Debs Paterson’s film about Holocaust survivor Janine Webber – ‘Nazi Boots’

Debs Paterson’s film about Holocaust survivor Janine Webber – ‘Nazi Boots’

Nazi Boots is a short film created by director Debs Paterson in response to meeting Holocaust survivor Janine Webber and hearing her story.

Filmmaker Debs Paterson met Holocaust survivor Janine Webber at her home. Janine survived the Holocaust by moving between hiding places in occupied Poland, witnessing the Nazis seizing her brother and father in the process. Debs and Janine explored the effect these experiences have had on her life and her outreach work – as well as the importance of educating young people about the past.

This is Debs’ creative response to Janine’s story, a short film entitled ‘Nazi Boots’.

Janine survived the Holocaust by moving between hiding places in occupied Poland, witnessing the Nazis seizing her brother and father in the process.

Debs explains that:

‘When I first met Janine and listened to her story, I was particularly struck by two things. One was how fresh her memories seemed. Being honest, I had expected that they might feel a bit like old postcards, faded inevitably over these 70 years –  but it all felt so fresh as she described it. Like the little girl she was then was in the room with us as well. Maybe this is partly because Janine has sound a young and vibrant countenance. But I was struck by how much her ‘little girl’ seems to live with her still – and how this is often an offshoot of childhood trauma – that the child and the adult continue to go through life together.

I was also very struck by the image of a grandmother wanting to go back with a toy gun to the farm house where she and her little brother were betrayed. We took some poetic license with the toy gun, in order to try and connect the young girl’s sense of wanting to right a wrong, with the grown woman’s desire to find those people and make them understand what they had done. (Janine was very clear she never wanted to take a real gun, only a toy). I found that image very compelling and powerful, particularly along with the fact that voicing this desire ultimately led her to start getting help for the trauma she had experienced, and to start telling her story. That image of the woman with the child’s gun, and the image of her lifelong nightmares about the nazi boots – became my starting point in thinking about narrative. Particularly because Janine told me she finally stopped dreaming about the boots once she started sharing her story.

I was blown away by the huge amount of good will our incredibly talented cast and crew showed in coming together to make the project – especially filming the week before christmas and post producing the first week of the new year – along with our exec producers and the Holocaust Memorial Day team too. I am hugely grateful to all those involved for their talent and generosity.

There is so much more to Janine’s story we weren’t able to tell in one short film – but meeting her and working on this project has been a wonderful experience and we all hope the film is a suitable tribute to her and her family.’

Debs Paterson is a director and writer currently based between London and LA. Her first film Africa United (Pathé/BBC Films) was an adventure road trip set in Rwanda, Burundi and South Africa about a group of young Rwandans trying to travel to the World Cup.

Her first short film We Are All Rwandans was a dramatic reconstruction of the true story of teenagers who stood up to genocidal rebels – an inspirational account that was unheard of outside of Rwanda. Debs is drawn to untold stories, and believes in the power of film to connect humans who seem or look very different. She is excited to be part of this project for this very reason, because she believes that imagining the ‘unimaginable’ is vital.