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Desperate Hours

The little known story of Turkey and the Holocaust…of what happened there and abroad, of what it did and what it could not do - as the world around it plunged into darkness. At a time when millions were murdered before the eyes of an indifferent world, there were some men, and at times, some governments, who chose to act - not for praise, not for glory, but in the name of simple human decency. In doing so, they dispelled the myths that people were powerless to resist the Nazis. Desperate Hours is an inspiring story of how a Muslim country gave refuge to German Jews and how its diplomats risked their own lives to save Jews from concentration camps. Desperate Hours tells the stories of those precious few who, in the face of utter darkness, never lost their sight. In telling these little known stories from WWII, the film documents this moment in time, when groups of Muslims, Jews and Christians all worked together to save lives. Some of the areas explored in the film are: How Turkish diplomats in France and Rhodes put their own lives at risk rescuing Jews of Turkish origin. How Turkey recruited the talented men and women Hitler discarded to revamp Turkish sciences, architecture, music, medicine, legal education, and art. How the Yishuv -Jews from Pre-State Israel- daringly used Turkey as a base to rescue Jews in locales such as the famous Pera Palace Hotel - terminus of the Orient Express. The tragic sinking of the Struma Refugee Ship with 760 refugees aboard and the odyssey of its lone survivor- David Stoliar. How Monsignor Roncalli (who later became Pope John XXIII), then the Apostolic Delegate in Istanbul, worked with delegates of the Yishuv and whose experiences there later inspired him to change Catholic teaching towards Jews. The infamous "Jews for Sale" deal - the attempt in 1944 to trade one million Jews for 10,000 trucks. Desperate Hours is based on authoritative scholarship by American, Israeli, Turkish, and Italian historians as well as interviews with survivors, former diplomats and clergy in Israel, Italy, Turkey, Austria and the United States. Shenandoah Films produced Desperate Hours in association with The Berenbaum Group and Mainstreet. Desperate Hours is directed and produced by Victoria Barrett. Dr. Michael Berenbaum is the Executive producer, historian and writer. Ronald Goldfarb is the producer for Mainstreet. "Desperate Hours, a new documentary about Turkey’s role in the Holocaust, is proof that there are still stories to be told and people to be applauded." - Jerusalem Post

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Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
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