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“Girl No. 60427”: A Survivor Story From a Grand- daughter’s Perspective

The 20-minute film is based on the real childhood story of director Shulamit Lifshitz discovering her grandmother Shifra’s diary about being sent to Auschwitz and witnessing the brutal murder of her sister Tzipora. 
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July 28, 2022
Tehilla Lifshitz as Reut in “Girl No. 60427”

If you’re a descendant of Holocaust victims, do you remember the first time you learned about your relative’s experience?

“Girl No. 60427” is a new short film that presents the moment that a 10-year-old girl discovers her grandmother’s diary, which contains stories about her time at Auschwitz. 

The 20-minute film is based on the real childhood story of director Shulamit Lifshitz discovering her grandmother Shifra’s diary about being sent to Auschwitz and witnessing the brutal murder of her sister Tzipora. 

Lifshitz created the film as part of her studies at The Ma’aleh Film School in Jerusalem. She graduated this year. 

In the film, Shifra is presented as distant and stern with her grandchildren. Throughout the film, granddaughter Reut, based on Lifshitz, secretly reads horrifying excerpts of the diary and imagines what her grandmother went through. In real life, Shifra was just as distant as her portrayal in the film. But unfortunately, Shifra’s diary was not discovered in an attic until her descendants were sitting shiva for her in 1998. She wrote it in 1946 while in Italy, so for 52 years, the diary was hidden.

Lifshitz was only in fifth grade when her grandmother died and the diary was discovered. Until then, she never understood why her grandmother wouldn’t hug anyone. After reading the diary, it made her see her grandmother in a totally different light. 

“The reason I did this film is because I wanted the chance to talk to my grandmother about her diary,” Lifshitz said. “I wanted to hug her after I learned what happened but I never got that chance because she died before we found the diary. I wish it was like in the movie and [I] had this chance.”

Lifshitz creates a reality with the character Reut that she was not able to have in her own lifetime. In her childhood, there was no understanding or conversation with Shifra, and there was no hug she could offer after learning what her grandmother had experienced at the hands of the Nazis. 

Shifra did not speak of her survival story, not even to her daughter (Lifshitz’s mother). Lifshitz said that the family would hear a word about the Holocaust in “general here and there,” but they knew nothing of the details. Family members saw the number 60427 tattooed on her arm, but it was always hidden under long sleeves in public.

“This guilt and this heaviness really affected her relationships with others.” – Shulamit Lifshitz

“This guilt and this heaviness really affected her relationships with others,” Lifshitz said.  

In the diary, there are poems that her grandmother had written. One of things her grandmother wrote is that after liberation, everybody was dancing and singing and happy to be out of the camp. Her grandmother wrote that she could not be happy because she felt guilty and upset about her sister’s death.

“She was ashamed of being a Holocaust survivor,” Lifshitz said. 

Neta Ariel, the director of the Ma’Aleh Film School, spoke to the historical context of the closed off nature of some Holocaust survivors in the years after World War II.  

“It’s important to remember the atmosphere in Israel at that time — it was really during the Eichmann trial [in 1961] that broke the stigma after hearing the witnesses testify,” Ariel said. 

The actress playing Reut is Lifshitz’s niece, Tehilla — her brother’s daughter, and fourth generation from her great grandmother Shifra. After conducting auditions for the lead, she realized that nobody played the role as well as Tehilla. 

“Her eyes tell us a big story. We couldn’t understand how she did it, so we went back and begged her to do it,” Lifshitz said. Her parents agreed.” 

In one unsettling scene, Reut locks herself in the bathroom and writes “60427” on her own arm with a pen before hastily washing it off. 

Originally, “Girl No. 60427” was supposed to be a documentary about discovering Shifra’s diary. 

Lifshitz realized quickly that the most effective way to present the story was in a live-action narrative. But there is one thing in particular that sets this short film apart from other films surrounding the Holocaust: its use of mixing of live-action with animation.

As Reut secretly reads her grandmother’s diary and imagines the horrors, animated figures of her young grandmother and great aunt Tzipora appear before her eyes. These short but powerful animations are an incredibly creative and effective means of portraying the traumatic diary entries. 

Lifshitz’s brother-in-law Oriel Berkovits is the animator and credited as co-creator of the film. Together, they worked out the script and decided quickly that Reut’s emotional process would be live-action, but the stories from the diary would be animated. These two time periods are presented simultaneously, and the animation complements the life-action seamlessly. 

“Girl No. 60427” is an incredible short film, and not just for a first-time student director. It’s loaded with subtle symbolism in every scene about the Nazis’ dehumanization of Jewish people and innocence lost among their descendants. Lifshitz is clearly a talented filmmaker and effective storyteller. Expect to see not just more acclaim for the film, but more beautiful films from the director. 

The film is the first Israeli film to win the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) student competition — only three live-action films were selected out of 715 submissions from 134 schools in 36 countries. Regardless of the awards, “Girl No. 60427” is the film Lifshitz needed to make for herself. 

“It feels like a continuation and memorialization of my grandparents,” Lifshitz said. “It’s a fitting testament to their lives and what they went through.”

You can watch the trailer on YouTube.

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