“By a Thread” Reveals Untold Stories of Women in Labor Camps

by LAUREN SCHUSTER, Asst. Editor

As part of Holocaust Remembrance Week, the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center invited Marisa Fox-Bevilacqua, creator of the documentary “By a Thread,” to speak about her experience doing research for the film.

The film “By a Thread” documents Fox-Bevilacqua’s journey as she worked to uncover the details of what exactly her late mother experienced during the Holocaust.

Her research led to the discovery that her mother spent over four years in a slave labor camp called Gabersdorf, which was located in what is now the Czech Republic. This discovery then allowed Fox-Bevilacqua to make connections with other women who were survivors of the camp and learn stories about her mother that shed light on the difficult reality that she was never allowed to ask about as a child.

“[The process] has been emotional, but it’s also been a thrill, which I know sounds very weird, [but] with every discovery there was also the [feeling of] ‘but what does that really mean?’” Fox-Bevilacqua said.

Each discovery prompted Fox-Bevilacqua to keep searching for more information, which led her to know her mother in a way she had never previously thought possible.

“First it was the exhilaration of finding things out, you know, […] all this stuff that had been so abstract to me that I’d wanted since I was a little girl was suddenly [real]. […] You know, all of this stuff was happening fast, but then [there was] absorbing it all,” Fox-Bevilacqua said.

Although these discoveries were personal for Fox-Bevilacqua, the reason she wanted to share them by creating the documentary was that she wanted to impact the way that people think about the Holocaust. Because her mother had been in an all-women’s camp, Fox-Bevilacqua knew that she had a unique opportunity to shed light on the specific treatment that women endured during the Holocaust.

The notes and journal entries that young women like Fox-Bevilacqua’s mother created bring a more humanizing view to the Holocaust.

“The beauty of so many of these women’s stories is that these girls were great at writing not because they were modern day Shakespeare or anything, but because they were just being honest and real,” Fox-Bevilacqua said.

Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center, explained that a large part of why she wanted to hold this event was to provide an opportunity for the stories of women who survived the Holocaust to be heard.

“There is very little done about women and the Holocaust, so I want to start highlighting that,” Afridi said.

Afridi found addressing the specific issue of the abuse of women in the Holocaust to be a perfect fit with the larger mission of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Center.

“The mission for us as a center is to deal with social justice issues and to make people aware of human suffering, especially, in this case, women,” Afridi said.

Junior Olivia Gartland attended the event at the recommendation of Afridi. She found the talk to be very informative and expressed particular surprise at learning about the existence of women-only camps and the treatment of the women there.

Gartland said, “This story in particular is an amazing one, and I can’t believe that it’s just now being uncovered, but then that also opens the door to the thousands of stories that are [not yet] uncovered.”

“By a Thread” is in its final stages of production and Fox-Bevilacqua hopes to be able to release the film sometime next year. Afridi expressed hopes to organize a screening of the film at Manhattan College upon its release.