By Ben Kane, Membership Director
There was something odd happening in the Polish town of Nasielsk on a sunny day in 1938. A man by the name of David Kurtz was visiting, and he brought with him a camera with which he could record film- an expensive, rare piece of equipment in that time and place. It seemed the entire town wanted to gather to view this technological marvel. One of the scenes in the three minutes of film shows a group of worshippers leaving said synagogue. “Three Minutes – A Lengthening” paints a beautiful picture of the vibrant Jewish community in Nasielsk. A Jewish community whole and happy, before it was almost completely destroyed by the Nazis.
When the average person thinks of the Holocaust, they often think of the number six million. Six million Jews whose lives were stolen. But it’s difficult to wrap one’s head around a such a massive calamity. Six million is so large that it becomes just a number. Each victim is, albeit inadvertently, reduced to being simply one of many millions. “Three Minutes: A Lengthening” seeks to humanize the loss, and it succeeds in its goal. Those who were lost had hopes and dreams. They had fears, routines, questions, foods that they loved, and some that they didn’t quite love so much. They were like you and I, human, and very much not a number.
Much of the footage shows the town crowding around the camera, with some observing bemused in the background, and others trying their hardest to make themselves seen. Kids playfully shove other kids away, so the focus is on them. The message of the residents in the film seems to be, “look at us. We exist.” A tragic message, considering that many lost their lives, and then the footage was lost for many years. But now, in a way, those who were lost to death and time exist once again thanks to “Three Minutes – A Lengthening.”
“Three Minutes – A Lengthening” was created by many talented individuals. The film was directed by Bianca Stigter, co-produced by Steve McQueen (the director of “12 Years a Slave”) and narrated predominately by actress Helena Bonham Carter. There are occasional thoughts provided by Glenn Kurtz, the grandson of the filmmaker and the one who rediscovered the footage, as well as by Maurice Chandler. Chandler is one of the few Jewish residents of Nasielsk who survived the Holocaust, and recognized himself as a child upon watching David Kurtz’s film. All three guide the viewer beautifully through the footage that had remained unseen for decades.
Attendees of the 2022 National Convention in Savannah, Georgia were fortunate enough to be able to listen to more of Maurice Chandler’s story from the man himself. He took the time out of his day to join convention attendees over Zoom, and his story left the audience awed by his eloquence and resilience. If you would like to be similarly awed by the story of the town of Nasielsk, “Three Minutes – A Lengthening” is now playing in select theaters across the country.
Volume 76. Number 3. 2022