Lerner's Revenge, directed and produced by Gilad Tocatly, is a newly produced dramatic Holocaust tale, a documentary which tells the tragic story of one family against the background of historical context and documentary footage. There are elements of this story that are particularly tragic, and some that are remarkably unique. This is a story of repeated betrayal, multiple murders, and finally redemption.
Yoineh Lerner was the baker in the Eastern Polish town of Komarovka. He lived with his wife, Gitl, and eight children in a house over the bakery. Their oldest son moved to Israel before the war and their son Yitzhak served in the Polish army at the beginning of the war. At first the town was in Russian hands, but quickly the Nazis came and occupied the town, using the Lerner home as their headquarters.
If you think that you have heard all of the stories and watched all of the horrors that took place during the Holocaust, then you are mistaken. In this small town, the Nazis came up with a shocking and creative humiliation for the Jews – one that I had never heard of before. They forced the Jews to lie down in the plaza in front of the town's church so that the local towns-people tread on them as they came out of church. Who can understand the base and violent nature of human beings?
When the Jewish population of the town was liquidated, their sonYitzhak and his sweetheart Esther fled to Warsaw, leaving Esther's little girl in the hands of some neighbors for protection. Shortly thereafter, these neighbors killed the little girl and paid a murderer to go to Warsaw to kill Esther and Yitzhak because they wanted to take possession of Esther's parents' home. The murderer succeeded in killing Esther and in wounding Yitzhak.
Meanwhile, Yoineh and one of their daughters and grand-daughters were sent to Majdanek, where they met with their deaths. At the same time, Gitl and five of their children were helped by Polish friends to hide out at a nearby farm. They lived in an underground bunker and paid an enormous sum for this each month. When their money ran out, five of the local farmers, in an attempt at extorting more money, raped the daughters and brutally killed all of the family, one by one.
One shouldn't think that all Poles conspired to eradicate this family from the face of the earth. In fact, one Polish woman sheltered Yitzhak and provided him with a place to live in Warsaw -- she was later declared a righteous among the nations.
This is also the story of Yoineh and Gitl Lerner's Israeli grandson, Rony. Decades later he decides to return to Poland and state loudly to the murderers of his family, you didn't succeed in wiping us out! Rony uncovers this story of shocking murder and betrayal; he even encounters one of the Polish farmers who participated in the brutal extortion and murder of his family. But Rony Lerner's revenge is not one of violence; rather he is seeking to dignify the memory of those in his family who were murdered during this terrible period in European history.
Lerner's Revenge is available from Ruth Diskin.