From Hawaii to the Holocaust: A Shared Moment in History (film)


Title From Hawaii to the Holocaust: A Shared Moment in History
Date 1993
Genre Documentary
Director Ryan Sexton; Judy Weightman (Hawaii director)
Producer Judy Weightman; Wayne Weightman
Writer Ryan Sexton
Story Wayne Weightman
Narrator Ed Asner
Starring John Saito (interviewee); Neil Nagareda (interviewee); Fred Hirayama (interviewee); Ted Tsukiyama (interviewee); Katsugo Miho (interviewee); Don Shimazu (interviewee); Yuzuru Morita (interviewee); Harold Ueoka (interviewee); Royce Higa (interviewee); Rudolf Schmerl (interviewee); Carla Ghotzen (interviewee); Otto Orenstein (interviewee); Jack Andrews (interviewee); Richard Kuba (interviewee); Ruth Ishimoto (interviewee); Jerry Ishimoto (interviewee); Billy Taylor (interviewee); Fred Gilbert (interviewee); Joe Obayashi (interviewee); Michael Akamine (interviewee); Hideo Nakamine (interviewee)
Music Shawm Brydon (music coordinator)
Cinematography Greg Socher; Andy Mirikitani; Udi Galon (Israel); Dan Churma; Wayne Weightman; Ryan Sexton; Robert (Sugar) Fujimoto
Editing Ryan Sexton; Gary Youngman
Studio Hawaii Holocaust Project
Runtime 53 minutes
IMDB From Hawaii to the Holocaust: A Shared Moment in History

Documentary film on the men of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion and their encounter with Jewish victims of the Nazi death camps at the end of World War II. The 1993 film was a production of the Hawaii Holocaust Project.

Though it ultimately focuses on the men of the 522nd and their encounter with Jewish death camp prisoners of the Nazis, From Hawaii to the Holocaust begins with the broader story of Japanese American military service during World War II. Japanese American veterans talk about why then volunteered for military service, then go back to talk about their parents' immigration, discrimination against Japanese Americans, and the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii Territorial Guard members Ted Tsukiyama and Don Shimazu talk about being pressed into service on Pearl Harbor day, their dismissal six weeks later, and the formation of the Varsity Victory Volunteers. The film goes on to cover the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and the contrasting treatment of Japanese Americans from Hawai'i, the rise of the Nazis in Germany and their repression of Jews, the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, basic training of the 442nd in Mississippi, clashes between "kotonk" and "Buddhahead" soliders, and the puzzlement over race relations in the South. After being shipped to the European front, much of the focus turns to the rescue of the "Lost Battalion" in late 1944. Approximately the last quarter of the film centers on the members of the 522nd who recall their discovery of the death camps at Dachau and of Jewish prisoners recalling the Nisei. The film ends with ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and of the Holocaust and with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Though most of those interviewed are 522nd members from Hawaii, there are also a few mainland Nisei, some veterans who were not in the 522nd, and some of the white officers of the 442nd (principally Captain Billy Taylor), as well as Jewish Holocaust survivors. Visuals include much archival footage and many historical photographs, along with footage of some 522nd members returning to visit Dachau in 1992. The film does not allude to the then current controversy over the exact role the 522nd played and whether they can be called "liberators" of the death camps they encountered.

The Hawaii Holocaust Project was founded in 1986 by two University of Hawaii professors, Judy Weightman (law) and Linda K. Menton (education) with the goal of interviewing Nisei veterans on video about their encounters with the Nazi death camps. Later interviews also came to include both Holocaust survivors living in Hawaii and Jewish community members in Hawaii who escaped from Europe prior to or during the war. In 1991, the University's Center for Oral History published thirty-two of the transcribed interviews as Days of Remembrance: Hawaii Witnesses to the Holocaust.

Funding for Hawaii to the Holocaust came primarily from grants from the Hawaii State Legislature and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. The film screened at the 1993 Hawaii International Film Festival and received the Hawaii Filmmakers Award.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Full film on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/83826066.

Menton, Linda K. "Research Report: Nisei Soldiers at Dachau, Spring 1945." Holocaust and Genocide Studies 28.2 (Fall 1994): 258-74.

———. "Research Strategies and Reference Sources About the Holocaust." The Reference Librarian 29.61–62 (1998): 195–211.