One of the few documentaries to explore the stories of Jewish-American World War II soldiers, this film focuses on six Philadelphia veterans in their 80’s, and their individual experiences during the war and a bittersweet reunion they share in their old age. For Jews, the war to defeat Hitler had deeply personal significance. Combined with photographs from the men’s personal collections, the film includes rare archival footage, stills, and newsreels including Jewish soldiers celebrating Shabbat and Passover during wartime and the first Jewish service at Dachau after it was liberated. Milton Dank, a noted physicist and historian who flew glider planes in Word War II, contributed hundreds of photographs he took on the front lines.
Photographer Judy Gelles, who was very close to her father-in-law Sidney Gelles until his death in 1986, discovered a box of his World War II artifacts. In this box were Sidney’s helmet, spats, tallis, dog tag, War Department manuals, photos, telegrams, and hundreds of letters to his future bride Clara. In these letters were hints of anti-semitism that he experienced during the five years that he served. He never talked about those years in the Army. This lack of information prompted Judy and her partner in the project photographer Marianne Bernstein to investigate the experiences of Jews who served in World War II. The film premiered at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as part of A Soldier’s Story: Intimate Artifacts of World War II, an exhibition of still photographs and letters.