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Okotoks theatre screening story of Holocaust survivor

Le Chemin Des Juifs, A Survivor’s Journey tells the story of David Shentow, a Belgian-Canadian survivor of the Holocuast
SCENE-Holocaust Doc

A documentary detailing the struggles of a Holocaust survivor is showing in Okotoks this weekend.

Showing at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre on May 7, Le Chemin Des Juifs, A Survivor’s Journey tells the story of David Shentow, a Belgian-Canadian survivor of the Nazi Holocaust.

In English, Le Chemin De Juifs means the Jewish Road, a nickname given to a roadway built by Jewish prisoners under the Nazi occupation to transport munitions and fortify their forces.

It's created by filmmakers Daniel Bhattacharya and Koa Padolsky, who at the time resided in the United Kingdom.

“The film is about him, but it’s also focusing on the road in northern France which was built by Jewish slave labour,” Bhattacharya said. “It in a way symbolized David’s journey.”

The filmmakers met with Shentow and his wife, taking care as they interviewed the frail man who was in the later years of his life, using only a small BlackMagic compact cinema camera to avoid overwhelming him.

“We came over especially to Ottawa and met David and his wife Rose,” Bhattacharya said.

“Initially he was guarded — it’s obviously a lot of pain, but once he started he just carried on.

“He spoke for about an hour and a half, then he had to have a rest, and his wife Rose spoke, she was very eloquent."

Shentow was originally sent to a work camp in northern France, then to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland before being sent to Dachau.

From there he emigrated to Halifax in 1949.

Much of this was verified by Bhattacharya through records kept by the Nazis themselves.

“There’s a Jewish Museum in Brussels, which has some of the original records because the Nazis were very careful bookkeepers, in a way,” Bhattacharya said. “There was a lot of information, and David’s records we found in there, so it was really quite enlightening to find out about his past.”

Shentow's story only came to light, Bhattacharya said, during a chance encounter with a Holocaust denier in the '80s, which prompted the survivor to show his tattoos from the concentration camps.

While the subject matter was difficult, the film was intended to simply shine a light.

“We wanted it to be honest, and people can make their own opinion,” Bhattacharya said.

Shentow himself was able to view it before his passing in 2017.   

The filmmakers were able to create an initial rough copy and hold a screening at University of Ottawa that he was able to see.

Bhattacharya, originally from the U.K. where he resided when he made the film, now lives in Okotoks.  

Before that he was a violinist in an orchestra that created scores for blockbuster productions, including several Avengers movies.

He also descends from Jewish people, some of whom were touched by the Holocaust, such has his grandfather, who moved to the U.K. in the ‘20s before joining the Royal Air Force and helping to liberate Dachau.

“That side of my family, we sort of have those stories first-hand,” said Bhattacharya, adding his grandfather renounced religion after that experience, raising his family absent of religion.  

“I had that family connection, but it was also to trace someone’s roots and go there.”

The RPAC screening on May 7 will feature live musicians, colleagues of Bhattacharya’s, to accompany the film.

“We have the suite of music play first, which was composed for the film,” he said. “It’s six movements, and each movement is part of the documentary.”

This music, he said, was intended to prime the audience emotionally.

“So by putting the music first it seems to put people in the right mood, then maybe more conducive to listen to what was going on,” Bhattacharya said.

Le Chemin Des Juifs, A Survivor’s Journey will show at the RPAC from 7:30 to 10 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

For tickets or information visit https://www.okotoks.ca/your-community/living-okotoks/community-event-calendar/le-chemin-des-juifs-survivors-journey


Brent Calver

About the Author: Brent Calver

Award-winning photojournalist for the Okotoks Western Wheel and OkotoksToday.ca
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