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Premiere of a Slovenian Documentary Film on Nazi Racial Experiment at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2023

As part of Slovenia Guest of Honour’s appearance at the 75th International Book Fair in Frankfurt, there will be a retrospective of Slovenian cinema. On the opening day of the fair, October 18, a special premiere of the documentary film by Maja Weiss, “Snatched from the Source – Slovenian Lebensborn Children” (2023), will take place. The film will present the stories of four Slovenian children who were part of the Nazi racial experiment during World War II. The script was written in collaboration with Nataša Konc Lorenzutti, who wrote two novels thematically connected to the film – “A Word I Don’t Have” (2021) and “Shadow Without a Human” (2023). After the world premiere of the documentary, there will be a conversation with Maja Weiss and Nataša Konc Lorenzutti, moderated by the writer Nataša Kramberger.

From a production standpoint, the film was three years in the making. Still, director Maja Weiss explains that it actually took much longer: “For me, this film has been in the making since 2014, when ‘Banditenkinder – Slovenian Stolen Children’ was completed. In it, I mentioned the story of 30 Slovenian infants from Lebensborn, and since then, I have felt obligated to dedicate a separate project to this story.” Weiss explains that the impetus for the new film came when writer Nataša Konc Lorenzutti contacted her after watching the mentioned documentary on television. “The documentary shook her, and she said she would like to explore the stories of Lebensborn infants for her book,” Weiss says. “Knowing one’s own roots seems to me one of the most important human needs and basic rights. What struck me the most was that we knew nothing about stolen children, especially stolen infants, engulfed by the racial experiment of Heinrich Himmler called Lebensborn,” summarizes Nataša Konc Lorenzutti, explaining the motives for writing the book. Eventually, Weiss and Konc Lorenzutti together wrote the script for the documentary “Snatched from the Source – Slovenian Lebensborn Children.”

Silenced Secret of Slovenian Children

Konc Lorenzutti encountered the theme of lost, alienated, and rootless children already as a girl when reading Ingolič’s story titled “The Boy with Two Names.” It was only through the autobiographical account of Ingrid von Oelhafen (born as Erika Matko in Rogaška Slatina) that she realized child abduction in Styria/Slovenia was widespread, as confirmed by the film “Banditenkinder – Slovenian Stolen Children.” “When I started conceiving the first novel on this topic (‘A Word I Don’t Have,’ 2021), I became obsessed with the idea that Maja and I should create a film dedicated to Lebensborn children – about thirty selected from 645 stolen children chosen by Nazi ideologists for their secret program to expand the Aryan race,” recounts the writer. At the beginning of the second year of the pandemic, they began working on the script. And then it progressed at an incredible speed, which is great luck, as the last witnesses of this criminal experiment are slowly leaving.

“Kidnapping children is the most effective way to destroy the enemy in wars and revolutions. It is still happening right now,” says Konc Lorenzutti.

Historical Documentary with a Timely Anti-War Message

In the film “Snatched from the Source – Slovenian Lebensborn Children,” protagonists Haymo, Franc, Ingrid, and Ivan convey a message to today’s world, amidst new wars in Ukraine, Africa, and the Middle East: “The greatest victims of any war, on both sides, attacker and attacked, are children. Peace is the greatest value.” The film not only depicts the touching stories on an individual and collective level but also tells the stories of stolen children from Ukraine, says Maja Weiss. “The protagonists in the film, regardless of nationality, convey that forgiveness, compromise, acceptance of differences, solidarity, and love are essential for maintaining peace in a world that is increasingly devoid of it.” Weiss conveys this message to the world through rich archival material from German, American, and Slovenian archives. The film was shot in Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, and Costa Rica. The film’s uniqueness also lies in its technical execution in post-production, as it is the first fully archive-colorized feature-length documentary film in Slovenia. Coloring black and white photographs and moving images give a special touch, alerting the viewer that war did not just happen once but is happening here and now, in front of our eyes. With this tool, the past becomes the present.

Premiere in Frankfurt – an Exceptional Opportunity for the Film

As a writer, Konc Lorenzutti approached the leadership of the Slovenian Book Agency with a proposal to present the film as part of Slovenia Guest of Honour’ appearance at the book fair in Frankfurt. “After the departure of the former director, discussions on this topic had to start anew, but when Maja and I approached curator Prof. Dr. Miha Kovač, he immediately advocated for the inclusion of the film in the retrospective prepared by the Slovenian Cinematheque,” she says. The Frankfurt Book Fair, as the largest book fair in the world, represents an exceptional opportunity for the film to reach an international audience. The premiere will take place on October 18, 2023, at 6 p.m. in the DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum (Schaumainkai 41, 60596 Frankfurt am Main).

In addition to Maja Weiss and Nataša Konc Lorenzutti, the two protagonists – the stolen children Ingrid Von Oelhafen / Erika Matko and Ivan Acman will also be there, as well as producer Ida Weiss (Bela film), editor Jurij Moškon, and music composer August Adrian Braatz. The premiere will also be attended by historian and pioneer in Lebensborn research, Dr. George Lilienthal, the State Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia , Dr. Kaja Širok, State Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Mag. Marko Rusjan, and the Head of Minister’s Office at the Ministery of Culture, Mrs. Nina Ukmar.

Unfortenatly, the two other protagonists in the film, Franc Zagožen and the late Haymo Henry Heyder/Vili Goručan are not able to attend the Frankfurt premiere.

The film was produced by Bela film in co-production with RTV Slovenia, Senca Studio, Maja Weiss Institute, and Vesnik.

Film was supported by the Slovenian Film Centre, Creative Europe – Media Programme, the Ministry of Public Administration, German Embassy in Ljubljana, the City Municipality of Celje, Slovenian Book Agency, and the association “LEBENSSPUREN E.V.” & Vereionskasse. Special thanks go to the Society of the Camps of Stolen Children of Slovenia and its president Dr. Janez Žmavc, the Museum of Recent History Celje, Dr. Tone Kregar, Mr. Janez Deželak, and the Slovenian Cultural and Information Center SKICA Berlin.

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