Community Film Presentation: “Persona Non Grata” directed by Cellin Gluck

Tuesday, June 19th at the ‘Jewish Community Center Theatre’
(333 South 132nd Street, Omaha, NE 68154) – at 7:00 pm
Admission: $5.00

The Omaha community is invited to attend a public presentation of the film ‘Persona Non Grata’ (2016) directed by Cellin Gluck, followed by a short question / answer session by expert Holocaust-rescue panelists. The Honorable Naoki Ito, Consul General of Japan in Chicago, is also scheduled to attend this public film screening. ‘Persona Non Grata’ (English / Japanese with subtitles; 139 minutes) was an Official Selection of both the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, receiving accolades as the Best Feature Film at the Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival and winning the Special Jury Prize for Social Justice and Excellence in Filmmaking at the Disorient Film Festival.

The film ‘Persona Non Grata’ is an historical drama that tells the story of an unlikely Holocaust rescuer: Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara was appointed a Vice-Consul and later a Consul in Lithuania and served there from 1939 to 1940. Sugihara was also a world-class spy. In Lithuania he and his partner, Pesh, gathered intelligence on European affairs. Soviet occupation of Lithuania began in 1940, interrupted from 1941 to 1944 by a short occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany. Most of Lithuania’s Jewish population perished during this period of Nazi occupation, but Nazi Germany already had some influence in Lithuania just prior to the initial Soviet occupation of 1940. As WWII begins and Germany invades Poland, hordes of Jewish refugees flee to Lithuania. In search of transit visas, they turn to Sugihara who is torn between his loyalty to his country and his loyalty to humankind. Ultimately, Chiune Sugihara saved the lives of some 6,000 Polish Jewish refugees and Lithuanian Jews by issuing transit visas to the Japanese Empire – including a Holocaust survivor who currently resides in Omaha.

Following the presentation of ‘Persona Non Grata’ two film discussants / panelists, who have expertise with the history of Jewish rescues during the Holocaust, will briefly provide their additional insights and address audience questions: Dr. Julija Šukys (Assistant Professor of English (Creative Nonfiction), University of Missouri-Columbia), is the author of Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė (Nebraska, 2012) – which tells the story of a little-known university librarian and Holocaust rescuer who entered the Vilna Ghetto (Lithuania) for three years under the pretense of collecting unreturned library books. In reality, Šimaitė was bringing in medicine, food, and other forms of aid, then carrying out and hiding letters, manuscripts, and even children. Dr. Ari Kohen (Schlesinger Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln), also an IHE board member and the grandson of Holocaust survivors, is an expert on the philosophical underpinnings of human rights and heroism, as the author of Untangling Heroism: Classical Philosophy and the Concept of the Hero (Routledge, 2015). Liz Feldstern (IHE Executive Director) will serve as panel moderator. Short welcoming remarks will also be made by Consul-General Naoki Ito.

The public film presentation of ‘Persona Non Grata’ in Omaha is a collaboration, organized by the Omaha Sister Cities Association (OSCA) – notably the Omaha Friends of Šiauliai and the Shizuoka sister-city programming committees – and the Institute for Holocaust Education (IHE). We also gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by sponsor Long Dog Fat Cat natural pet food and supply stores, owned and operated by Kazu Gotoh and Indrė Seibutytė – young Omaha professionals from Japan and Lithuania, respectively.