Guest blogger, Evelyn Rose, shares the story of two motorcycle journeys, across two centuries, to promote tolerance, understanding and to push back against injustice.
In the late 19th Century, Max Nordau, a Hungarian physician, author and social critic, accompanied by Theodore Herzyl, witnessed rowdy crowds in the streets of Paris spewing “Sal Juif! Sal Juif!” “Dirty Jew! Dirty Jew!” during the Dreyfus Affair, where an innocent Jewish Army officer had been wrongly accused. It would take years for Dreyfus to be exonerated. However, seeing this incandescent hatred, Nordau decided that Jews had to change. They had to become physically strong in order to combat injustice. It was in 1897 that he put forward his theory, which led to the creation of many Jewish sporting organisations, which would eventually come under the umbrella of the Maccabiah movement. Its philosophy was to focus on sport, strength and nationhood.
In the early 1930s, in one of most innovative PR exercises of all time, groups of motor cyclists set out from the British Mandate of Palestine to all corners of Europe in search of athletes for the first Maccabiah Games (Jewish Olympics) in Tel-Aviv in 1932.
A third journey took place in 1935, where our biker Gal Marom’s grandfather took part. This was to promote the 2nd Maccabiah Games in Tel-Aviv for 1938.
These Maccabi bikers would face the consequences of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and the dramatic change of sentiment in Europe. These riders would go on to America and Canada seeking athletes for the Jewish Olympics that would never take place but suffer the consequences of the Holocaust and WW2. These three bike journeys of 1930, 1931 and 1935 would however save many Jewish lives from the “nails of the Nazis” and their collaborators.
Their bravery and heroism inspired director Catherine Lurie to recreate their journey in the 21st Century, to see how life for Jews has changed and how it has not. When she heard that Germany would host the European Maccabi Games at the infamous site of the 1936 Olympics for the very first time on German soil, she decided to create a new mission in memory of the 1930’s bikers. She would take a group of modern day Jews to deliver the Maccabiah torch and fly their flag to the Opening Ceremony.
Catherine and her group of 11 bikers rode 4000 miles through 9 countries, two major storms and unbearable heat in 26 days. The bikers consisted of nine Israelis and two Diaspora Jews. Among the bikers are Holocaust survivors and their descendants. They each tell their own story of evil and goodness, survival and death. The result is Back to Berlin, a new documentary film.
It portrays how modern anti-Semitism is once again on the rise and to remind people that history can repeat itself unless we do something to stop it. While on their journey, the bikers were asked by much dwindled communities not to fly their flag for fear of repercussions and were escorted by police in Greece, Hungary and Poland.
Back To Berlin is a story about the Holocaust, about a legacy, which combines motorcycles, sport and history. It is a cautionary tale.
It will be released in UK cinemas from 23 November 2018 and will be an extremely useful educational tool for students aged 14 and above. Hearing from biker and Holocaust survivor Yoram Maron, students will be able to gain a better understanding of the different experiences people went through during the War.
Support our journey by following us on social media and watching the documentary. It is a film for everyone to learn and due to current antisemitism in our society, it is more relevant than ever.
Barroness Virginia Bottomley, Chancellor of Hull University commented:
“We are living in times of political and social upheaval.”
“The public needs reminding of the horrors of the not so distant past. I hope this film makes a contribution in promoting a more civilised society where the evils of the past are not entirely forgotten.”
Karen Pollack Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust:
“At a time when antisemitism is resurgent and truth is under attack, Back to Berlin is a powerful and necessary film. Bringing the history of the Holocaust to life through moving personal encounters with the past in sites across Europe, it is also a story of hope and of the endurance of the human spirit whose message could not be more relevant today.”
Have a look at our website for more information and screening locations and tickets:
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Youtube: Back to Berlin
Evelyn Rose is a History Graduate from the University of Hull, where she studied the Holocaust and other human rights abuses.
Catherine Lurie-Alt is a film producer and journalist based in London. She was the youngest investigative journalist ever appointed to the Business section of the Sunday Times in South Africa. Currently she is the European Correspondent for the New York-based TV Channel JBS and is a member of the Foreign Press Association.
Catherine has produced and directed 6 short films for JLTV. Her companies, Luria Media and Cat-Mac, are developing and producing documentaries and feature films focusing on subjects relating to humanitarian causes and foreign politics.
Catherine is now producer and director of the feature documentary Back to Berlin (http://www.backtoberlin.co.uk).