"16 Photographs at Ohrdruf" tells the powerful story of the soldiers who uncovered the first concentration camp found by the Allies during World War II
Friday, April 05, 2013
That is the opening line of Lesley professor Matthew Nash’s documentary, “16 Photographs at Ohrdruf,” which tells the powerful story of the soldiers who uncovered the first concentration camp found by the Allies during World War II.
Guided only by a small stack of photos taken by his Army medic grandfather at the Ohrdruf camp, Nash tries to unravel a family secret that began on April 4, 1945 – a journey he tells over the course of his new film, which is being met with wide acclaim and will be screened at the Boston International Film Festival on April 16, and the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, D.C., on May 12.
But Nash’s documentary is about more than the horrors the Holocaust. It’s a testament to the power of the human story, and to the untold stories in our midst and the importance of bringing them to light.
“It is a dark topic, but we tried to leave some of that darkness in the shadows,” Nash said during a premiere of the film held in Lesley University’s Marran Theater on Thursday. “The goal is to encourage people to look into these stories. There is a lot of stuff right in front of you.”
Dr. Geoffrey Megargee, of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., traveled to Lesley for the film’s premier and spoke about the vast network of Nazi camps and ghettos, putting the documentary in context and illustrating the staggering scope of Nazi camps of detention, persecution, and murder, of which Ohrdruf was a part.
Twenty years after Donald Johnson died of cancer, Nash, his grandson, set out to find 16 photos taken while his grandfather was in World War II. The photos, a family secret mentioned only in whispers, depicted horrible scenes taken by a soldier entering the first of the concentration camps liberated by Allies. Each photo was marked with one word: Ohrdruf.
Nash's investigation of the photographs leads him to historians who reveal a side of the Holocaust that he had never imagined, and to survivors with heartbreaking stories. In trying to understand the pictures, Nash turns his focus to the soldiers who liberated the camps. Nash finds Ralph Rush and hears the shocking story of the liberation of Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany, the first camp liberated by the Allies. His attempt to understand his grandfather's pictures has brought him face to face with the anger, the horror and the guilt that those first young soldiers felt when they encountered the atrocities of the Nazis.
“16 Photographs At Ohrdruf” is the journey of one grandson, trying to understand the brutal and terrible scenes preserved in sixteen forgotten pictures. In his investigation, Nash offers a voice for anyone who has ever wondered what is hidden from us, and what history might be uncovered in our families if we would only ask.
Nash, an associate professor of photography at Lesley’s Art Institute of Boston, produced the film with Jason Dean as part of 454 Productions and editor Michael Equi.
Learn more about “16 Photographs At Ohrdruf” by visiting www.16photographs.com.
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