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Watermarks is the story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna. Hakoah ("The Strength" in Hebrew) was founded in 1909 in response to the notorious Aryan Paragraph, which forbade Austrian sports clubs from accepting Jewish athletes. Its founders were eager to popularize sport among a community renowned for such great minds as Freud, Mahler and Zweig, but traditionally alien to physical recreation. Hakoah rapidly grew into one of Europe's biggest athletic clubs, while achieving astonishing success in many diverse sports. In the 1930s Hakoah's best-known triumphs came from its women swimmers, who dominated national competitions in Austria. After the Anschluss, in 1938, the Nazis shut down the club, but the swimmers all managed to flee the country before the war broke out, thanks to an escape operation initiated by Hakoah's functionaries. Sixty-five years later, director Yaron Zilberman meets the members of the swimming team in their homes around... Written by
Bittersweet but loving portrait of Jewish ladies' swim team
I had the pleasure of seeing this film at the Nashville Film Fesitval. This documentary tells the story of a special reunion of six members of the Hakoah Vienna, a girl's swim team that broke athletic records in the 1930s as Hitler came to power.
These ladies all have distinct personalities that come shining through as the story unfolds. There is laughter shared amid sadder memories. One of the swimmers was invited to represent Austria in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games but refused as a statement of her stance against Nazism. As a result, she was never allowed to compete again and had her awards taken away. The director lets the story tell itself as the friends go back in time to their youth, when their faith made them visible targets. While much has changed, some things have not. It is an inspiring, thoughtful story worth telling.
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