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Opening night: 'Bagels Over Berlin'

Photo:Sandy Sadja

My documentary "Bagels Over Berlin"  celebrates Jewish veterans of the United States Army Air Corps who flew dangerous daylight bombing missions over enemy territory during World War II.  Jewish veterans of that war look back 75 years later to describe their life-altering experiences. In most cases, they had never discussed the war in all the intervening years. They came home from the war, took off their uniforms and went back to school, got jobs, married and raised families. The war became a distant memory.

  During the course of my research,  I learned that Jews comprised a large percentage of the armed forces in WWII compared to their share of the country's population. Despite a history of exclusion and discrimination, Jews responded to the Japanese sneak attack on their homeland with a determination to fight for the country they loved. Jews served in the US military in impressively large numbers with many volunteering for the US Army Air Corps — the the branch of service with the highest mortality rate of all the services during the war - more than the navy and marines combined. 

   The film has screened at film festivals, community centers, theaters, synagogues, and residential communities. It was broadcast on PBS (the highest rated program in its time slot) and on a national Zoom call sponsored by the The Museum of Jewish Heritage. My most satisfying experience was accompanying the veterans as they attended many of the early screenings - surrounded by their families and friends. It is difficult to describe the overwhelming love, appreciation and applause I observed as the men were received at every event. The vets were proud to contribute their personal stories following a lifetime of silence. In this film, they shared their war stories for future generations of Americans who will remember them not only as proud veterans pictured in the film but also as the young and patriotic soldiers who fought to save our democracy. I will never forget these American heroes with whom I developed a close bond. Wonderful men who enriched my life beyond description. Unfortunately, they are almost all gone - but surely not forgotten. 

Following is an excerpt of an email I received from an audience member at a screening in Boone, NC.

Reproduced with permission:

Yesterday I was treated to a moving and occasionally humorous documentary that was filmed in Florida but [partially] edited at Appalachian State University here in Boone. The film maker Alan Feinberg was in attendance as was one of the cast members, a 90 year old WW II Jewish Airman. The film features 18 Jewish men who flew bombing mission after mission in the European theater of the war. One of them was a POW in Germany and each one has a riveting story to tell. The peril, the pathos, the comradery, the anti-Semitism they faced, the funny incidents they remember merge to make a compelling, heart-stopping and often heart-warming film. All of these men are in their 90’s and Alan wanted to capture these memories NOW. They all are articulate and tell the stories so very well. ....... I remember those war days when people said the Jews would never fight for their country-well this film refutes that idea beautifully! The film is titled Bagels Over Berlin …and the reason for the title is revealed in the film...........Our overflow audience loved every minute of the film and the discussion as well. 

Alan Feinberg 05/27/22

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