When my two boys were younger and just learning to socialize, I remember them being scared and daunted by the thought of reaching out to strangers and making friends. They didn’t know what to expect, nor were they equipped with the necessary social skills to engage another person. I remember telling them to start with hello and ask a few questions – to find a common ground. Of course, at that age, they very quickly made friends and went about playing.

At NewScoop, we constantly seek out these examples of community building – of moving from bystander to neighbour. This week, we found one such example at the Calgary Jewish Film Festival in their presentation of the film, Germans and Jews.

Germans and Jews is a documentary film that explores Germany’s transformation as a society since the Holocaust. It asks the questions, “How do Germans and Jews think about and talk to one another? Can these two peoples, seventy years after the Holocaust, find common ground in which to view their relationship?”

“This film is important and relevant,” says Harvey Cyngiser , Director of the Calgary Jewish Film Festival. “Obviously there is a loaded history and lots of baggage for both Jews and Germans that is brought to the conversation. It’s important three generations after the Holocaust to confront that very complex and loaded relationship with an eye to the future. The past is the basis and can’t be erased or forgotten… but it’s about recognizing that modern Germany has transformed, and then asking, how do we move forward from here?”

The Festival itself is answering that question by partnering with the Calgary Jewish Federation, the Association for German Education in Calgary (AGEC) and the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany Calgary to present a panel discussion after the screening of the film.

“It is important for us to build partnerships so we can go beyond what we are able to achieve,” says Beatrix Downton, Vice President of AGEC. “Our role on this project is to be a catalyst… Film is such a nice medium to open up discussion and show how things have changed, especially for those who can’t hop on a plane and travel to Germany to see how things have changed.”

According to Dr. Davind Bercuson, Director at the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary and panel moderator, Germany has tried very sincerely to face down their past and show the world they are not what they used to be – that they have learned.

He went on to say, “There’s a larger lesson to be learned here about reconciliation of any two groups that have had to deal with tragedy… that is, the importance of the struggle to try and have some basic understanding of how things are today as opposed to how things used to be.”

“If members of the audience walk away [from the film and discussion] and say ‘I didn’t know that’, or ‘I never thought about that before’, or ‘I need to take a look at that more closely’, then we are successful.” said Bercuson.

The film Germans & Jews is screening on Sunday, November 27 at 3:00pm at the Calgary Jewish Film Festival, followed by a panel discussion. Opening remarks will be provided by Hubertus Liebrecht, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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