dublin to help establish a factory, he married a member of the city's Jewish community. Yet, it was not until a few years ago when he realized that "as one of the last survivors, I must speak out," that he was able to address the memories that haunted him.
"The Holocaust didn't start with cattle wagons and gas chambers, but with whispers, taunts, daubing and then abuse and murder. One of the lessons we must learn is to respect difference and reject all forms of racism and discrimination," Reichental explains.
Working with filmmaker Gregg, he told his story, explaining the rise of fascism in Slovakia, the coming of World War II, the repression of Jews, and how, until 1944, he avoided arrest thanks to the help of a local priest. For the documentary, Reichental travelled back to his home town in Slovakia and to Bergen-Belsen with Gregg.
"Everyone that made the film felt it was a privilege, principally because Tomi's story is so important to future generations to reflect on. It is not often that you meet living history, and you appreciate how fragile historical memory is. We were anxious to record his story and the contribution Tomi is making to a greater understanding between religions and races in Ireland," recall Gregg.
Since breaking his silence, Reichental has dedicated himself to a mission of remembrance, regularly speaking to school and civic groups in Ireland about his experiences.
Recently, Ireland's Department of Integration sent a copy of the film to every post primary school in Ireland to assist with education on the Holocaust. The documentary shows Reichental speaking to Irish school children about the Holocaust and it features excerpts from their touching letters in response to him.
An independent producer/director, Gerry Gregg won an Emmy award in 1999 for his Channel 4 documentary "Witness to Murder" and a Royal Television Society award in 2000 for best Foreign Current Affairs for his "Dispatches" film "Prime Suspects" Both films dealt with the massacre of over 100 men and boys in a barn in the Kosovo village of Krushe y Vogel.
Gregg has been making distinguished films since 1980. His hard hitting film "Murder on Main Street" depicted the Provisional IRA homicide of Irish Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. The documentary was screened in 2006 to half a million viewers and later released on DVD.
His 2008 series on Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau "Dirty Money" was TV3's most successful documentary production, winning the 2008 "TV Now" award for Best Documentary. "Dirty Money" was also released on DVD by Xtravision, selling in excess of 20,000 copies, a huge number in the small Irish market.
About the Martin Institute
The Martin Institute seeks to prepare Stonehill students for leadership as active citizens in service to an improved human community. Through rigorous, critical interdisciplinary inquiry, the Institute challenges students to explore the vital issues of public policy and social justice.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.