McLean Resident Produces PBS Documentary on Elie Wiesel

McLean Resident Produces PBS Documentary on Elie Wiesel

A PBS television documentary about Elie Wiesel, 74, who survived the Holocaust and later in life won the Nobel Prize for writing, will be broadcast at 8 p.m., Thanksgiving evening, Nov. 28.

It will follow the 4 p.m. football game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys.

It was filmed by Lives and Legacies Films, a nonprofit production company founded by Stanley Zuckerman, a McLean resident who managed the political campaign for Barbara Phillips when she ran as the Democratic candidate for Dranesville District supervisor in 1999.

The film will be aired Thanksgiving, Zuckerman said, because “the mood of the film is exceptionally attuned to the reflective mood that usually accompanies the holiday.”

It is one in PBS’s “First Person Singular” series, which documents the thinking and creativity of the present generation.

“That the date precedes the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Chanukah by one day,” he said, was another indication of good timing.

Zuckerman, who retired from the Foreign Service in 1994 at the rank of career minister, said he took up filmmaking because “I decided I had more fun during an assignment as policy director for films and TV at USIA in the mid-1970s than in any other domestic or overseas posting.”

The film on Wiesel is patterned after a series he created for the USIA called “Reflections,” which provided in-depth interviews with Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Roy Wilkins, Samuel Eliot Morrison, George Meany and Leonard Bernstein.

Because the outtakes from those films were destroyed, Zuckerman said he has arranged for the footage from the Wiesel program to be stored in the Public Broadcasting Archive at the University of Maryland.

Lives and Legacies also did programs for PBS on architect I.M. Pei and black historian, John Hope Franklin.

WIESEL, A NATIVE OF ROMANIA, was deported to Auschwitz, where he began a lifelong struggle to comprehend the questions of evil.

His first novel, “Night,” was a memoir that was translated into 30 language and remains on high school and college reading lists.

It resulted from a vow Wiesel made to himself in 1945: He would record “every detail, every face, every eye of our agony” there.

He describes the events and suffering associated with the Holocaust, and follows through with his thoughts and pride about Israel as a Jewish state and his remorse over the suffering inherent in the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The documentary closes with Wiesel’s despair over the terrorism in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and his interpretation of the hatred that inspired it.

He then recalls his homecoming to Sighet, his home in Romania. He observes that the gate in front of his family’s old home still squeaks, but no one from his past remained to welcome him.

He retrieved a gold watch, once his grandfather’s, that he had buried near an old tree the night before he was deported. It had been given to him at his Bar Mitzvah.

Zuckerman said he “hounded” Wiesel for two years before convincing him to open up for the filmed interviews. Beginning a year ago, the film was shot in Baltimore, Boston, New York, Paris and Jerusalem by film maker Robert Gardener.