Institute News

New IWitness Activity Explores Homecoming after the Holocaust

The critically acclaimed 2017 Hungarian film 1945 is the subject of a new English-language IWitness activity, 1945 – Homecoming.

Based on a short story by Hungarian writer Szántó T. Gábor, 1945 (directed by Ferenc Török) tells the story of two Orthodox Jewish men who return to their small town in Hungary after surviving the Holocaust only to find that their neighbors have taken possession of their home and belongings.

By watching clips from the film and testimony clips of Holocaust survivors from the Visual History Archive and looking at historical documents, students consider the complexities of Jewish homecoming in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In their testimonies, the survivors echo many themes raised by the film, including averting vs. accepting responsibility and the role of citizens and the state in protecting people’s personal belongings.

In written responses, students analyze and interpret the behavior and emotional cues of the characters in the movie clips, the survivors and the people they describe in their testimonies. They consider what it was that people “wanted to forget” after the war and how this affected the survivors and their neighbors.

At the end of the activity, students write responses to a clip of survivor Agnes Heller’s testimony and share their thoughts with each other.