February 28, 2016: Documentary about World War I genocide to be shown at Butler Institute


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The Youngstown-Warren Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society will screen ‘Changed by Thalerhof’ at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Butler Institute of American Art, 524 Wick Ave, Youngstown. (Electronic image from the documentary)

Decades before Auschwitz, there was Thalerhof.

While the words concentration camp are associated almost exclusively with the Nazis and World War II, the development of the idea of a concentration camp in Europe was piloted by the Austrian government in the town of Graz in 1914, 25 years before Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau and other such sites in World War II.

And the first in Europe interned in this camp, called Thalerhof, were a little-known people from the northeastern regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – the Carpatho-Rusyns.

Two American documentarians have produced a documentary on Thalerhof, its long-term effects on the Carpatho-Rusyn community and what it did to establish the concentration camp as a tool used by a state to isolate and punish its own citizens.

Titled “Changed by Thalerhof,” the 1-hour, 5 minute film interviews scholars, current leaders in the Carpatho-Rusyn community, and descendants of Thalerhof victims in Poland, Austria, Slovakia and the United States.

The Youngstown-Warren Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society will host a screening of the documentary at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Butler Institute of American Art, 524 Wick Ave, Youngstown.
“This is an untold piece of history,” said John Righetti, one of the producers. “It raises significant questions about the ways Carpatho-Rusyns were treated by the Austrian government and their immediate neighbors. It’s a study of how nations can turn one group of its citizens against another without any real reason using unfounded fear as a tool.”

“While it might seem that the documentary is dark, it really is the story of a people decimated who revived themselves and still, even now, refuse to go away,” said Maria Silvestri, co-producer.

The film was funded entirely by the Pittsburgh-based John and Helen Timo Foundation, a foundation committed to promoting and educating others about Carpatho-Rusyn culture.

Carpatho-Rusyns are an East Slavic group from the Carpathian Mountain chain of East Central Europe. They have never had a country of their own, but have maintained their vibrant culture. Today the Carpatho-Rusyn homeland is divided between Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania, with large settlements of Carpatho-Rusyns in Serbia, Croatia and the United States. They are recognized by all of these nations as an official minority except for Ukraine. More than 600,000 Americans are estimated to be of Carpatho-Rusyn heritage, and the Youngstown-Warren-Sharon metro area boasts a large and active Carpatho-Rusyn community.
For more information on “Changed by Thalerhof,” email John Righetti atrusynone@gmail.com or call 412-518-7149. For more information about the Youngstown-Warren Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, email Jim Basista at jpb1589@prodigy.net or call 330-647-8035.

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