'How Saba Kept Singing' is unique Holocaust survival story about love

Sandy Kenyon Image
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
'How Saba Kept Singing' is unique Holocaust survival story about love
PBS aired a special documentary "How Saba Kept Singing" Tuesday night to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

NEW YORK -- PBS aired a special documentary Tuesday night to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. "How Saba Kept Singing" is a story of survival and the executive producers are former first lady Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea.

This harrowing tale of surviving the Holocaust is unique and especially relevant at a time of rising antisemitism.

Karen Sugrue calls the documentary "unexpectedly poignant" and Entertainment Reporter Sandy Kenyon says that's the truth.

The images are familiar and so are the stories of those who survived the Holocaust, but what makes David Wisnia's story unique is the simple fact it is a love story.

The glint in his eye is still obvious many decades after he found love among the ruins at Auschwitz.

"I think the shocking thing about knowing my grandfather had a relationship in the concentration camp was just the context of it," grandson Avi Wisnia said.

Both Wisnia and Zippi had earned more freedom than the average prisoner.

In his case, it was by singing for his captors. And in her case, it was by keeping their records. So they were able to find each other.

"And help each other regain some of their humanity, remind each other of their humanity and that was what was heartening to know that he had somebody in there who was looking out for him and care for him," Wisnia said.

The documentary shows how Zippi saved her lover's life by erasing his name on lists of those marked for death.

They planned to meet after the war but it never happened until Wisnia's grandson helped to arrange a reunion 70 years later.

"And it wasn't until I got in the room and learned just how instrumental she was that it really landed for me how much she was responsible for not just my grandfather's life but for my life, my existence," Wisnia said.

Both David and Zippi have died since the film was shot, but Wisnia, a singer like his grandfather, is doing his best to keep his grandfather's memory alive.

The words and music Wisnia plays in the film were written by his late grandfather about his experience at Auschwitz.

The documentary was conceived at Temple Israel on the Upper East Side.

'How Saba Kept Singing' is presented as part of the Retro Report series on PBS.

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