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Spielberg promotes documentary in Kiev

October 20, 2006|From Reuters

KIEV — A documentary based on the accounts of Holocaust survivors in Ukraine can help undermine activists who try to deny the attempt to eliminate European Jewry, U.S. filmmaker Steven Spielberg said.

Spielberg, whose grandparents came from Ukraine, co-produced "Spell Your Name" and attended its premiere Wednesday after visiting Babiy Yar, the site outside the Kiev city center where the Nazis slaughtered more than 33,000 Jews in two days in September 1941.

"In order to create an undeniability about the Holocaust, these survivors, 52,000 of them, need to be shown to students all over the world," Spielberg told a news conference.

"Tolerance is born of education. Everything comes from what we learn. It all depends on who our teachers are.... All hatred starts with fear. And we have experienced a century of fear and I fear we are going into another century of heightened fear."

The film, co-produced with Ukrainian industrialist Viktor Pinchuk, brings together accounts from Jews who survived and Gentiles who sheltered them. Director Sergei Bukovsky intersperses the accounts with images of life in towns and villages through the seasons.

Spielberg, making his first trip to an ex-Soviet state, said his background made him feel very much at home in Ukraine. "This is not a foreign culture to me at all," he said.

"This is a very familiar culture. I got off the airplane today and said, 'I'm home!' "

Spielberg said showing the film would build understanding of the Holocaust in Ukraine, where Soviet versions of history downplayed its scale.

Spielberg explored the subject of the Holocaust in his 1993 film "Schindler's List," which won seven Oscars, including best picture and best director.

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