Karolina Markiewicz and Pascal Piron • Directors of The Living Witnesses
"We were looking for young people who were interested in history and were capable of thinking out loud"
- We met with the filmmakers behind this documentary which investigates the rarely explored topic of the Holocaust as experienced from a Luxembourg perspective
Karolina Markiewicz and Pascal Piron are both teachers and artists known for their virtual reality works; Markiewicz is also an independent journalist and art critic, while Piron is a painter. Their most recent collaboration The Living Witnesses [+see also:
interview: Karolina Markiewicz and Pas…
film profile] is a feature-length documentary (recently presented in a premiere at the Luxembourg City Film Festival) which casts a poignant light on the perception of the Holocaust among Luxembourg’s young people, the whole endowed with a decidedly pedagogical air.
Cineuropa: Tell us about the origins of this project. Were these Living Witnesses born out of an initiative put forward by the MemoShoah association and Claude Marx?
Pascal Piron: Yes, the idea was initiated by the association responsible for keeping the memory [of the Holocaust] alive, MemoShoah Luxembourg. They were looking for a historic film about the deportation of Jews from Luxembourg from October 1941 onwards, but from the off we wanted to use this terrible historical event as a starting point and to link it to history which is currently in the making, i.e. events taking place today, the resurgence of nationalism and of various forms of discrimination, and current wars. We envisioned a meeting between Holocaust survivors and young people who also carry traumatic stories within them – all unfolding in the form of a journey.
What was it that you liked, or that interested you, when it came to Claude Marx, notably in respect of the relationships he develops with the young students in the film?
PP: Claude survived the Second World War by hiding in an attic at 9 years of age. He’s very warm and cultured, and he’s intelligent in the same way that good teachers are. He’s fascinated by history, but also by life and by what might come to pass. He has visions for the future which he likes to share with the young and with the not-so-young. It’s easy to work with someone like him – we knew from the outset that he would be the right person to get the journey started, the one we were looking for.
How did you meet Christina Khoury, Dean Schadeck and Chadon Tina Marie Yapo? How did they become involved in the project?
Karolina Markiewicz: Christina and Chadon Tina Marie were pupils of ours when they first arrived in Luxembourg: the former came from Syria and the latter from the Ivory Coast. Dean was recommended to us. We were looking for young people who were interested in history and were capable of thinking out loud, but first and foremost we wanted youngsters who carried stories of their own within them – compelling stories, such as the war in Syria, the violence unfolding in the Ivory Coast, forced exile, belonging to an LGBTQI+ minority, discrimination-related struggles… Basically, childhoods cut short by life’s twists and turns which could be compared to Claude, Marian and Halina’s experiences during the Second World War.
What was it about Marian Turski that captivated you? What is his role, in your opinion?
KM: Marian Turski is a hero, an incredible intellectual and a driving force in Polish society. He spoke a lot about history, identity and Jewish culture with Barack Obama, for example, when the latter was president, but afterwards, too. He was also close to Martin Luther King after the war, when he was a student in the US. All these incredible stories, his strength, his intelligence, which he carries with modesty, are both rare and exemplary. Marian Turski thinks out loud - this journey, his extremely lively and striking testimony, was a great privilege for us to capture in our film.
Why was talking about Luxembourg deportation important to you? What is your connection with this subject, which isn’t much spoken about outside of the country?
PP: We learned about the fate of Luxembourg people during the war when we were at school, but there were so many other important details that we only discovered once we started researching the film. Luxembourg’s collaboration [with Nazi Germany] is a subject which remains vastly underexplored, and the national line that the country constructed for itself after the war is very one-sided, as is often the case.
What is the film’s message? And who are today’s living witnesses?
KM: Maybe we’re all living witnesses, in a certain sense? Maybe we’re all involved in the history that’s being written collectively, at all times? Maybe it’s important to meet other living witnesses - people as well as places - and to compare and contrast their stories with our own?
PP: These are the ideas we explore in the film. It’s important to make connections between the past and the present so as to be able to predict what will happen in the future, and to be clear-headed and strong, ready to listen, in order to imagine, but also in order to acquire knowledge.
(Translated from French)
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