About the project

«Witnesses» is a film and educational project dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust victims. The project consists of the eponymous feature film directed by Konstantin Fam, three short novellas – «Shoes», «Brutus», and «Violin» – as well as film and educational networking programme «Witnesses: In Memory of the Holocaust».

The idea for the project was born at the Auschwitz Memorial Complex, at the glass display cabinet with thousands of shoes that once belonged to the concentration camp victims. The project took five years in the making and was filmed across nine countries: Russia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Poland, France, USA, Israel, Romania, and Ukraine. The film is dedicated to the memory of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The project aims to remind the younger generation about the Catastrophe that took place and to prevent similar events from happening in the future.


The events of «Witnesses» take place in mid-twentieth-century Eastern Europe. The historical drama tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of its involuntary numb Witnesses… Through the story of a pair of one woman's shoes, which began at the store window and ended at the display at the Auschwitz Memorial Complex. Through the story of a German Shepherd pup, who was trained and manipulated into becoming a concentration camp killer. Through the story of one violin, which together with its owners lived through all the horrors of the war.

The lead roles were performed by Oksana Fandera, Filipp Yankovsky, Vladimir Koshevoy, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Mikhail Gorevoy, Marusya Zykova, Vyacheslav Chepurchenko, Masha King, Alim Kandur, Anna Churina, and others.

The feature film «Witnesses» was created by Ark Pictures production company and Russian Film Group Corporation with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The film was released in June 2018.


The first novella tells a story of a pair of women’s shoes, which starts at the department store window and ends on display at the Auschwitz concentration camp. The film won multiple awards at Russian and international film festivals. It was nominated for the Academy Awards in 2013.


The second novella upholds the concept of the film and tells about the Catastrophe through the eyes of a German shepherd named Brutus. The Nuremberg Laws separate the dog from his beloved mistress, and special training turns the harmless pet into a concentration camp killer. The film is based on a short story of the same name by Czech writer Ludvik Ashkenazy. The cast of the film includes Russian beloved actors such as Oksana Fandera, Filipp Yankovsky, Vladimir Koshevoy and Marta Drozdova. The premiere of «Brutus» took place at the 2016 Moscow International Film Festival as part of its competition program. «Brutus» won awards from international film festivals and was longlisted for the Oscars in 2016. The film was also nominated for the Golden Eagle Award.


The final novella opens at the beginning of the 20 century in a violin shop, where an exquisite instrument was made as a present for a Jewish boy. Later that violin became a witness to the tragic events that took place during the Holocaust. And when the instrument turned a hundred years old, its journey ended at a concert at the Wailing Wall. The filming of the picture took place in Moscow, New-York, Prague and Brest. It starred Mikhail Gorevoy, Vladimir Koshevoy, Vyacheslav Chepurchenko and Alim Kandur. «Violin» premiered as part of the competition program of the 39th Moscow International Film Festival. It was also longlisted for the Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short Film.


In the last few years, we have received many requests from various educational organizations and individual teachers to use the novellas of the trilogy as media resources for teaching about the Holocaust. We have also received requests to use our films for educational initiatives in the United States and many European countries. We recognize that in order to use the films effectively for educational purposes, one must not only have access to them but also receive professional guidelines outlining the educational work.

The project aims to create an educational programme around the novellas of the trilogy «Witnesses» and circulate it via the network of teachers and students in Russia.


The film and educational project «Witnesses» is created by the Ark Foundation for Support and Development of the Jewish Cinema. The Foundation was established in 2017 in order to develop Jewish culture, preserve history, promote ideas of humanism, tolerance and equality through the language of filmmaking. To achieve these goals, the Foundation creates and distributes cinematographic works and organizes film-related events.

The project is brought to life with the support of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center, Russian Jewish Congress, Jewish Community of Odessa, as well as other organizations and individual philanthropists.


Social media pages of the project not only communicate its news but also publish weekly educational information on the history of the Holocaust and on the Holocaust in culture.