Singing Up the Past

: Documentary Short
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


Holocaust survivor Guta Goldstein and the songs that have sustained her.

Our fundraising goal is for post production and outreach. Please help Guta's incredible and timely story reach audiences! All supporters will be acknowledged in our film credits.

'The film is a joy, absolutely enormously interesting exploration of music, memory, and historical trauma.’ (Test audience feedback)


‘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 Lódz 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 June 2023, we traveled to Poland to film and record Guta’s songs with the Lódz Children’s Choir. Guta's story is importantly unique; it is testimony through song, rather than spoken words. A film about memory, survival, and the power of music to sustain.


'In the ghetto, we lived on songs. When our yearning for food became unbearable, we sang.’ 

From early childhood to the present day, Guta Goldstein has used song to reconstruct memories of her family and friends. Polish and Yiddish melodies evoke pre-war memories of joy and comfort alongside mid-war experiences of privation, grief and camaraderie.

Project creator Joseph Toltz has found that, for Holocaust survivors, musical memories are usually sequestered away from more traumatic memories. They are vital because song, the human voice, is 'the last thing that anyone can take away from you.' In Joseph’s experience interviewing more than 150 Holocaust survivors over two decades, he has not encountered another survivor who uses personal song in this manner. ‘Guta lost almost all her family, and she has so few material objects, so the songs sing the past back into life, they weave her story into her present day. The people don't exist in the past, they exist with her as she sings them into being.' 

Recent studies have shown that awareness and understanding of the Holocaust are worryingly low amongst the general public. This film will share the remarkable story of the place of music in the life of a survivor, at a time when remembering is more important than ever. 


Tim Slade - Director and Producer

Tim’s films have screened at over 80 international film festivals, where they have won best film and audience awards, and have been broadcast in 50 countries. His short I Was Robert Mitchum and his feature documentary 4 were both released theatrically, the latter winning a Gold Plaque at the Chicago HUGO Television Awards, and being nominated for many awards including two AFI Awards. His latest feature length documentary, The Destruction of Memory, has screened officially for the United Nations, as well as at the Met and at the Getty Museum, LA.

Dr Joseph Toltz - Producer

Dr Joseph Toltz is an administrator and researcher with special expertise in musical memory of Jewish Holocaust survivors. His doctorate "Hidden Testimony: musical experience and memory in Jewish Holocaust survivors" was awarded the Barbara and Richard Rosenberg Fellowship at the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Joseph has presented over 30 conference papers and guest lectures, and participated in an international collaborative project, “Music, Memory and Migration in the Post-Holocaust Jewish Experience”. Following this, Joseph was named Co-Investigator on a four-year research grant funded by the British Arts & Humanities Research Council, called “Performing the Jewish Archive”. (Photo: Lyn Williams)


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