The son of a survivor himself, Weiss wants his documentary to answer the question, “What is it like growing up in a household with this incredible reality always present, even if seldom voiced?”
He notes: “My daughters know more about my father’s experiences than I ever did growing up. We simply didn’t talk about it. No one said my brother and I couldn’t ask questions, we just didn’t. I don’t know why we didn’t, but I’ve learned that that’s very common among children of survivors.”
A few years ago, Weiss, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, wrote, directed, and produced a public service announcement (PSA) for the N.C. Council on the Holocaust. The 30-second PSA featured Holocaust survivors in the Raleigh area, as well as their children and grandchildren. The title of the piece, "Number 89444," refers to the number the Nazis gave his father in the Dachaul death camp in Germany that was tattooed on his arm after he was transferred to the Landesberg death camp (which was featured in the mini-series “Band Of Brothers”).
The point behind the piece was to remind the public that Holocaust victims are more than their numbers. They have names.
More recently, Weiss didn’t realize he had the germ of a documentary when he began filming his own family's story in his spare time, simply to record his 82-year-old father's history. Along with his father, Harry Weiss, recalling his experiences, he decided to include his brother and the five grandchildren, who would talk about their Dad/Grandpa.
“As I was filming the kids, I suddenly remembered that when I was creating the Holocaust Council’s PSA, I’d noticed a pattern,” he said. “The children of the survivors had alarmingly little knowledge of what their fathers and mothers actually went through, yet the grandchildren seemed more attuned to their grandparents’
He knew what he had to do, he said. He had to tell their stories as well as his father’s “because no one has bothered to document what it’s like being the child or grandchild of a Holocaust survivor. In my own life, no, I didn’t ask questions. But I carried the unspoken knowledge of my father’s past with me all the time. I still do.”
To see the original PSA, "Number 89444," go to http://vimeo.com/
For more information on Allen Weiss, visit www.allen-weiss.com.
About Allen Weiss: After 15 years as a professional photographer in Raleigh and New York, Allen Weiss turned his attention towards short films, public service announcements, and television commercials, both regionally and internationally, 20 years ago, and won regional awards for two PSAs. Through his business, Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper, he offers still photography of all varieties, film and video (director, directory of photography, cameraman), and freelance writing/branding. For more information visit www.allen-weiss.com.