Paul Galan came to speak at Dominican Convent, Sparkill, New York, as part of the JCC Rockland 2023 Film Festival that featured his experiences as a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust. The one-hour film titled, “Boy on the Run: An Extraordinary Journey of Survival,” was followed by a discussion with Mr. Galan.
A native of Czechoslovakia, Paul was six years old in 1939 when the Nazi regime and their nefarious Nuremberg Laws forced out the democratic government. The film portrays his life being radically changed, beginning with the requirement that all Jews were to wear a gold star on their clothing. Not long after, several xenophobic actions were enacted, and life took a sharp turn for the worse. As part of Hitler’s plan to crush European Jews, the Nazis rounded up Jewish people to send them to brutal concentration camps for resettlement.
The Galan family avoided death several times and they were eventually sent to a labor camp in Slovakia from which they were freed later when an uprising liberated the prisoners. They then crossed the Sudetes mountains with little money and false documents stating they were Lutheran, pleading with people for shelter. The film recalls one night when he and his family could not sleep when they found themselves in the same room as a Nazi soldier who was also staying there. In short, Paul and his family survived the Holocaust through a series of frightening and extraordinary circumstances.
After the war, Paul immigrated to the United States as a teenager with his parents in 1951. After completing high school, he studied at the City College of New York where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and History.
Mr. Galan’s adult life includes an illustrious career in New York’s film industry as a Director of documentary television programs for ABC News and independent broadcast groups such as Westinghouse Broadcasting and Capital Cities Broadcasting. He also produced and directed hundreds of films for Fortune 500 corporations. His television work earned him two EMMY nominations, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award in Journalism, and numerous other professional industry recognitions.
The Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, founded in 1876, were happy to participate in the JCC Rockland Film Festival by welcoming Mr. Galan. The Sisters are committed to teaching truth through honest remembrance of the past, renewing justice in the present, and acting with compassion in the future by broadening the circles of diversity and inclusion. They also encourage the teachings of the 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, which repudiate historic Christian teachings of contempt towards Jews and positively asserted the ongoing validity and common spiritual heritage that Christians and Jews share.
Mr. Galan said that he shares his story in the hope that together we will stand up to hatred. By doing good deeds and sharing kindness with others we can help to repair the world.