Shoah Film Collection -  Interview Project

Cahan, Dova

Dova Cahan
Israeli filmmaker

Her SFC film
A Zionist Journey from Romania to Eritrea


10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

I, Dova Cahan , was born in Bucarest, Romania in June 17, 1947 by jewish romanian parents. On February 1948 my father because of the event of the comunist party in this country and being himself a zionist and a capitalist, he choose to leave his country and go to Palestine. The British who at the time were there did not allowed him and his family to remain, therefore he had to find refugee in Asmara Eritrea. When we arrived in Eritrea I was 8 months old and I remain to live there for 20 years. In 1967, when the Six-Day War broke out, I decided to move to Israel with my sister to fulfil my studies at university and also to fulfil the zionist dream of my father.
First I studied at Tel Aviv University Economy and Commerce then I moved to the faculty of English and French Literature where I got my B.A. Further on I had my Master in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, but I did not like much teaching therefore I went to work in the tourism business and then in some high tech companies.
I retired at the age of 50 and I decided to dedicate my life to immortalize the figure of my late father who was a big zionist already at his young age and he died very young, only at the age of 62 in Asmara, at the time Ethiopia.

2. When how and why started you filming?

I started my only film till now “A Zionist Journey from Romania to Eritrea” at the same time I was ending to write my book in 2010.
The main reason was to have a complete work on my father’s life, which I started already few years before by publishing a photo review of 6 panels, each one including two pictures. By the end these panels enlarged up to 16 panels which were already enough for an exhibition.

3. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Tell me something about the technical equipment you use..

I am the director of my film. The film was made by a producer, Mr Amit Gicelter togegher with Ms Hadas Zigher, that both of them are professional film makers. Of course they based their filming on my script and on all the material which I presented to them, pictures, old films, newspaper articles, interviews of two well known university professors, of relatives, friends and other people that knew my father or related to the story. What I had in my mind was a documentary film, therefore we worked together on this features.

About the technical equipment was used I do not know much, but of course my producer used a good film camera with special microphones and lights..if you need more details I can ask him.

4. What was the reason to start your film included in Shoah Film Collection. Tell me the story behind your film? Why did you choose the given form of representation? Is your film included in Shoah Film Collection the first one dealing with the Holocaust?

As I said before this is my first film. I hope very soon to make the second part, next week I will meet my producer to talk about my new projects for this year. As I mentioned before my film was made only with the aim to mortalize the memory of my dear late father. But of course since he was born in Romania in 1912, in the middle of the two World War in Europe, as well as in Romania, and being also this country an allie of the german nazi nation at the time of Hitler, my film is also related to the story of my father during his youth period in Romania, which of course was affected too by the german madness.

Since I decided to do a documentary film this came into it normally and obligatory as part of the Shoa film, without being in my intention at all.

As you well remember, when I sent you first my dvd for your attention, you answer was that you chose it to be included in you Shoa Film Collection, although it was not my first intention. And here the Shoa theme appears to me for the first time in relation with my film but not with my book. As you know I am also the writer of a book in italian which is called “An Askenazi from Romania to Eritrea” GDS Edition

5. What kind of meaning has the Holocaust to you personally? Are your family or friends affected or did the topic come by chance?

As you know I am jewish and today since the last 45 years I live in Israel, therefore the subject of the Holocaust is well known to me. Although during my childhood in Asmara – Eritrea, the argument was also well known to me since one sister of my mother, who was married to a dentist originally from Oradea which at the time was that part of Romania known as Transilvania but after the first world was was given to the Hungarian. Therefore she and her small son Smuel, only five years old, where trapped there during the war and nearly by the end they were sent by the Eichmann law to Auswitch we suppose, but the truth is not known to us till today.

6.Beside the historical relevance related to the persecuted Jews and other people, Holocaust has a universal relevance. Why is the Holocaust affecting all humans anywhere?

For me of course as a jew, and since my own people had suffered so much during the Holocaust period, this can not be left without any consideration. I admit that there are also other people like the Armenian people that went through a big genocide, even before the jewish people in Europe. The Armenian Genocide occured in 1915 – 1916, where 1.5 million victimes were estimated to have found their miserable death by the hands of the Turkish government. This holocaust that even today is not amitted by the Turcs and the whole world even do not mention it. Of course we do not have to forget the most recent African Genocide which happen in Rwanda in 1994, which estimates that death ranged from 500.000 to 1.000.000 people which was a 20% of the country total population. The most amazing thing is that the longstanding ethnic competition and tension between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for century, and the majority Hutu people, who had come to power in the Rebellion of 1959-62. The Rwandan Civil War, supported by Uganda, brought to violent reactions during which Hutu groups conducted mass killing of Tutsis. Today Rwanda commemorates this genocide with two pubblic holidays. But this is not all, the list is very long..not to forget the Progroms against the jewish people in the Soviet Union…In Japan, in the Nazi Germany, in China and Tibet, in Australia with their own population the Aborigines in 1788 and farther on. This problem did not came to an end …Guatemala in 1966, Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Srebrenica Genocide in 1994, Cambodia Khramer Rouge led by Pot Pot with the killing of an average of 2.5 million people, among them former civil servants, former government soldiers, Buddist monks and secular intellectuals and professionals. Not to forget also the Latin American countries, and especially Argentina of our days, with the well known Military Giunta, leaded by President Velida and by his successors. This period goes between 1976 and 1983, which brought to the torture, omicide and disappearance of more than 30.000 persons. I still have to mention the Iraqi-Kurdish Civil War in the middle of 1990, where between 3.000 and 5.000 civilians were killed thoughtout more than 3 years of warfare. The Sri-Lankan Civil War was a conflict fought on the island of Sri Lanka. It started in July 1983 by an independent militant organization which fought to create an Independent Tami State in the north east if the island. Only on May 2009 the civil war ended. This long 27 years of civil war brought an end to their economy, where an estimated of 80.000 to 100.000 people were killed. Darfur, a region of Sudan on which two rebels groups struggle and succeded to take up their arms against the Government of Sudan. The actual Sudan President, Omar al-Bashir is accused of genocide and of crimes against humanity by the International Civil Court. Not to mention the Eritrean and Ethiopian conflict in the Horn of Africa, a war between two of the world’s poorest contry. Eritrea claimed that 19.000 eritrean soldiers were killed during the conflict, but all the war casualties were around 70.000. Eritrea accused Ethiopia of using “human waves” to defeat eritrean trenches. The Somali Civil War started in 1991, against the long-standing military regime and went on till the intervention of the United Mission to provide humanitarian relief and help to restore order in Somalia after the dissolution of its central government. The number of casualties is even unknown and any official reports on the matter. All this to end now this chapter.

7. Now, nearly 70 years after World War II, unfortunately the last Holocaust survivors will be dying soon, and no authentic witness is left to transfer the memory of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is about to be marginalized and dehumanized to any other historical incident, whereby it is measured by its final result and less as an escalating process, countless human individuals were undergoing. What do you think might be ways to re-humanize, touch people again emotionally and keep vivid the memory this way?

As I widely wrote on my above paragraph about all the genocides around the world, I could not find anything similar to what happened 70 years ago in a very well educated, advanced and illuminated Europe from all its point of view, which for me personally are worst that the Dark Period of the Middle Age. The Holocaust is not at all dehumanized, all that are real facts that the human being even today cannot tollerate, forget, put by side and forgive…According to my point of view, Israel has done a lot and still she is doing all her best to keep always alive the memory of the six million Jews who died in the concentration camps all over Europe and especially in the two worsest of them, Auswitch and Dacau…Today in Israel exist the Yad Vashem Institute which is the home of all the martirs, adults, men, women, children, youth which perished there only for being jewish. For me those acts are to comdemn even today, the german nazi party lead by the folish and criminal Adolf Hilter put the entire Europe in a big mess that can be defined just as an apocalyptic period over all Europe and even on his own people and country. In addition all the institutes and high schools here on the Memorial Day of the Holocaust according to the jewish calendar which is always in the month of May, organize each year student delegations and also presidential and militar delegations to attend a March to Auswitch…that gives to the young israeli and also to all over world students a complete view of what happened to the jewish people in Europe on that dark period.

8. After the Holocaust and World War II, the traditional (static) visual art media were failing in transferring the memory of the Holocaust, while literature, theatre, music and film were much more successful. On the other hand, due to the new technologies, the boundaries between the “arts” dissolve nowadays and the doors are open to a new interdisciplinary approach. What are the chances for this new (interdisciplinary) perception based on socializing concepts for keeping vivid the memory of the Holocaust? In which way have they to influence the manifestations of Shoah Film Collection via the interventions like a symposium, artists meetings, workshops, exhibitions, performances, screenings, artists talks, discussions etc.

On my opinion the Holocaust argument is just alive and I can say today more then ever and to add not only in Israel, where there are still alive a number of survivors but all over the world and especially in Europe which was the continent more affected by this horrible and devasting mob. Thousand and thousand of books were written on this argument, even by the survivors themselves, or by their children or grand children. Many films on the subject were done by great producers like the Schindler’s List or The damaged voyage…and many more. On the stages of the big theaters here and also in Europe many pieces are played by great and international actors. In the fild of drawing and painting we have still in many museum and special collections of all these material drawn in the concentration camps as a testimony of those tragic moments, since photografy was not in vogue at that time. The Shoa films and I must mention here the french jewish producer Claude Lanzmann who gave a large interpretation of these terrible and horrible moments and also a lot of useful material. Not to forget that also many young people not even famous, with their own little means have made a film or more on this issue. Among them I see also myself with my documentary movie “A Sionist Journey from Romania to Eritrea” which is based on the story of my dear and late father, Herscu Saim Cahan, a young romanian sionist. When I was doing my film, I did not even think at the Shoa or Holocaust, for me it was an argument more then a taboo, never spoken at home. But the fact that my father lived in this period, which goes between the Two World War, it requested automatically a consideration to the time and since Romania was an allie of the nazi german nation in those days. But all this does not mean that the great horror was executed there too by the people of the general Antonescu who was in power. Although all that the romanian goverment and especially at the time of the dictator Ciaucescu denaied the holocaust in his country, all this was finally brought to the proper light by the actual romanian president Traian Basescu which declared that this owful period existed also in his country and they do not have to deny it but to admitt it and reconize it as a sin of their own people and leaders.

10. What are your future artistic plans? Do you plan to work on new projects dealing with the Holocaust or related topics like “collective trauma caused by totalitarianism”?

Of course I want still to do another film and I have already told it to my producer, Amit Gicelter. We agree that my next movie will be an animation one and not a documentary one. It will be more on my own life, if was mentioned to be a book it would be an autobiography. But as a movie it was chosen already to be an animation one, on which my producer is specialized. I have already the title : “My Life as Dova Cahan” where I will tell the story of my life, as a daugher of a refugee, when my father decided to live his fortune and his country in order to escape from the horrible communist and dicatatorial regime. He found refugee with his family in Asmara Eritrea, ex italian colony but at the time we arrived over there it was administrated by the british administration and we lived happily there for more then 20 years and in a very extraordinary manner. Of course this time I will refer more to the holocaust in Romenia and to the only victim of my family, thanks God, the older sister of my mother, Mina Hager who was married to a young jewish dentist from Oradea, Transilvania, but at the time this part of the country belonged to Hungary. Nearly at the end of the war, with the Eichmann decree to send all the jewish people of that area to the stermination camps, she too with her only and small son, Smuel, of five years old find their tragical end in Auswitch we presume. In addition of course I will refer more to the collective trauma caused by the totalitarian regime. For me specially and for my family as well this argument was felt on our skin twice, in 1948 in Romenia and the second time in 1974, after only 26 years, again in Eritrea where at the time the totalitarian regime penetrated in this part called the Corner of Africa, and brought the comunism over there. We lost everything again, two meat factories and as a sad end my dear father died of a heart attac, and all his vast properties again were confiscated by this horribile and devastating regime.