WRITING
THE RIVER OF ANGRY DOGS
– A MEMOIR 

 

By MIRA HAMERMESH

Introduction by FAY WELDON

Published by PLUTO PRESS, London (2004)

 

This moving memoir by award-winning filmmaker, writer and artist Mira Hamermesh, gives a vivid account of her remarkable life.

 

As a young Jewish teenager, she escaped the horrors of German-occupied Poland with only her natural creativity, a rebellious spirit and a talent for good fortune to rely on. Of the millions of words written about WWII, few come from women and even fewer recount such adventure.

 

Spared the experience of the ghetto and the concentration camp that claimed most of her family – her mother died of starvation in the Lodz ghetto, her father perished in Auschwitz  – Mira’s story is a life-affirming account of a life lived to the full, and a meditation on survival and coincidence that pays homage to other people’s courage.

 

Recounting her escape in November 1939 from Lodz, the city of her birth, into Soviet occupied Poland, Mira shows how her status as a refugee has continued to influence her throughout her life. The journey led her across Europe and eventually to Palestine in 1941. 

 

After the war she settled in London where she studied art and eventually won a place at the celebrated Polish Film School in Lodz. At the height of the Cold War Mira commuted across the Iron Curtain – her experience of a divided Europe offers many insights into the political factors that affected everyday lives. 

 

Mira’s theme of political conflict, so often explored in her films, is brought to life here in an intimate account that will live long in the memory. 

 

A Polish translation of this book was published

by Proszynski i S-ka in 2006. 

 

(Read an extract from the English version here)

 

 “An extraordinary book, an extraordinary, frightening life. To be Polish without nation, Jewish without family, hunted down in a land at war - and to be a genius in the making - well, it's not the normal teenager's life. Mira Hamermersh sees past and present with a film-maker's flawless eye, in this shattering written memorial to those she loved and lost." -- Fay Weldon, Introduction

 

"Simply wonderful. ... The narrative is utterly gripping.

I could not put it down."

-- John Carey, Books Editor, The Sunday Times

 

"This is the story of a teenager crossing Hitler's Europe with only her own courage and luck to sustain her. It is a book of stunning narrative power, as able to move the reader with the surprises of human goodness and happy reunions as with the terror of those dark times. It is unlike any other memoir of the period that I can recall." -- Elaine Feinstein

 

"A fascinating account, covering so many countries, conditions, perils and states of mind." -- Alan Sillitoe.

ANTHOLOGIES

MOTHERS BY DAUGHTERS

Chapter “I LOVE MY MOTHER BUT …..” – Mira Hamermesh

Edited by Joanna Goldsworthy

Published by Virago, London 1995

244pp

HOLOCAUST AND THE MOVING IMAGE – Representations in Film and Television since 1933. 

Chapter “OSWIECIM/AUSCHWITZ:

THE SHOOTING GOES ON” – Mira Hamermesh

 

Edited by Tony Haggith and Joanna Newman; preface by David Cesarani

Published by Wallflower, London 2005

320pp

ARTICLES

LODZ GHETTO – BACK INTO THE PITS OF HELL (link)

The Guardian, 31 October 2009

As a teenager, Mira Hamermesh defied her parents and fled Nazi-occupied Poland. Her mother starved to death in the Lodz ghetto, her father perished in Auschwitz. In August 2009, 65 years after the ghetto was liquidated, the film-maker returned for a reunion of its few survivors and their families.

HOLOCAUST – A filmmaker’s experience

The Jewish Quarterly 1997

Mira Hamermesh analyses the impact of major Holocaust films from the perspective of a filmmaker who has filmed three times in Auschwitz.

IN AND OUT OF SHOT: FROM A FILM DIRECTOR’S DIARY - Jewish Quarterly, Volume 39, 1992

The author relates the inspirations and ideas that drove her to develop her major TV productions, including her most recent production LOVING THE DEAD. 

TALKING TO THE ENEMY – Notes from a Film Maker’s Diary  -  The Jewish Quarterly, Vol 35, 1988

Mira Hamermesh writes about her experience of making of her TALKING TO THE ENEMY – VOICES OF SORROW AND RAGE for Channel 4. The film explores the possibility of dialogue between a young Palestinian activist living in exile in the US and an older Israeli left-wing journalist. The two meet at a conference in Washington. A correspondence between the two that leads to an offer from the Israeli Chaim Shur to Muna Hamez to visit him and his family at their kibbutz in Israel.

SON OR DAUGHTER

The Jewish Quarterly 1969

An exploration of attitudes of the family and society to the birth of a baby in the state of Israel

A NIGHTMARE JOURNEY THROUGH SOUTH AFRICA (link) - Lillith, 1987

Based on her film MAIDS AND MADAMS, the articles examines the twin scourges of apartheid and sexism in 1980s South Africa.

SHOOT, ROLL AND CUT: The making of MAIDS AND MADAMS - Jewish Quarterly, Volume 32, 1985

The author describes how her need to make sense of the treatment of her own parents at the hands of a group that believed in the inferiority of a whole people drew her to South Africa and apartheid as the location of her celebrated documentary MAIDS AND MADAMS

DISASTERS  - The International Journal of Disaster Studies & Practice, 1979

Article deals with the fallout of warfare, insurrection and political solutions that have made countless millions homeless. Reflects the author’s lifelong interest and concern about the plight of refugees around the world and across history.

HOLOCAUST – A FILMMAKER’S EXPERIENCE

Jewish Quarterly, Volume 26, 1978

Mira Hamermesh deals with the controversy surrounding the US dramatization THE HOLOCAUST and discusses previous attempts in the West and Eastern Europe (in particular to deal with the tragedy of European Jewry on the screen. 

SON OR DAUGHTER  - The Jewish Quarterly 1969

An exploration of attitudes of the family and society to the birth of a baby in the state of Israel

REPORT FROM POLAND

Film and Filming 1962

The article analyses the early stages of Polish post-war films, in particular the political implications of filming behind the Iron Curtain and methods employed in dealing with censorship. The article relies on Mira’s own experience of studying at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, the town of her birth, from 1961-65.