Mark Kurzem's documentary, The Mascot, based on the events of the book, has won numerous awards including Best Short Film, Best Documentary and the Roben Memoulian Award at the Sydney Film Festival; the prize for documentary at the Warsaw Festival; and the audience vote for Best Documentary at the London Festival at the Barbican.
One man's struggle with memory and prejudice on the way to recovering his past.
Mark Kurzem was happily ensconced in his academic life at Oxford when his father, Alex, showed up on his doorstep with a terrible secret to tell. As a five-year-old during the Second World War, Alex Kurzem had watched from a tree as the entire Jewish population of his village, including his family, were murdered by a German-led execution squad. He scavenged in the forests of Russia for several months before falling into the hands of a Latvian police brigade that later became an SS company. After one soldier discovered this young boy was actually Jewish, Alex was made to promise never to reveal his true identity - to forget his old life, his family, and even his name. The young boy became the company's mascot and part of the Nazi propaganda machine responsible for killing his own people.
Fearful of being discovered - as either a Jew or a Nazi- Alex kept the secret of his childhood from even his loving wife and children. But he grew increasingly tormented and became determined to uncover his Jewish roots and the story of his past. Shunned by a local Holocaust organization, he reached out to his son Mark for help in reclaiming his identity.
The Mascot is a survival story, a grim fairy-tale, and a psychological drama. It's a remarkable and highly readable memoir that asks provocative questions about identity, complicity, and forgiveness.
This is one of the most disturbing and haunting stories I have ever read. I was spellbound throughout and was able to see within this horror story an uncanny series of bizarre coincidences. I was moved to tears on numerous occasions during the reading. After approaching the subject with a degree of resistance (I kept it in my library for some time before reading) I must recommend this book most highly. Read it!
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