Chavurah: Greek by Birth, Jewish by Blood
Filmmakers Anna Rezan and Zafeiris “Zaf” Haitidis team up to create a rarely told, but poignant story, with their documentary glimpse into the experience of Greek Jews during WWII. Although almost 90% of the Greek Jewish community perished at the Holocaust, not to many things are known about it. Secondly, Greece was the only country in Europe, whose religious leadership and intelligentsia (Archbishop Damaskenos, poet Sikelianos, writer Kazantzakis, etc.) stood up to the Nazi authorities, condemning the persecution of the Jews. Thirdly and most importantly, this film is made by young filmmakers, both of Greek and Greek-Jewish heritage. After a brief exchange with the filmmakers, NEO too helps bring this story out of hiding. We hope it will spark a new beginning and awareness into understanding Greece’s role in the protection of persecuted people, and how Greece still plays a vital role in the support of human rights today.
It is not widely known, but Thessaloniki, the co-capital of Greece, had a significant population of Sephardic Jews. For hundreds of years, the city was a major center of Sephardic life, once coined the “Mother of Israel” or more accurately “La madre de Israel”. For over than 2,000 years, Jewish people had a thriving presence in Greece and played an important role throughout Greek history until World War II. Despite the unique efforts of the Greeks and all across Europe to save Jews from Hitler’s atrocious regime of mass extermination, the Holocaust nearly destroyed an entire community.
“Chavurah: Greek by Birth, Jewish by Blood” is the first feature documentary by Greek-Jewish actress – turned director for the occasion – Anna Rezan. “This was an idea that came to me few years ago. While working and traveling in various countries, people kept being surprised by meeting a Greek Jew, telling me that they had no idea there were Jews in Greece,” stated Rezan. “I started to develop the project with Zaf, a dear friend in the industry whose work I deeply admire. He accepted the call to start creating this film with me, no matter if it seemed an impossible task at the beginning, dealing with the complexities, the horrific subject matter and most importantly the sense of an enormous responsibility,” she continues.
This indie film is a collaboration of young artists, newcomers onto the documentary film scene, but has already triggered the curiosity of notable members of the entertainment industry who have expressed interest in supporting this project. “It wouldn’t have been possible without our good friend and co-producer John Filippidis who managed to raise valuable development funds. This story has to be told, and while the survivors are in their mid-90s, it was clearly urgent for us to get started,” Haitidis explains.
“Other producers also have expressed interest in getting involved. We’ve had some conversations about it,” Rezan said. “Zaf and I are keen. Excited, to be frank.”
“Chavurah: Greek by Birth, Jewish by Blood” is co-produced by award-winning filmmaker Zafeiris “Zaf “Haitidis, who also lent his talents to the film as Director of Photography. Pantelis Kodogiannis, who plays the lead in the movie “The First Line”, is the narrator of this tragic story that documents the arduous journey and experience of 90,000 Greek Jews during WWII.
This film aims to tell their story, as it is discovered and documented by a Greek girl of Jewish descent, actress and musician Anna Rezan, who, through her own journey wants to understand the first perfectly master-minded industrialized genocide in history and to communicate the subject matter her way, with visual and narrative description from the remaining survivors to the perceptions and thoughts of her generation. The purpose of this documentary is to present the tragic historical facts, to serve as an example of renewed hope and faith in humanity, and to educate us on how to prevent another Holocaust from recurring.
“The viewer will became aware that what happened in Auschwitz could happen anywhere at any time. We also intend to inspire audiences of all ages, featuring the stories of those that were rescued by Christian priests and civilians who where also under the Nazi occupation. Many Greeks are titled Righteous among the Nations. Unity in humanity is able to fight and in times win over even the most powerful enemy,” says Rezan.
The film takes place in the central cities of Greece, Germany, and in one the most menacing places on earth, the concentration camp of Auschwitz. We do expect an eventful feature documentary coming from a younger, fresh female to approach the Holocaust. “Certainly an uneasy and eventful experience for both the creators and the audiences,” she adds.
Rezan currently resides in Los Angeles. Haitidis studied in the USA and currently resides in Athens, Greece where he is also working on his next feature film project.
Athena Efter contributed to this story.