School of Communication and Media News Producer Steve McCarthy and Theatre and Dance Professor Susan Kerner produced a Holocaust documentary that will make its debut to a sold out crowd at the 2022 Montclair Film Festival next week.
The documentary, Eva’s Promise, follows Holocaust survivor, Eva Schloss’ efforts to share her 17-year-old brother Heinz Geiringer’s hidden artwork after he died in a concentration camp. Heinz made Eva promise that if he didn’t survive the war, she would retrieve the paintings and poetry that he created and hid in the floorboards of the attic while he was in hiding.
Eva’s story sits in the shadow of the popular The Diary of Anne Frank, written in hiding by Anne Frank, whose father, Otto Frank, married Eva’s mother after the war, having lost his wife and daughters to the Nazis. Eva’s Promise introduces Heinz and his talents as well as Eva’s efforts to find and share his remarkable legacy.
“For years Eva couldn’t talk about her experience since she had night terrors from the war,” McCarthy says. “When she became a Holocaust educator in the early ’90s, that’s when her nightmares started going away. Eva went to get the paintings and poetry and wanted to make this film to tell the world about her brother.”
To grant Eva’s wish, McCarthy and Kerner traveled to London and Amsterdam in November of 2021 along with McCarthy’s sons, Ryan and Justin, to film the documentary. They interviewed Eva over three days in London, where she lives. They then went to Amsterdam and filmed at the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam where Heinz Geiringer’s artwork appears today. On their journey, the crew also filmed in Eva and Heinz’s high school and in the very attic of the home where they hid and where his artwork was found.
“We had an extra day in Amsterdam and the address of where the paintings had been hidden during the war,” Kerner recalls. “We didn’t know the name of the people who lived in that house but I rang the bell and said who we were and they invited us in for coffee and took us up to the attic where the paintings were hidden which we happened to film.”
The film was developed through an earlier friendship between Eva and Kerner. In the ’90s, Kerner commissioned and directed a play titled And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank. The play featured Eva as a main character and was performed around the world. At the time, Eva owned an antique shop in London and kept quiet about her experiences in the concentration camp for more than 40 years.
Eva reached out to Kerner in 2021 with the request to find a documentary director to share her brother’s story. Kerner partnered up with McCarthy, a former TV news producer and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker for assistance on the documentary. Once McCarthy finished editing the film with his son Ryan, he submitted it to the 2022 Montclair Film Festival since he previously had great experiences of showcasing his work with them.
“They’re really great people and they are very supportive of filmmakers and artists so I really couldn’t be happier that it’s premiering there,” McCarthy says.
“I’m very excited about the festival. I’m thrilled for Eva, Steve and his family for this great opportunity,” Kerner says. “It’s fulfilling a promise that I made to Eva Schloss to help her tell the story of her brother and keep his memory alive through sharing his work with the world.”
In addition to the Montclair Film Festival, the film will be screened at the School of Communication and Media on November 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Presentation Hall. Following the film, McCarthy and Kerner will participate in a panel discussion with professors Zoe Burkholder and Kate Temoney from Montclair’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Project.
Story by Rosaria Lo Presti.