Tomi Reichental: Condemned To Remember documentary film review
When Tomi Reichental was six years old, the new pro-Nazi puppet regime in his native Slovakia made it illegal for Jews to attend national schools.
The wearing of yellow stars became mandatory, but that was only the start of the Slovakian Jews' problems, and by the time he was nine, Tomi was on a cattle truck to Bergen-Belsen, where untold horrors awaited. Miraculously, he, his brother and their parents survived, and in the late 1950s Tomi emigrated to Ireland, where he married and settled down.
He rarely spoke about his experiences until a decade or so ago, when his grandson asked Tomi to speak about the Holocaust to his class. The floodgates opened and since then, Reichental has written a memoir and collaborated on three documentaries. In this latest, he revisits his hometown of Merasice and stands forlornly on the patch of ground where his family home once was.
Tomi lost 35 members of his extended family in the 'final solution', 70,000 of Slovakia's 90,000 Jews were exterminated, and this horror was merely a microcosm of a wider slaughter. It can never happen again, everyone said when the camps were discovered, but, of course, it has and Tomi moves beyond his own race's experiences when he explores the massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995. He cries now and then while listening to Srebrenica survivors: he shares their pain and understands only too well the importance of remembering.
Tomi Reichental: Condemned to Remember airs on RTE One at 9.35pm on Wednesday Feburary 14.