For years, the Arab media has refrained from showing documentaries about the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews. Even “Schindler’s List,” the film by Jewish director Steven Spielberg, had been banned from screening in Arab countries. However, recently a number of media outlets in Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco have begun reporting on the documentary “The Day I Met Hitler” by controversial Israeli director Ronen Israelski. The film, which is currently competing in the “Best Documentary of 2020” category in Canada, describes the stories of the last people alive today who knew the Nazi leader personally, grew up in his home, and even served as his SS officers.
“I am shocked by the interest from the Arab world,” Israelski told YNET about the documentary that took five years to research and produce. “For me the challenge was to complete this impossible production, there were so many objections along the way to give a stage to these people, to hear their truth and what led them to seemingly follow Hitler with their eyes closed. I did not expect to receive such interest from the Arab world. Certainly not in a documentary by an Israeli director.”
Israelski began his professional career as director for Ariel Sharon’s publicity campaign for prime minister and eventually became an acclaimed director for Israeli television. Five years ago he left to Canada with his family and this is the first film he has created for the international market. “A few months ago, the director of the Jewish Department at the US Department of Education contacted me and together we began to build a curriculum based on the film, with the goal that every American child, Jewish or non-Jewish, will learn about the Holocaust through my film. The younger generation around the world does not know about the Holocaust, but to receive a request from an enemy Arab country like Lebanon is unprecedented for me, and that was actually the ultimate goal – that the world would know what it had long since forgotten.”
This coming Sunday, the final of the Ontario International Film Festival will take place in Canada, and if the film wins, it will also be nominated for an American Oscar as the representative of Canada.
Q: When can we see the film in Israel?
A: Unfortunately, the television channels in Israel claim that the angle the film presents is not suitable for an Israeli audience. I am of the opinion that this is a mistake and even condescending towards the viewer. I hope now that with the broadcast of the film around the world that the Israeli viewer will also get to hear the stories directly from the people that Hitler had turned into human monsters. There really is no way that is more educational than hearing about the war crimes from the people who were there and committed these crimes. In my opinion, it is of first-class educational value.