The Essential Link, directed by Yonatan Nir, is a fascinating documentary that combines personal family details with elements of an historical thriller.
On Kibbutz Hazorea in the Jezreel Valley, there is a building called the Wilfred House. It is a cultural center for the kibbutz and filmmaker Yonatan Nir’s grandfather displayed his paintings there. But Nir doesn’t know for whom it is named and he is determined to find out. His research unravels a story that includes Nazi cruelty, a stunning collection of art from the Far East, survivors’ guilt and an overwhelming tale of tremendous personal sacrifice.
The complete title of the film is The Essential Link – The Story of Wilfred Israel and we slowly learn to appreciate the activities of Wilfred Israel who used his personal connections and most of his wealth to help save literally thousands of German Jews.
Wilfred Israel was a wealthy businessman, owner of a department store in the center of Berlin, which was built by his ancestors during the 19th century. He was a lover of literature and art and in the 1920s, he traveled to the Far East where he began his art collection. He had a personal relationship with Einstein, Chaim Weizmann, Christopher Isherwood, Martin Buber and Lord Herbert Samuel, to name a few! During a short detention in a Nazi prison, he befriended members of a Jewish youth group, who he later helped to emigrate to Palestine. These were the founders of Kibbutz Hazorea. Today, his art collection is housed in the Wilfred House on Kibbutz Hazorea!
Wilfred Israel worked unceasingly to help obtain the necessary documents for Jews to leave Germany, expended his personal wealth to the rescue of these Jews, with the help of the MI6 agent at the British Embassy in Berlin, obtained visas for Jews, and was the key figure in initiating the Kindertransport operation that saved perhaps as many as 10,000 German Jewish children by sending them to England.
After visiting his pioneering friends in Palestine, he traveled around Europe, desperately trying to free Jews from the clutches of Nazism. He lost his life when, traveling from Lisbon to London, a German missile shot down his plane.
The Essential Link tells an important and rather unknown story of the Holocaust and, at the same time, it talks about the importance of memory for future generations.
The film is available (beginning March 2017) from Ruth Films in two versions: 78 minutes or 52 minutes. I previewed the longer version and was spellbound. If you enjoyed other films that unravel historical mysteries such as The Flat by Arnon Goldfinger and The Green Dumpster Mystery by Tal Haim Yoffe, then you will enjoy this film also!