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Production   /  Tim Slade

Singing The Past

Holocaust survivor Guta Goldstein journeys from Melbourne to Poland, taking with her the songs that have sustained her.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Tim Slade

  • PRODUCER Tim Slade



‘When our yearning for food became unbearable, we sang.’ Guta Goldstein is a 90 year old Polish Jewish survivor and educator of the Holocaust, who since 1949 has lived in Australia. 75 years after she learned and sang them, Guta has kept alive a repertoire of over thirty songs from the Łódź ghetto that she continues to perform in private. As a child in the ghetto, the songs gave Guta distraction, hope, and entertainment. In the camps, they became a way to focus, process experiences, to come to know others, and finally to retain a sense of humanity. In August 2021, Guta will return to the city of her birth, 75 years after liberation from Auschwitz, to perform in public the songs with the Łódź Children’s Choir. Guta's story is importantly 'new' to tell; it expresses her testimony through song, rather than spoken words. A film about memory, survival, and the power of music to sustain.

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0% funded
  • $35,000.00

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  • July 2022

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Recent global studies have shown that awareness and understanding of the Holocaust are worryingly low amongst the general public, particularly youth. 11% of American adults and more than 20% of millennials hadn't heard of, or weren’t sure they had heard of, the Holocaust. Another poll revealed that 32% of Europeans knew ‘just a little or nothing at all’ about the Holocaust. Figures in Australia are anecdotally better, but, with these trends in parallel with a rise in fascist ideologies in various parts of the world, there is a significant need for the telling of new and ‘innovative’ Holocaust stories, while the few survivors are still living. Guta's story was introduced to me very recently, and immediately I saw the power in a film about the universal language of music, a simple and concise ‘return’ narrative, and in its connection to the young – the children’s choir – as well as the old, the film will play a role in communicating with young and adult global audiences.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

We want to see a stark reduction in the lack of knowledge of the Holocaust; not only in and of itself, but because if the Holocaust can be forgotten, so can every genocide and instance of ethnic cleansing. Guta, at 90, is an avid Holocaust educator in schools, but this film will help convey her messages to new generations. As a secondary impact, through Guta’s story, we want the film to build empathy for and recognition of the resilience and agency of displaced people in the present day.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

The outcomes we hope to achieve with ‘Singing The Past’ include;
Short-term outcomes – increased knowledge of and discussion of the Holocaust and its lessons, particularly within youth populations, and a deeper connection being made between the Holocaust and its lessons, and monitoring fascist, nationalistic and racist tendencies in the present day.
Medium-term outcomes include education systems in Australia as well as in other countries developing and extending Holocaust education programmes, as well as more robust education about refugees and displaced populations. Additionally, increased visitation rates at Holocaust museums, camp sites in Europe, and other sites and museums honoring genocide or persecution.
Long-term outcomes include improved national and international strategies around genocide early warning systems, and monitoring of nationalistic and fascist tendencies.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

The film will achieve its outcomes through strategies that have worked on previous projects, and which will be extended here. A series of premieres will be planned for Melbourne, for Poland, and for the USA. Discussions have already begun with broadcasters, about the 30 minute film and slots which could suit the film. For several previous films, we have developed educational guides, and the same material will be created here. Given that youth is one target audience, our social media strategy will involve releasing short clips from the film to tease interest in the film and its messages, as well as to create a different way to experience Guta’s story.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Yes, we have partnerships with organisations in the areas of Holocaust education, education more broadly, musical education and refugee issues. Producer Joseph Toltz has been working in the area of Holocaust and music education for 25 years. My film The Destruction of Memory has screened at the Holocaust Museum in Sydney, as well as Jewish centres globally, hence we are discussing the possibility of the film being used as an education tool in those institutions. Some of those organisations may assist with financial, or at least in kind resources (translations etc). We have a small team of advisors in Australia, the USA and Poland.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

The actions we hope viewers will take after seeing the film include learning more about the Holocaust, connecting with Holocaust education networks in their own home city or region, meeting with Holocaust survivors or watching their stories through testimonies available on online platforms, connecting with refugee and displaced people networks, screening the film within schools, community groups and tertiary institutions (which will also include downloading and implementing our short ancillary materials deck, advocating for anti-fascist monitoring in countries with lax polices and legislation, and following the film’s social media channels as well as connecting to related social media channels of Holocaust and refugee organisations.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Our indicators for success will vary, across the short, medium and long term.
In the short term, quantitative data about viewership and number of one off screenings will be key, as well as qualitative data concerning feedback and response.
Medium term indicators will extend to number of education systems and networks adopting the film, and/or enhanced or new Holocaust education programs, which include an analysis of the present day lessons and resonance of the Holocaust and how to better guard against similar occurrences.
The ideal long term quantitative outcome will be clear improvements in national and smaller polls of Holocaust awareness across youth as well as adults, as well as quantitative and qualitative improvements in the shunning of fascist policies, and the better treatment of displaced people in the present day.