Steven gave his dad the 'vehicle' to share story

AWARD-winning filmmaker Steven Moskovic has never forgotten his Jewish roots during his 25 years of work.

A member of the Directors Guild of America, he has made television shows, corporate videos, feature films, documentaries, commercials and music videos.

But the piece of work closest to home was Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald in 2012.

Steven's father, Alex, was born in Sobrance, Czechoslovakia, in 1931.

Alex was the only surviving member of his family, having endured Auschwitz-Birkenau, a 'death march' to Gleiwitz in Poland and the notorious Buchenwald death camp.

Liberated by the American 3rd Army 6th Armoured Division on April 11, 1945, Steven's father started a new life in New York where he became a multi-Emmy Award winner for ABC's Wide World of Sports.

His testimony is archived at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, University of Southern California and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald was the story of four men, who returned to the death camp 65 years later.

The film shows how the camp's communist-led underground protected and saved Jewish children arriving in Buchenwald towards the end of the Holocaust.

Kinderblock 66 also tells how head of the block Antonin Kalina was personally responsible for saving 904 Buchenwald boys.

The film scooped numerous awards, including gongs at the Long Island International Film Expo, Docutah and Key West film festivals.

And it was an official selection at the Jerusalem and Sarasota film festivals, and Zagreb Festival of Tolerance.

"I can't imagine how dad survived and I'm sure I don't know half of the awful things that happened," Steven said.

"There are things he will not say and I get that feeling from the survivors.

"The film is a testament to what they experienced, which is really important."

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1963, Steven moved to New York with his parents, Alex and Jo, when he was two.

Growing up in the Big Apple during the 1960s and 70s, Steven embraced sport, but not the traditional pastimes of American football, baseball or basketball.

"Dad didn't know how to play American football, but coming from Europe, he taught me how to kick a soccer ball," he recalled.

"I've always been a soccer fan and followed New York Cosmos where Giorgio Chinaglia starred alongside the legendary Pele in the National American Soccer League."

It was a time when many stars of world football, including Bobby Moore, George Best, Eusébio and Franz Beckenbauer, ended their careers in the spotlight on another continent.

But it was not box office in terms of TV ratings.

"Soccer was not a hugely popular sport in America, though a number of my mates played and we're still friendly all these years later," Steven recalled.

"Of course, the national team has gained global status, especially after the 1994 World Cup finals.

"The US team is ranked among the best teams in the world (14th, one behind England), but have got a tough draw in the World Cup finals in Brazil this summer."

He added: "We get everything on satellite TV and I've always followed Chelsea in the Premier League."

The Hofstra University communications graduate set up Big Foot Productions Inc in 2009, following spells as a freelancer for television networks and work in video and public relations.

"I never really planned to be a filmmaker, my intention was to work in television," he said.

"Big Foot provides production services to the video film community in New York City and surrounding north-east area," he explained.

"We have clients from all over the world that come to New York City to shoot, and we also produce original content such as Kinderblock 66."

Working with iconic Jewish comedian Jackie Mason was something he cherishes.

"Jackie is a consummate professional," said Steven. "His status around the world is well-known and it was a great experience."

The Kinderblock 66 project came after Steven produced a documentary called The Diary of Immaculee.

"It's about a woman who survived the Rwanda genocide and, after that experience, I became very interested in telling this type of story," he said.

But when it came to the Holocaust, Steven could not recall when he first heard about the atrocities.

"I asked why we only had family on my mother's side," he said.

"Dad told us he was from Sobrance, but we didn't have any uncles, aunts or grandparents. He never went much into detail. We knew he'd been in the camps, where thousands perished."

Steven continued: "As the years went by, I was more curious, but only discovered bits here and there as dad travelled a lot through his television work.

"Looking back, whether consciously or unconsciously, I think it was a way for dad to keep his mind busy so he didn't have to remember too often atrocities he witnessed.

"When dad retired 11 years ago and moved to Florida, the Shoah Foundation wanted to record his story and it was the right time.

"They conducted a four-hour interview and I watched a copy of the tapes so learned more about his survival.

"Even that interview, though, did not touch in depth on Kinderblock 66 at Buchenwald."

The situation changed dramatically when Steven accompanied his father as a guest of the USA State Department to a conference in Prague in 2009.

"Researchers knew about the Kinderblock, but now they had survivors so finally I got to hear about the children," he said.

They were given a private tour of Buchenwald after the conference.

"All that remains of the children's barrack block 66 is a marker saying '66'," Steven recalled.

"Dad really started to talk about his experiences on the drive back."

Steven put the story aside for a few months until he accompanied his father to a commemoration service for the 65th liberation anniversary of the death camp the following year.

"I decided to take a camera and record as many stories as possible," he said.

"This was the only time all these survivors would be together in one place, so I had to record it for the future."

Back in New York in the summer of 2009, Steven started discussing the recordings with colleagues who were all intrigued.

"Everyone felt I should produce a film because it's a fantastic story," he recalled.

"There was a lot of work to do with research while funds had to be in place by April, 2010.

"The research seemed an insurmountable task until dad introduced us to Ken Waltzer, director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University.

"Ken is the foremost authority on the subject and our first call lasted two hours.

"He told me about Buchenwald's background and I learned how the communist underground operated inside the camp."

Separating out his family story from the historical context, Steven knew he had to take the story further.

"If I'd done dad's story it would have been phenomenal for future generations of my family but it is not his story," he explained.

Steven's decision has proved right, as the film reached a wider audience.

And the film brought Steven closer to his father.

"At this stage of his life, dad feels the need to tell the story," he said. "It's a responsibility and I feel I've given him a vehicle that he can use."

Regarding the future, Steven noted: "We are very busy making films for corporations, but I'm also looking for a documentary production.

"I'm hoping to develop something in Venice and I'm also working on a dramatic fictional film called Wake Up In New York.

"The script is still being written and we're hoping to start shooting next year."

© 2014 Jewish Telegraph