ATLANTIC DRIFT by Michel Daëron


Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. The Jewish cemetery of St. Martin. The inscriptions on the gravestones indicate birthplaces in Bratislava, in Danzig, in Vienna and Berlin, the initial inspiration to research the stories behind them.

In Haifa Michel Daëron, director of Atlantic Drift, discovered a list of survivors of the 1940 voyage of the Atlantic, and several responded, from Toronto, Jerusalem and Sydney. Their reminiscences were frighteningly similar. In the fall of 1940 a dangerously overloaded river steamer left Bratislava for Istanbul. The passengers who survived the unimaginable sanitary conditions which prevailed boarded the Atlanticfor Haifa, but the responsible British authorities decided long beforehand that this journey would not lead to their freedom. After a brief period of internment the 2000 refugees were forced to reboard the ship and were deported to Mauritius, where they spent five years, until three months after the war's end, in an early 19th-century prison.

In addition to a number of the survivors primarily silent relics tell the story in Daëron's moving reconstruction of an unbelievable odyssey: Ruth Sanders' diary- kilometers of microfilm which reveal the betrayal by the British Foreign Office- and sketches made by a certain Fritz Händel, whom virtually no one was willing to discuss. Together with Händel's 56-year-old son Schlomo, who was long unaware of how his father died, the French filmmaker and Händel's wife, Hannah, who was interned at the same time, embarked on a journey into this gray area of memory and back to the island in the Indian Ocean. Atlantic Drift, in the spectacular images captured by Georges Diane, tells a gripping story of the secret fate of Schlomo's father, bringing an almost forgotten chapter of history to light. (ks)