- Pvt. Ralph Rush, 89th Infantry Division
In 1991, Donald Johnson died. He was a family man, a grandfather, a veteran, and a medic. Among his possessions were sixteen photographs taken while he was at war. These pictures were a family secret, mentioned only in whispers.
Twenty years later his grandson, filmmaker Matthew Nash, set out to find the photos and understand their story. Beginning in a quiet Vermont town, he dug into the darker corners of his family history, eventually uncovering the pictures. These photos of horrible scenes, taken by a soldier entering the first of the concentration camps liberated by Allies during World War II, were each marked with one word: Ohrdruf.
Nash's investigation of the photographs leads him to historians who reveal a side of the Holocaust that he had never imagined, and to survivors with heartbreaking stories. In trying to understand his pictures, he eventually focusses on the soldiers who liberated the camps. Nash finds Ralph Rush and hears the amazing and shocking story of the liberation of Ohrdruf concentration camp, the first camp liberated by the Allies. His attempt to understand his grandfather's pictures has brought him face-to-face with the anger, the horror and the guilt that those first young soldiers felt when they encountered the atrocities of the Nazis.
16 Photographs At Ohrdruf is the journey of one grandson, trying to understand the brutal and terrible images preserved in sixteen forgotten pictures. In his investigation, Nash offers a voice for anyone who has ever wondered what is hidden from us, and what history might be uncovered in our families if we just ask.PRODUCTION
This film was written, produced & directed by Matthew Nash and edited by Michael Equi. Created with the generous support of Fluid NY, Mr. Bronx, Lesley University and the Smith Foundation. Audio post by David Wolfe for Mr. Bronx. VFX by Danny Ratcliff. Produced by Jason Egan, who also did the sound design. Music by Michael Meehan.
©2013 by 454 Productions & Matthew Nash
PREMIERE & RELEASE
This film premiered in Boston at Lesley University on April 4, 2013 on the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Ohrdruf concentration camp. The screening was introduced by Dr. Geoffrey Megargee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The film screened at the Boston International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Cinematography; the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, DC, where it won the Founder's Choice for Best of Festival; the Chain NYC Film Festival, where it won Best Documentary Feature. It was also included in the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and has screened in numerous venues in the U.S. Germany and Luxembourg.
In 2015, the film was screened in Luxembourg and Germany to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. In Ohrdruf, Nash toured the remains of the SIII camp, and spoke at a ceremony. The film was screened by the Jonastalverein, the group that keeps the history of the camp alive.
In 2017, the Jonastalverein founded a German-language translation of the film, which was released in Germany and is now available to all educators through a national portal.
Also in 2017, the 89th Infantry Division Association funded a French-language translation.
More information about screenings, including the upcoming release of the French-language version, can be found at the official Facebook page.RECEPTION
16 Photographs At Ohrdruf was widely reviewed in the news. The Associated Press published an article that appeared in hundreds of international publications. National Public Radio aired the interview below during morning drivetime. Listen below or read it here.