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Author presents “Three Minutes in Poland”, a book and rare footage captured in 1938. Screening at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Wednesday.

A still image from the film behind "Three Minutes in Poland."
A still image from the film behind “Three Minutes in Poland.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Wilshire Boulevard Temple will host Glenn Kurtz, author of “Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), as he recounts the extraordinary discoveries made when he donated his grandfather’s home-movie footage to the Museum’s Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive. The program is part of the Museum’s National Conversation exploring the ongoing relevance of the Holocaust.

Taken in Poland on the eve of World War II, these candid images of a small Jewish community called Nasielsk now serve as a memorial to an entire town annihilated in the Holocaust.

The free program is open to the public and will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 pm in Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus at 11661 West Olympic Blvd.

The book “Three Minutes in Poland” traces the author’s remarkable four-year journey to identify the people in his grandfather’s haunting images. Rarely seen archival footage will punctuate an intimate conversation between the author and Leslie Swift, the Museum’s chief of film, oral history and recorded sound, revealing the many poignant revelations made when they teamed up to unlock the secrets of this home movie.

Traveling in Europe from New York in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of World War II, David Kurtz, a Jewish immigrant to the United States, captured three minutes of ordinary life in a small, predominantly Jewish town in Poland on 16 mm motion picture film. Through the brutal twists of history, these few minutes of home-movie footage became the sole surviving moving images of this small town.

After discovering the video in a musty cardboard box at his parent’s house in Florida, Kurtz learned that of this town’s 3,000 Jewish inhabitants, fewer than 100 survived the war that would start just a year after his grandparents returned from vacation. Recognizing the film’s significance, Kurtz had it restored, donated it to the Museum and set out to learn what he could about the people it captured.

After more than a year of intensive archival research, they remained a mystery.

Then, one day, Kurtz received a message out of the blue from a young woman in Detroit. She’d seen the video and as the camera panned across the faces of children, she recognized her grandfather, as a 13-year old boy. He was still alive. (Watch a short video of the remarkable discovery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9PzAlbvA08.)

Moszek Tuchendler of Nasielsk is now Maurice Chandler of Boca Raton, Fla., and when Kurtz met him, Chandler’s recollections helped launch Kurtz on a journey of discovery that would lead him from New York to Poland to London to Tel Aviv.

On Nov. 16, Chandler, whose improbable story of survival is told in the book, turns 90 years old. A couple of weeks later, the 75th anniversary of the deportation of Nasielsk’s Jewish population will be marked on Dec. 3.

Kurtz is the author of Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music and the host of Conversations on Practice, a series of public conversations about writing held at McNally Jackson Books in New York. Copies of his book will be available for purchase and for signing by the author at the event.

To register for the free event, go to ushmm.org/events/3minutes-los-angeles.

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