Turkish Embassy Hosts Screening to Mark Int’l Holocaust Remembrance Day

On January 24, the Embassy of Turkey in Georgia marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. In relation to the Day, the Turkish Embassy in Georgia organized the screening of documentary film ‘The Story of Lina Amato.’ The event was attended by the ambassadors of other countries to Georgia, diplomats, media, and other guests.

H.E. Fatma Ceren Yazgan, the Ambassador of Turkey to Georgia, welcomed guests and highlighted the importance of the day, noting that each victim of the Holocaust has a story and these stories should be told.

“We are here today to commemorate the International Day of the Holocaust. It is our duty to remember and to tell the next generations what happened,” the Ambassador told GEORGIA TODAY before the screening. “The Holocaust is important in many terms; it is pain not only for Jewish people all over the world, but also for all of us. This documentary shows the memoirs of one of the survivors who was living with her family on the island of Rhodes, Greece, when the Nazis occupied the island.  More than 1700 Jews were living there then. The Turkish Consul-General Selahattin Ülkümen falsified documents to save some on the basis of their Turkish citizenship. He was one of a group of Turkish Consuls serving in Europe at the time. This is their story and we would like to stand and respect the memories of all the victims and all the survivors,” she said.

The film was made in association with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Embassy in Pretoria. ‘The Story of Lina Amato’ is based on the true story of Lina Kantor (Amato), one of the few remaining survivors of the Holocaust, now residing in Cape Town, South Africa. This extraordinary documentary by filmmaker Johnathan Andrews uncovers the rare account of how the interventions of Turkish Consul-General Selahattin Ülkümen saved 42 Jews from deportation by the Nazis to Auschwitz in July 1944.

In the film, Lina speaks from the heart as she guides viewers through the history of her time spent on Rhodes Island as a child, and how her family was saved through the efforts of Ülkümen. Eventually, the Germans attacked Ülkümen’s home in retribution for his efforts, leading to his wife’s death. Amato clutches her red Turkish passport, a symbol of her freedom, and says how she regrets she never had the chance to meet Ülkümen and thank him. Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, ultimately recognized him as “Righteous among the Nations” in 1989.

‘The Story of Lina Amato’ is an honest and unforgettable story in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The film features clear historical context by Richard Freedman, director of the SA Holocaust and Genocide Foundation, and a brief interview with the current Turkish Ambassador in South Africa, Elif Çomoğlu Ülken. But the essence of the story is captured by Lina herself. Her words are carefully chosen; her silences, devastating.

The main hero of the film also honors Italian residents on Rhodes, Girolamo and Bianca Sotgiu, family friends of the Amatos, who took Lina, then eight years old, into their care when Jewish citizens were ordered by the Gestapo to report to the local barracks. She tells how they taught her Catholic ways, including the recitation of Latin prayers, to protect her. Lina’s parents had Italian passports, but her grandmother was Turkish. She describes how Bianca Sotgiu came up with the idea to approach Ülkümen, and how he agreed that he would save as many Jews as he could under the pretext of their being Turkish citizens. After the war, Lina and her parents left Rhodes for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and later moved to South Africa.

Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia Giedrius Puodžiūnas, who also attended the screening, elaborated on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“This is one of the biggest tragedies of human history of the 20th century. We have to remember this issue and not forget the heroes. We are happy that the Turkish Embassy organized this documentary screening dedicated to this important day.  We need to know our past to learn the lesson and fight all phobias of the present day,” he told GEORGIA TODAY.

By Lika Chigladze

Image: Lina Amato. Photo by Johnathan Andrews



31 January 2019 22:38