Love It Was Not, directed by Maya Sarfaty, is an intense and fascinating documentary about a beautiful, young Jewish woman, imprisoned in Auschwitz, who is beloved by an SS officer. The story is about Helena who was taken to Auschwitz with the first transport of women in March 1942. Her group of friends were set to work building the camp, and then later, sent to work in sorting clothes and possessions taken from those being sent to the gas chambers. While working there, she sang for an SS officer’s birthday, and he fell in love with her.
Franz was able to save Roza, but made no effort to save her two children. We discover that he was generally decent towards the women prisoners, but was a real sadist in his treatment of the men. When they were preparing to leave Auschwitz in the Death March, he gave Helena and Roza shoes for the march, and he asked them to help him after the war, “the way I helped you.”
The film does not hide the moral issues surrounding Helena’s relationship with Franz. Was it really possible to have a mutual love blossoming under these conditions? Helena is a woman haunted by her past, especially when she is asked to travel to Vienna to testify in support of Franz in 1972.
The film includes testimonies from other women who were with Helena in Auschwitz, from Helena and Roza and their grown children, and from Franz himself, and there are wonderful family photos included.
Love It Was Not (documentary, 82 minutes), was the winner of Best Film at DOCAVIV this week. Here are the Judge’s comments -- “A rare story in its dramatic intensity, unfolding gradually and with confidence, through captivating characters, excellent editing and original and brilliant processing of archive photographs. The film runs through the chilling seam between victim and aggressor, and manages to present, all at the same time, important and powerful documentation of the horrors of war, vivid testimonies, memory and forgetfulness, and poignant questions about the deceptive power of love.”
I sit on the decision-making committee of the joint collaborative of the Gesher Multicultural Film Foundation and the Avi Chai Foundation and, I am proud to say, that this film was produced with our support.