The universality of human suffering

History offers mankind many things. It’s not only the opportunity to critically reflect on the mistakes of the past, but also to remember and empathise with people just like ourselves.

“My story is not unique, there are so many stories like this and most of them will never be told,” says journalist Paula Slier, about her documentary 119 Lives Unlived which explores the lives of the Slier family who were killed at Auschwitz during World War II.

“If it’s not happening to one people, it’s happening to another,” says Slier. Looking at the many lost lives of Slier’s family humanises the suffering of those who become more of a statistic as the years pass.

This “is not just a story about the holocaust, it’s a story about what happens with man’s inhumanity towards man…and [it] stops some of the facts being represented,” says Slier.

Slier was joined by her father, Lionel, who shared some of his family’s history and memories of his youth.  Watching footage that has not been included in the final cut of the documentary introduces an even deeper level of understanding of the experiences of families torn apart by the tragedy of Auschwitz.

However, amidst the horrors occurring in Europe during World War II, there remained moments of extreme humanity. Slier shares her recorded interactions with people and their families who risked their own safety to help fellow humans.

119 Lives Unlived will be screened on 5 July at 10am and 6 July at 5:30pm at the Olive Schreiner Hall.

Paula Slier with her father, Lionel

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