Documentary tells story of local Holocaust survivor

By Erika Mahoney

April 25, 2014 Updated Apr 25, 2014 at 11:49 PM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) History lives on in artwork and words.

But for more than 20 years, students at Vestal High School have had the chance to hug and shake hands with history.

"It's surreal to be in the same room as a Holocaust survivor," Vestal High School Senior Jessica Juozitiz said.

Dina Jacobson is 92-years-old.

She survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and now lives in Elmira.

As painful as the memories are, she visits Vestal every year to share her story with students.

The teacher who originally brought her in has since retired, but says he's part of her family now.

"She was somewhat hesitant at first, but we talked about passing on her message," former Vestal world history teacher Brian Adessa said.

Adessa said the story that sticks out most to him is how Jacobson got to the United States. She was trying to explain to soldiers she had a family member in Elmira. The soldiers kept on trying to take her to Elmira Street in New York City. Luckily, one of the soldiers happened to be from Horseheads. He helped Jacobson get home.

That's just a taste of Jacobson's story, which is now on the big screen, through the documentary "Blue Tattoo: The Story of Dina Jacobson."

"This project goes back about two years, when Dina was turning 90," Marty Kerker, Dina's great nephew and co-producer of the documentary, said.

For her birthday, Kerker decided to create a video tribute.

"As part of that process, I found out that a song had been written about her by a folk singer named Joel Crookston."

The song is called "Blue Tattoo," symbolizing the tattoos prisoners were given for identification.

And now, that's the name of the documentary. Kerker turned the video tribute into a documentary with the help of filmmaker Rich Kellman.

"That was one of the first things they would do to dehumanize them. Give them a number, you're no longer known as Dina, you're now this number," Adessa said.

But Dina is a hero and a voice.

On Friday night, people packed Vestal High School to watch a special preview screening.

"Somebody once said that if you talk about 20 million people killed, that's a number," Kellman said. "But if you talk to one person who was affected by barbarity, like the Holocaust, you can begin to see what everybody went through..."

And you could begin to see it in Dina's tears.

She wasn't feeling up to talking on camera Friday; she said she was overwhelmed by a mix of supporters and memories.

But the documentary spoke for her.

The filmmakers say "Blue Tattoo" will play at Jewish Film Festivals and schools.

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