The Buchenwald Ball

Synopsis

The Buchenwald Ball is a film that celebrates survival. Uplifting, full of swagger and joie de vivre, it tells the story of forty-five orphans who, having survived the Holocaust and settled in Australia after the Second World War, set about celebrating the 60th anniversary of their liberation from Nazi tyranny with a gala ball. These men drink hard, argue with gusto and dance to live. This post-Holocaust film documents their struggle, their humour, and ultimately the tenacity of their human spirit in the aftermath of tragedy…

2006: SBS Australia
2007: Channel 1 Israel, Holocaust Remembrance Day broadcast

Reviews

"A beautiful tribute to human spirit and to men who embody it"
The Age

"Meeting these people with their sad eyes and smiling faces is a pleasure"
The Sydney Morning Herald

The orphans came to be known as the ‘Buchenwald Boys’ and every year, on the 11th of April, the Buchenwald Boys hold a ball that celebrates life. Filled with dancing, music and a spritely energy that defies their age, the ball is a testament to their determination to survive. These men drink. They argue. They love to dance.

And as the film unfolds, we see how these men – a flesh and blood connection to one of the darkest episodes of human history – talk with their children and grandchildren about their experiences. We are privy to a generational exchange about the past through conversations that are intense, intimate, soul searching, darkly humorous, and always revealing.

Four of the Boys – Szaja Chaskiel, the President of the Boys Executive Committee, Sam Michalowicz, Henry Salter and Joe Szwarcberg – share their stories both before and after their liberation. They reveal memories of home, the last moments with murdered parents, surviving Nazi ghettos, camps and death marches. They speak of how they travelled to Australia and their first reactions on arriving in a strange land that had been described to them as a place of “milk and honey”.

Ultimately, the Buchenwald Boys are men with an irrepressible life-force. Whether they are debating how to celebrate this 60th ball, the existence of God, or how to deal with their emotions on a visit to Buchenwald and Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Boys are full of vigour and humour. This film captures their passion and memories for future generations – it is a cautionary tale for when they are gone. But, as one of the boys says, “As long as we’re still alive, we’ll keep dancing.” 

While the Buchenwald Ball is a Jewish story and film, it has a universal message for all peoples who have experienced genocide, trauma and dislocation.

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