Story of first recorded Holocaust testimony revealed in new podcast

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Story of first recorded Holocaust testimony revealed in new podcast

Hela Goldstein was liberated from Bergen-Belsen on her 22nd birthday, and a new podcast explores how her testimony is likely the first ever captured on film.

Holocaust survivor at the Bergen-Belsen memorial.
Holocaust survivor at the Bergen-Belsen memorial.

A Holocaust survivor who is believed to be the first to in the world to give testimony after her liberation by British troops has recounted her experiences as part of a new podcast series.

The story of Hela Goldstein, also known as Helen Collin, is revealed by the newly-launched podcast The Memory Generation, from the USC Shoah Foundation, using interviews recorded before her death.

Born in 1923, in Lodz, Poland, she is likely the first Holocuast survivor to have given testimony on camera. 

In 1945, just days after the liberation of the camp, she was interviewed by Sidney Bernstein, a cinema luminary, embedded with the British Army.

She can be seen on the film screaming something at an SS officer in Polish.“Just you wait,” she shouted. “You will pay for wasting our youth!”

“We were fifteen hundred in one room,” she told the film crew in German with a mass grave behind her. “There was no food and no water for us. We thought we would not survive.”

The podcast interview, conducted before her death in 2016, reveals her experience at the infamous camp. 

“When they looked out and the first thing they saw was a British Red Cross tank, and they turned around and – I get goosepimples – and they yelled so loud: ‘We’re free, we’re free, we are free!” she said.

She lost most of her family in the war. “My father was more like a friend to us, any time he had a little time he would play with all of us,” she said. “Mother was my confidant, my closest friend.”

The footage of Helen was collected by the British Army’s Film and Photographic Unit, under the direction of Sidney Berstein.

The cinema luminary, alongside Alfred Hitchcock, had aimed to make the first documentary about the Holocaust, called the ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

But the project was shelved in September 1945 by the British government because changing occupation policy meant “the authorities no longer considered a one-hour compilation of atrocity material appropriate.”

It then languished in the vaults of the Imperial War Museum for decades, until a rough cut was released in 1984.

The podcast interviews Sidney Bernstein’s daughter, Jane Wells, who grew up with no knowledge of her father’s role in filming the atrocities of the camps.

The first episode of “The Memory Generation” was released on April 15, 2021, and can be found here:

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