In her film "Angels of Austria: The Church that Reached Out to Holocaust Survivors," Judy Faust captures the reconciliatory process between the Austrian people and Holocaust survivors.
Traveling to the small town of Weinder Neustadt, Faust documents the reconciliation of the Austrians and surviving members of the Holocaust, one of whom is her mother, Trudy Faust.
According to Faust, the process and realization of this reconciliation is the most unique and historically important aspect of her film. Although there have been numerous post-liberation reconciliatory efforts, Faust explains that far fewer of these efforts have been facilitated between Austrians and survivors than between Germans and survivors.
"The fact that it is now the Austrians asking for forgiveness marks a new historical chapter," said Faust.
Moreover, this reconciliation was an unusually organic process. In an attempt to conquer 800 years of anti-Semitism, originating long before the Holocaust, a small Lutheran church in Austria invited survivors to return to their hometown and embark on a process of healing and forgiveness. Faust followed her mother back to her Austrian hometown of Weiner Neustadt to experience and capture this emotional voyage.
The church led the survivors to places of Jewish faith in the small town, including synagogues, museums, cemeteries. and the House of Parliament, where they were honored by the mayor. The survivors also visited the local high school where young Austrians heard their personal experiences during the Holocaust, an experience that was a first for many.
"No one was unaffected by this process," Faust said.
Faust also noted that she saw a definite change in the character of her mother.
"After all of this sharing of her story," she said, "a weight of personal trauma was lifted from her."
In order to capture the truth and the visceral emotion behind this process, Faust compiled her documentary from raw footage of the reconciliation efforts, documentary and family photographs, and snapshots of her mother's paintings.
She explained that this film "is not a 'How I Suffered' Story, but rather a 'What Can I Learn From This' Story."
For that reason, the reconcilliation and the film are pertinent to people beyond the survivors and their families. Faust said she feels this film is particularly important for college age viewers because the film shows that the steps to foster cross-cultural acceptance and love don't have to be large ones. The film is more than a tale of the Holocaust, it is a paradigmatic story of forgiveness and healing that can be an inspiration to all.
"Angels of Austria: The Church that Reached Out to Holocaust Survivors" is produced by Judy Faust and co-edited by Maurice Amaral and will be shown Sunday, March 9 from 2-4 p.m., at the Holocaust & Human Rights Center at the Michael Klahr Center on the UMA campus. The documentary will also be featured at the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick on Saturday, March 15 at 11 a.m. and will be followed by a Q & A session with the filmmaker.