IN THE SHADOWS OF BEAU BASSIN – 48 mins – September 2007

Written, directed & photographed by Kevin Harris.

Europe – 1940. As Adolf Hitler’s intent becomes clear, thousands of Jews – denied travel documents -frantically attempt
to flee the continent and Nazi persecution.

After months of fear, intimidation & uncertainty – on September 4th two ships – the Uranus and the Helios – edge their way down the River Danube – destination Palestine.

Crammed on board – some three thousand Jewish refugees – possibly the last known group attempting to escape Hitler’s clutches & certain death.

On board that September evening in 1940 were the Rapynski Family – Mordechai & Peshach with their two young children, Yitzac & Hella. This is their story – and that of 1581 of the refugees who left Bratislava by ship on that day. Arriving at Haifa after a gruelling three-month ordeal at sea they were denied the Promised Land – and deported by the British Authorities to the Island of Mauritius.

“In the Shadows of Beau Bassin” is also the story of Geff Geffroy – and his quest for the truth concerning his religious identity.

On the passenger list of the detainees deported to Mauritius was a Miss Skydeberg. Geff’s late maternal grandmother’s maiden name was in fact Skydeberg. But, born and raised in a traditional Catholic family in the village of Beau Bassin, Geff knew nothing of the Jewish detainees that had been interned behind the prison walls. Every day, he passed the prison on his way to work. It had never occurred to him that his grandmother might, in fact, have been Jewish.

“In the Shadows of Beau Bassin” is the little-known saga of 1581 Jewish refugees deported to Mauritius in 1940 and detained at Beau Bassin Prison for some four and a half years.

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