Theatre Troupe of Gombin schoolchildren, 1922.  

The filmmaker, a child of Holocaust survivors, chronicles the tragic history of the Jews of the town of Gombin (Gabin), a small town in the Warzawa province in central Poland and the birthplace of her father.

Interviews of remaining survivors, who grew up as friends and relatives are interwoven with illuminating, historic footage filmed in 1937 by Sam Rafel on his trip to Gombin as a chairman of the Gombin Relief Committee. Survivors testimony of the ghettos, the camps and methods of survival will be juxtaposed with images of prewar innocence, the Jews of Gombin celebrating and posing for the camera. This is further combined with cinema verite interviews of the children of the survivors speaking about the impact on their lives of growing up in the shadow of death with traumatized parents.

The tenacity and perseverance which personified the Jewish survivor of Gombin has been inherited by the second and third generation. In an effort to reclaim the lost history of their parents and ancestors lives, a group of descendants, a handful of American professionals from diverse walks of life, an Englishman and an Israeli genealogist have formed The Gombin Jewish Historical and Genealogical Society. With no more than the dream of remembrance, the leaders of this group have created a project of healing.

We travel with them on an odyssey back to Poland with the children and grandchildren of survivors and descendants of Jewish Gombin.

They have reclaimed the Jewish cemetery from obliteration. Newly restored and fenced the cemetery is to be rededicated. Tombstones of ancestors which had been confiscated by the Nazis for pavement on Browarna Street have been salvaged, restored, returned, deciphered. A place that was left to vandals has been reclaimed by the living and the dead.

We follow the group as they go to Chelmo, the earliest extermination camp in which thousands of Jews from the region, including the filmmakers grandfather were murdered. We watch as the monument which the group has erected to the memory of the Jewish martyrs of Gombin is blessed and dedicated.

We walk the streets of Gombin, where today no Jews live, visiting the former homes and streets of the filmmakers father and other children of survivors and victims. There is nothing left of the former vibrant life of the Jews of Gombin. Tombstones, memorial plaques, memories, kind words spoken by sympathetic Poles in favor of remembrance and reflection are all we have to fill the void.

Interviews with Poles reveal differing aspects on acceptance of Jewish memory, guilt and blame. Younger Polish Jews from the larger cities express resentment that their home is mainly a place of mourning the dead. They want to get on with their lives and reject the idea of the past grafted onto their landscape. Others welcome the presence of Americans, other Europeans, Israelis. They see the visitors as professionals who bring commerce to the area. They also seek healing for a past which they feel was historically unjust to them as well.

We are left with an unsettled picture. We return home to the U.S.

Interviews with second and third generation children of survivors of Gombin are revealing of the impact of the events that destroyed lives. Stories of dysfunctional families, assimilation, suicide, abuse,depression and the diminishment of Jewish identity are interwoven with tales of success, religious and social freedom.

Diversity has been embraced.

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