Amos Lassen

Serena Dykman’s “Nana” is the story of her grandmother, Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant who was born in Poland and survived Ravensbrück, Malchow, and Auschwitz, where she was the forced translator of the “Angel of Death,” Dr. Mengele. She dedicated her post-war life to publicly speaking about her survival to the younger generations, so that it would never be forgotten or repeated. The documentary explores how Maryla’s fight against intolerance can continue today in a world where survivors are disappearing and intolerance, racism, and anti-Semitism are on the rise. Dykman retraces her grandmother’s Auschwitz survival story, and investigates how her life-long fight against intolerance can be taught to the new generations.

Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant not only survived Auschwitz but lived a long life after the camp and she shared talking about the extremes human beings are capable going to under despotic regimes. This is a personal narrative that spans three generations and has many direct interviews of Michalowski-Dyamant that were conducted over decades by multiple people and media outlets.  

We hear a great deal about the political situation, both then and now and see that Michalowski-Dyamant was more than a survivor. Rather, she was “one of the few beacons of light remaining after the Holocaust.” She makes connections between suffering, history and hope.  

In her own words, Michalowski-Dyamant describes how atrocities unfolded as Jews were demonized and how their existence was labeled illegal and exterminated. Her truths are much more than powerful as they find their ways into reaches into- the hearts and minds of viewers, giving them courage to think honestly about how they are living now. She reminds us that just like these atrocities happened in Germany, they can happen anywhere if people allow them to do so.

Dykman uses cinematic devices in combination with multiple voices-including her mother’s and her own-to relive Michalowski-Dyamant’s experience. As the film’s contributors read from Michalowski-Dyamant’s memoir they help fill in gaps.  

Although the content is often heavy, it is filled with moments of hope and joy. Michalowski-Dyamant is funny and her sense of humor runs deep and at the end of the credits there are some real gems that come in the outtakes.