Director Farschid Ali Zahedi fled Iran for Germany following the Islamic Revolution, where he became fascinated by Jewish history and the Holocaust. After four years of work he is now releasing his latest film on the extermination of Jews in the Ukrainian city of Kovel. Orly Noy sat down to speak to him about debuting his film in Israel, the memory of the Holocaust, and the bleeding wound of his homeland.
Iranian-German director Farschid Ali Zahedi.
Before the Second World War, the Ukrainian city of Kovel was home to an significant and flourishing Jewish community. During the Nazi occupation, which lasted from 1941 to 1944, the Jewish population of the city was almost entirely annihilated.
Two men were primarily responsible for carrying out the extermination: Erich Kasner, the head of the local German administration, and Fritz Mantay, a German police officer. Twenty years went by before the two were located by German authorities and were put on trial for their crimes. The trial took place in the German city of Oldenburg and lasted 13 months.
“We Believed the Sun Would Rise Again,” the new film by Iranian-German director Farschid Ali Zahedi, looks at the the destruction of Kovel’s Jews, bringing its story to the big screen for the first time. Zahedi is a former political activist in Iran who fled the country after the revolution and was granted asylum in Oldenburg, where he runs a local cinematheque.
A story hardly told
“I arrived in Germany in the middle of the 1980s. During my first years there I was very busy with issues having to do with Iran and human rights in general, while at the same time I continued to work as a cinematographer and began doing some directing,” Zahedi tells me at a Jerusalem cafe, following his visit to Yad Vashem, a day after his film was screened at Beth Volyn (named after the district in which Kovel is located) in Givatayim. “Later I founded the cinematographers and directors union in Oldenburg, which I still head today.
“Life in Germany caused me to become very interested in the Jewish history of the place, and I made a few films about the city’s Jewish history. I was mostly interested in the question of what happened to the property that they left behind when they were taken to the extermination camps. What happened to their homes, their writing tables, their clothing. I researched the issue and published a book, which won me new supporters and new opponents.
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