The Finnish Premiere of Inna Rogatchi’s Film on Simon Wiesenthal

Inna Rogatchi’s film The Lessons of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal had its Finnish premiere at the Grand Hall of the Kamppi Centre in Helsinki. The event was organised by the Karmel Society of Finland, with participation of the Embassies of Israel and Austria, and The Rogatchi Foundation.

The ceremony was opened by the provost Juhani Peltonen, the Chairman of the Finnish Karmel Society who emphasised both the importance and actuality of the film.

Mr Peltonen read to the public the Special Address of Paulinka Kreisberg, the sole daughter of Simon and Cyla Wiesenthal, to the audience at the Finnish premiere of the film:

“Inna Rogatchi’s movie Lessons of Survival documents the struggle of my father, Simon Wiesenthal, to survive -against all odds- the horrors of the persecution.

My father was a man who possessed a lot of inner strength. This enabled him not only to survive but also to cope with seemingly insurmountable problems after the Holocaust and pursue his work.

Justice, setting things right, trying to prevent reoccurrence was his life’s motto and he did everything in his power to accomplish his goal.

His work has been appreciated by many, his name has been praised during his life and after he passed away.

I salute Inna Rogatchi’s efforts to honor my father’s memory and spread the lessons that he taught us all”

– written in Paulinka Kreisberg’s address to the Finnish public.

The Ambassador of Austria Dr Elisabeth Kehrer and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Israel Arezoo Hersel addressed the public with opening remarks.

In her speech, Dr Kehrer focused on the unique role played by Simon Wiesenthal in the life of Austrian society for many decades; and also on how essential the aspect of the comprehension of the Holocaust and WWII has been for the generations in Austria who were born from the 1950s onward, and who have made their path to the dramatic and challenging truth of being next to the previous generation who preferred to keep these matters to themselves.

Deputy Chief of Mission of Israel in Finland and Estonia Arezoo Hersel in her opening speech told the audience the legendary position of Simon Wiesenthal in Israel, and on the importance of bringing the matters of modern history into the current life, especially necessary at this time with the unprecedented rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world.

The film was received by the public in the full Grand Hall of the Kamppi Centre enthusiastically, and ended with a long ovation for its author. “Yes, Inna, you have created a very strong weapon in the acutely needed fight against modern anti-Semitism, indeed” – concluded provost Juhani Peltonen who was leading the public discussion that was moderated by Risto Huvila, the CEO of the Alfa TV.

In the beginning of the public discussion, Risto Huvila read the address to the audience from a leading politician Hannu Takkula who was planning to be present at the event but could not attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

In his address, Hannu Takkula wrote: “I am admiring Inna and Michael Rogatchi and also the work that their Foundation conducts on behalf of human rights and human dignity. This, recently released film is a strong message on the necessity for us, at our current life, to follow certain phenomena for the purpose of preservation of the principles of the morally healthy life and for making sure that these will not go astray. For us, the Finns, the Europeans, the main motto shall be not to fear, but to hope, Hatikvah (hope in Hebrew which is also the name of the Israeli National Athemn). I do want to wish to this film all the very best in the future and its travelling all over the globe; and I would like to congratulate Inna Rogatchi on such an important achievement”.

“When I was filming Simon Wiesenthal many years ago in his Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna, I was sure that I am filming history. I just could not imagine that the horrors that occurred during World War Two could be repeated, or that human society, after being through that experience would be able to repeat itself to the degree of the total hatred that commanded such hideous crimes. My biggest surprise is that when I was editing the film and producing it recently, I knew perfectly well that it is not history, but very much the most current of affairs. And this fact alone should become a powerful wake-up call”.

Inna also introduced to the public the key-members of her Finnish team, Jani Nieminen and Johan Eckmann from NES Production who were working with her on the production of the film.

The special word and reflection of the author were devoted to the memory of Peter von Bagh, prolific Finnish cinematographer who had played the important role in the beginning of the work on Inna’s film on Simon Wiesenthal, and who had passed away recently losing his battle with cancer.

During the public discussion, a wide array of topics were raised and discussed, including insights into the personality of Simon Wiesenthal, the background and history of the making of the film, the issue of priorities for an author working with unique historical material, the current situation in Ukraine from the point of view of human rights, and the threat of militant Islam for Europe and the world.

In their speeches, members of the public reflected on Inna Rogatci’s film extremely positively. The author was publicly praised and thanked for the film which, according to members of the public, was “an extremely thoughtful and perfectly manufactured gift to all of us together, and to each of us, in particular”.

Well-known journalist and long-term head of the APN bureau in Finland Leonid Laakso concluded the public discussion. In his remarks he said: “I know Inna and her work in various media, literature, photography and film making, for many years, and I can testify that in everything she ever did and still continues to do, there is a lot of courage and bravery. She was not afraid to make the first international premiere of this film in Ukraine, at the time of the fierce conflict there; at the place which is swarmed in now by various nationalistic and often neo-Nazi movements and organisations. This film and its theme, of many, has been quite a special demonstration and also a powerful reminder on the forces of destruction and hatred that once did aim to evaporate humanity from the face of this planet. I salute this brave woman for her continuing contribution into affirming the light of compassion and humanity in our lives”.