A gripping documentary, SWIMMING IN AUSCHWITZ sheds light on the Holocaust experience from the rarely explored perspective of six women imprisoned inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The intertwined stories of survivors Eva Beckmann, Rena Drexler, Renee Firestone, Erika Jacoby, Lili Majzner and Linda Sherman illustrate their individual, yet universal, Holocaust experiences.
The women’s’ lives slowly morphed into a never-ending saga of persecution and ghettoization. Starting in 1942, Nazis herded Jewish women from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Holland onto cattle cars and transported them through the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Separated from family after three or more days on a train with no food or water, stripped of their clothes, their heads shaved and their arms tattooed, they often spent the first night outdoors with the smell of the crematoria in the air.
In the ensuing months, their survival within the camp depended largely on luck, yet the six women — just teenagers at the time — found ways to keep their hope alive. The prisoners maintained a spiritual resistance through prayer, community, music and even humor. Through surprising anecdotes, these women reveal the unlikely role laughter played in their survival.
The film's title derives from its most powerful story. Marching through the camp on a particularly hot August day, the group passed by a swimming pool kept for Nazi officers. For one of the women, this sight was just too tempting. To the shock of the rest of the group, she jumped in the pool and swam from one end to the other.
The compelling testimonials in this film demonstrate the Nazis' failure to crush the will of Jews. The women profiled do not dwell on the physical and emotional hardships; instead, they speak of camp families and faith, and the ways in which they tried to uplift one another and retain their humanity. Their stories reveal the power of laughter and community, even in the face of unimaginable evil.
Produced by Bala Cynwyd Productions LLC.