By Helena Tomlinson
On Wednesday the 29th April, Dr Shimon Redlich along with History Tutor Dr Sam Johnson showcased Redlich’s new film ‘Shimon’s Return’ on his life in Brezenyez, Poland (now in modern-day Ukraine) and his journey out of Nazi occupied territory to Israel. Redlich, who is now a History Professor in Israel, survived the Nazi antisemitism of Poland during the second world war, though the help of his family and friends who kept his family safe.
Despite the horrific nature of the holocaust and persecution suffered by Jews during world war two, the film has a very uplifting feeling at the centre of it. Although when younger there was a struggle for Redlich to connect with his history regarding the holocaust, he stressed that he starts his story “before the war, as it gives balance” and spoke of a very fond childhood he had in Brezenyez pre-wartime. Post the Paris peace conference in 1919, East Galicia, the provence in which Brezenyez is situated, was disputed by both Poland and Ukraine and ended up being a part of Poland before being returned to Ukraine later.
Shimon and his family moved from Brezenyez to Raj (paradise village), Lwów, Narajov and Ludj, which he described after as being the Manchester of Poland due to its industrial heritage. While travelling throughout Poland and Ukraine he was reunited with old friends, the families that took in the Redlichs’ during the occupation and spoke to many strangers who talked about their families and memories of Poland. His reasoning for stopping people in the street is that it helps him to write because it adds the ‘human touch’ to his books.
Along his travels, Redlich came across a group of people dressed as Nazis with replica vehicles and motorbikes, although for many in the audience who thought it was going to be a tense moment it wasn’t. He simply went and asked why they were doing it – to which the group said that they were doing it to remember the history that once was in Poland, which he empathised with.
Redlich has such a positive outlook on his experience before and during the Holocaust that it was such a refreshing film. Without a doubt everyone left feeling uplifted and with a different perspective of the Holocaust. Although Redlich Lives in Israel now, it is clear to see that he still sees Poland as his home. As they say ‘Home is where the heart is.’