After the Final No Awarded Fifth JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant

The JDC Archives announced today that After the Final No, a documentary directed and produced by Phyllis Lee about the Jewish Displaced Persons (DP) experience, was awarded the 2021 JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant. After the Final No portrays this often-overlooked chapter in Jewish history through interviews with Holocaust survivors and their children born and raised in the Jewish DP camps, soldiers and aid workers, and archival images and footage.

Exploring the themes of resilience and post-traumatic growth at Foehrenwald, the last Jewish DP camp to close in 1957, the film recounts the reemergence of strong Jewish communities in the DP camps in Germany as survivors regained strength and reclaimed agency, with the essential help of organizations like the JDC. After the Final No is expected to be released in 2022.

“We are delighted to award this year’s JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant to After the Final No,” said Linda Levi, Director of the JDC Archives, “In its moving portrayal of the DP experience, the film sheds an important light on the process of recovery of Holocaust survivors.”

The film director and producer, Phyllis Lee, is a Second Generation Holocaust survivor with a lifelong commitment to tikkun olam. Based in New York, she served for over three decades at the United Nations. During her career, she headed advocacy and strategic communications for the UN’s international humanitarian efforts, bringing the spotlight to the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people including through film and media outreach.

“I was blessed to grow up among a group of Holocaust survivors who had a tremendous zest for life in spite of all that they had lived through. My parents, both from Poland, met and fell in love in DP Camp Foehrenwald, where they also made lifelong friendships. They did not consider themselves to be victims, nor did they see themselves as heroes. They were flesh-and-blood people who had the good luck to survive. For many of them, their lives’ mission was to honor the six million who perished,” said Ms. Lee. “How they themselves – homeless and stateless – had found the strength to go on, to regain confidence and trust in themselves and others, much less to love and create families, remained an untold story. I realized that this story needed to be brought to the screen, and in their voices.”

A girl watering plants in the Foehrenwald DP camp, Germany, c.1955.

The JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant awards $10,000 toward post-production and/or distribution costs of a documentary film that utilizes JDC’s archival collection and focuses on topics including 20th-century Jewish communities and humanitarian assistance. Nineteen films were submitted for consideration for the 2021 Grant from filmmakers in ten countries, including the United States, Israel, Canada, India, Australia, and Ukraine. Film topics covered biographical documentaries about unique personalities, Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, immigration to Israel, family memoirs, and other subjects.

Anna and the Egyptian Doctor, directed by Taliya Finkel, was selected as the Finalist. This film tells the story of the late Dr. Mohamed Helmy, an Arab Egyptian doctor in Berlin who poses as a Nazi supporter and rescues a Jewish girl disguised as a Muslim. He is the first and only Arab ever recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, but his family refuses the award. The survivor’s daughter journeys to meet Helmy’s nephew, who accepts it.

Expressing her gratitude for the grant, Ms. Lee said: “The work of the JDC is so central to our tale—from the days of the Bricha and support given to survivors making their way into postwar Germany all the way through to the last years of the Jewish DP camps. The Archives contain riches—images, footage, documents and oral histories—that will help bring the documentary film to life.”

Past winners of the JDC Archives Film Grant include: 2017’s Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana, which recounts the story of Jewish refugees who fled Nazi-occupied Europe for a safe haven in Cuba; 2018’s The Lost Crown, which looks at the mystery surrounding the Aleppo Codex; 2019’s The Remembered, which explores Polish-Jewish relations in the small town of Gniewoszów, Poland, around WWII; and 2020’s IRMI, which provides a portrait of Irmi Selver, an emigree who escaped Germany in the 1930s and lived a life characterized by resilience.

The 2021 JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant is the culminating year of this annual award, which has supported documentaries since 2017.