Colleagues, friends, and former students of Mira Reym Binford, a professor of communications and a Holocaust survivor, watched her documentary movie “Diamonds in the Snow,” in the Mancheski Seminar Room on April 24. The movie tells the story of the escape from Nazi soldiers that Binford and two other women made as Jewish Polish children during World War II.
The screening of the movie, which was completed in 1994, was part of a retirement reception for Binford, who began teaching at Quinnipiac in 1983. The event was sponsored by Hillel, a Jewish student organization, and it coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Week.
“The film was something I thought about doing for 30 years. If I had done it right away, it would have been about my parents’ generation,” Binford said. “. The children survivors of the Holocaust were not even considered survivors until the 1990s.”
Binford was one year old when Nazi soldiers invaded her hometown of Bedzin, Poland in 1939. At the onset of World War II, the town had 75,000 citizens, of whom 30,000 were Jewish. By the war’s end, the Nazis had murdered nearly the entire Jewish community of Bedzin.
Binford longed to document her experience of living through the terrors of the Holocaust for decades after the Allied forces defeated the Nazi regime in 1945.
In August 1943, Binford’s family was arrested by Nazi forces. Her parents sent her to live with a Christian family in Germany. There, Binford wore a crucifix given to her by the family’s mother and she applied bleach to her hair to lighten its color. Such acts enabled Binford to further conceal her Jewish identity.
The reason she made the movie was to “acknowledge the goodness of the people who saved us and to acknowledge the complexity of their goodness,” she said.
The movie’s title refers to an incident in which Binford’s mother, while imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp, found a diamond amid the snowy prison grounds. Starving, her mother traded the diamond for a piece of bread from a Nazi prison guard.
After the war, Binford reunited with her parents. But the Nazi soldiers had killed six million Jews in Europe.
Binford is ambivalent toward the notion that the murderous campaign of the Nazi regime has taught people to be more accepting of people of different religions, creeds, and walks of life.
“I don’t see we as human beings have learned anything as we’ve had many instances of genocide since the Holocaust,” she said.