“NANA”— Fighting Hate and Intolerance


Fighting Hate and Intolerance

Amos Lassen

In “Nana”, first-time film director Serena Dykman retraces her grandmother’s stories about Auschwitz and shows how she fought against hate and intolerance so that later generations would know how it had once been. Dykman does this through archival footage, photos, and clips. Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant was born in Poland and survived Ravensbruck, Malchow, and Auschwitz, three of the terrible camps set up by the Nazis and part of the final solution to rid the world of Jews. In Auschwitz, Maryla was forced to be the translator of the man who was known as the “angel of death,” Dr. Mengele. Once the war was over, Maryla devoted the rest of her life to speaking about her experiences in “ways that were stunning in their transparency and absolutely heartbreaking to watch.” The reason she did this was to ensure that there would never be a repeat of such experiences would never and she wanted to make sure that the younger generations were aware of what happened back then.

Before I sat down to watch this, I thought to myself “another Holocaust film?” There have been so many lately and I wondered what else could be said. Here it is not what can be said but the charm and the vivacity of the person who says it. Director Dykman decided to make this film after being inspired by her grandmother’s memoir. Mayla died fourteen years ago but her legacy is to continue the work that she started. Dykman says it like this—- “I realized that she [Maryla] was more than a survivor, more than a Polish Jew. The reason she went back to Auschwitz and told her story publicly thousands of times was so that it should never be forgotten, and would never happen to anyone again. Her activism and fight against intolerance lives on today, 14 years after her death, through the thousands of people she touched, and now through ‘Nana’“.

Dykman has a little sense of regret that she didn’t quite recognize her grandmother’s true greatness until long after she was gone and she missed the chance to more fully embrace this woman. whose story is now being told to the entire world. 

We are living at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise and “political wheels have turned a potentially dangerous direction in multiple nations”. What makes “Nana” so important and timely is that it reminds us that the Holocaust is not far removed from us and we must make sure that it will never happen again.

Maryla’s story actually spans three generations as we also have Serena’s mother, Alice here and she also explore how Maryla’s outspoken activism continues today. We are near the end of the period in which there will be no living survivors of the Holocaust and we certainly see that here. However, there is a small exception and that is that Maryla’s daughter and granddaughter are continuing her work.

Nana will have its movie house premiere on April 13, Holocaust Remembrance Day at Cinema Village in New York. Dykman will appear after the 7pm screenings on Friday and Saturday for a Q&A session. 

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