"Menachem & Fred" is a moving family story about a small village called Hoffenheim, home not only for the brothers Menachem and Fred Mayer but also for the Hopp family. It´s about lives, which were connected 70 years ago and are still connected today. The film portrays tragic historical reports and how the past and present converge.
Ofra Tevet has been a journalist for many years and works for the popular Israeli news-magazine "Golden Channels". In the last eight years she has shot a lot of human-interest stories, for example: a Special about Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem, and the documentary "Don´t call me a hero".
AVIVA-Berlin: You deal with a lot of different kinds of every-day issues and have made many documentaries. Why did you choose the story of Menachem and Fred for your documentary film in particular? How did it all start?
Ofra Tevet: It was about eight years ago, at that time I worked for Channel 3. The PR of "Yad Vashem" called me and said: I´m sending you a book that I believe you´ll do something with. The book was "are the trees blooming over there?" it was written by Fred and Menachem. I remember myself reading it through Saturday. I couldn´t leave it for a moment. Three days after that I shoot the two brothers for an item for the news of Channel 3. I was editing it with Ronit Kertsner (who used to be the editor at that time). And we did a piece of six minutes. At the end of the day we decided that the subject is too wide and too interesting for a small item. It should be a film!
AVIVA-Berlin: You came to Germany to shoot very important scenes in Hoffenheim. What were your feelings when you came to Germany for the first time?
Ofra Tevet: It was terrible. You should understand. Although my family are not direct survivors, I was brought up all my life on the Holocaust heritage, with all the survivors around us. Germany at that time was for us very bad place. My parents used to travel around the world at least once a year, but never aproached Germany.
So obviously, it was difficult to arrive in Berlin, but then we met Jens Meurer, our producer (Egolli Tossel), and our wonderful teams, and that was a kind of, as they say in Hebrew, "repairing experience". All of them were so good. And they understood what I´ve been through, trying to do their best to make us feel good. and you know, at the end of the day, people are people... All this, happened six years ago. Now of course, everything has changed. I have many acquaintances in Germany, some of them very good friends of mine, and I´m working on my next project which will take place (at least most of it) in Germany...
AVIVA-Berlin: Menachem and Fred, the two brothers, meet each other after 60 years. How did they deal with each other in the beginning and what kind of relationship do they have now, after the shooting of your film?
Ofra Tevet: As much as I know, before the shooting of the film, their relationship was quite raw. As you know, they hadn´t met for decades. During the shooting, and the families meeting in Hopheneim, we could notice how from day to day, they became brothers again. These days they are really in a very close relationship. They speak a lot (skyping via the internet) and visiting each other, as much as they can. Let´s not forget that they are in their late seventies now, not so young…
AVIVA-Berlin: During one special scene of the movie, Menachem asks a habitant of Hoffenheim, near their old home, if he still knows something about the persecution of Jews during the 1930s. The reaction of this man, and his wife, is very disturbing. They don´t want to talk about the topic because they say it belongs to the past. They argue that the persecution of Jews could be compared with the harm of the German population during the bombings by the Russian army.
How did you feel about their reaction, and how did the habitants of Hoffenheim react while you were shooting the film?
Ofra Tevet: I´m not sure about the answer to this question. For a moment when you hear these things, you say: wow… that´s what they all think... but usually, the people I met in Germany have dealt with this subject a lot, understanding that the Holocaust was a unique terrible event, that happend in Germany... understanding the implications on their life, and on their descendants, and should do anything in the world to avoid this kind of things to happen.
AVIVA-Berlin: The film also portrays the Hopp family. Emil Hopp, an influential member of the SA in Hoffenheim, was responsible for the displacement of the Mayer family from their home in 1938. Today the children of Emil Hopp have close contact to Menachem and Fred. Dietmar Hopp, founder of SAP, financed a family reunion of the Mayer family and also funded the German version of Menachem and Fred´s book. The sponsorship of the Hopp family provoked a lot of mixed feelings for the Mayer family.
What is your personal feeling towards the Hopp family?
Ofra Tevet: I´m afraid I´m not objective enough to speak about the Hopp family. Let´s say this: at the beginning when we heard about their intention to bring the whole family together in Hophenheim (it happened during the shooting), we thought it would have been very good idea to shoot it. But we were almost sure that they wouldn´t agree to expose themself to the public with this family story. But they did! And during the event they became part of our story. Today they are good friends with Menachem and Fred. I think that their personal story, the way they deal with their past, and Menachem and Fred´s attitude to that should be learnt at schools as a chapter in the ability of human beings to reconcilate, love and hope.
AVIVA-Berlin: Could you possibly tell us about your future projects?
Ofra Tevet: Actually my next project will take place in Germany. It deals with the second/third German post war generation, during my personal voyage, as an Israeli.
AVIVA-Berlin: Thank you very much for your Interview with AVIVA-Berlin, and also for your profound and moving documentary.
Read also our Review of "Menachem & Fred" (in German).