Alumni Spotlight: Erik Hirschhorn (’15), Mexico City, Mexico

Erik Hirschhorn (Mexico ’15), Filmmaker

This month we are proud to feature Erik Hirschhorn, an alumnus from Marcha de la Vida Mexico. Inspired by his experience on the March of the Living, Erik went on to direct and produce a short Holocaust film, entitled Standpoint, to serve as testimony and witness to future generations about what he experienced.

Growing up Jewish in Mexico City, my roots and heritage were always very engrained in my family traditions; the history of my people were constantly reinforced at school and in synagogue. I lived a very normal life where everyone I knew and interacted with was also a part of my community. When I was 16 years old, I decided to leave my home and travel to the United States where I had the opportunity to attend an Arts boarding school for high school in order to learn filmmaking.

In 2015, my junior year of high school, I knew what my old classmates back in Mexico were about to experience the March of the Living. I approached my old school in Mexico as well as some directors from March of the Living Mexico and made a request to travel together with my old classmates to the 25th March of the Living. My high school agreed to let me travel with the caveat that I make up all of the lost work, and also put together a presentation regarding my experience to my classmates upon my return.

One of the most important things I got from the trip was perspective. Previously, I imagined Auschwitz as a place out of this world. But being inside the camp, looking around, in real-time, was an experience that still chills my body. It’s as real as the room where you are sitting right now. Time travels just as fast, and the laws of physics perform just like anywhere else. It’s a place built by humans. The actions and intentions that existed there can’t be measured in anything else but the feeling of loss. You can’t do anything but imagine the thousands and thousands of lives that walked through those doors into the camp and left, stripped away from everything, including, their life.
I walked in one person and walked out another. It took me some time to understand and collect the pieces my soul had broken into and make them into something bigger and brighter. Today I recognize that the trip transformed me into someone more compassionate and understanding. I stopped seeing life as a given, and more like an opportunity.
The first thing I knew after coming back from this trip was that I needed to use my art and medium to express my emotions. I knew that I needed to create something bigger than myself that could serve, eternally, as a piece of evidence and testimony. This work would not only serve as testimony of the atrocities that happened, but would also help make sure that, today, in the 21st Century, there will be people to carry on the message of remembrance and “Never Again.”

Click on the video player to watch the trailer

I wrote and directed a short-film called Standpoint. It is about of a Jewish ballerina trying to escape Nazi-occupied Poland to get to American Ballet auditions in Prague in order to save her family from the hands of war. Standpoint went on to complete a very successful festival run and got multiple awards in international film festivals.

When I look back on the March of the Living, of course, I remember the atrocities I learned about, but what stays with me most is the feeling of community and love for all those people who were there to march and remember. Most importantly I take one thing with me: we must celebrate life.