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Through hours of videography, Aaron Herskowitz’s son Howard captures the horror and triumph of his father’s extraordinary journey during World War II. A gifted storyteller who frequently impersonates his captors, prisoners and comrades, Aaron Herskowitz’s genuine and captivating narration, buoyant personality and the telling of both heroic and horrific acts enraptures his audience. Some of the filming was done during a family trip, when Aaron was 75 years old, to eastern Europe and the tiny town of Bilky, the site of Aaron’s family farm. It was during this trip that Howard realized he had a story about his father’s incredible experiences during the war that must be told to the world. Other filming was taken when Aaron was in his eighties, still vibrant and expressive. In these clips Aaron describes his survival and the deep question of his faith; he denounces the rabbis who failed their people by preaching prayer instead of resistance, to the anger of Aaron. He recounts how he takes matters into his own hands while a slave under the Nazis and Hungarians; how he fought back to kill his would-be persecutors who were out to assassinate him. This would lead to his escape to join the Russian army, for whom he becomes a heroic and powerful figure.
By the fall of 1942, when Germany needs reinforcements on the Russian front, their Axis ally Hungary sends its army there to support them – along with their Jewish slave laborers who are beaten, starved and tortured in the snows of Russia. “Why did God abandon the Jews?” Aaron endures the murders of fellow Jewish slaves by the Nazis and Hungarians on the Russian front. In one of the most emotional passages of the story, after a Russian bombing of the Axis columns massacred nearly all remaining Jews, Aaron gives up on God, just as he believed God gave up on the Jewish people.
After Aaron escapes the Nazis and becomes a hero of the Russian army, the Russians reward him by appointing him ruler of a conquered Nazi town, Gérjen, with virtually unlimited power. He and his friend, the giant Ignatz Sax, take their revenge, punishing Nazi and Hungarian soldiers and spies they capture, executing the most criminal. But when Sax learns that his wife and children have likely been murdered in Nazi death camps, he loses all self-control, taking his brutality beyond the extreme. Meanwhile, Aaron rediscovers his own humanity and ends his violence. He tries to rein in his friend, but Sax refuses, leading to conflict between the two men.
While still a slave laborer under the Nazis and Hungarians, Aaron knows that he must take action after overhearing a large imposing Nazi SS officer confide to a comrade about Aaron: “That Jew has been getting fat enough…it’s time for a kill!” The Nazi officers don’t realize that Aaron is fluent in German.
“Escape from the Nazis and Hungarians.” In a classic exciting adventure, Aaron realizes he has no choice but to escape from his Nazi captors and join the Russian Army—but the Russians believe that Aaron is a German spy. They give him an impossible task to prove himself otherwise—he must cross back over enemy lines and bring back a German or Hungarian soldier for interrogation. Can Aaron succeed?
Aaron endeavors to fulfill his first command by the Russians by crossing back over enemy lines to bring back a German or Hungarian soldier as a prisoner. Instead, Aaron and his friend Sax arrest and capture 13 Nazi and Hungarian soldiers and spies, hiding in different barns and farm houses. He ties them together and marches them back to the Soviet headquarters. The Russians are elated and celebrate all night: “To our friends, the Jews!“
“Escape from the Russians.” Aaron is taken from his headquarters by a squad of Soviet secret police. As a result of Aaron turning down a Soviet offer to spy for them, he is immediately arrested, beaten, and falsely accused of being a Nazi spy. How does Aaron overcome this impossible new predicament?
While still a slave under the Nazis and Hungarians, Aaron is befriended by a hulk of a Hungarian Jewish slave new to the camp named Ignatz Sax, the wildest man Aaron would ever know. The two become fast friends and share many passions, including the burning desire to escape one day and exact revenge. In this video, Aaron impersonates his old comrade in some of his outrageous and hilarious antics.
Another talent Aaron possessed that helped save his life—he was a genuine horse master. When he notices that all skilled Hungarian and Nazi officers fail to tame the Hungarian major’s wild stallion, Aaron steps forward to volunteer, and the rest is a heroic and exciting adventure.