‘Bardejov’ (Sadly) Arrives at the Perfect Time

Robert Davi powers lesser-known tale of Jewish bravery during the Holocaust

“The Zone of Interest” kept the camera away from the Nazi atrocities.

We watched a “normal” German family literally living next door to a concentration camp. Only the nauseating sounds of the death camp crept into the Oscar-winning film.

“Bardejov” puts a human face on the Holocaust, and we’re all the better for it. This lesser-known story of heroism offers a complex portrait of fear and resourcefulness.

Led by a never-better Robert Davi, “Bardejov” is a worthy addition to the Holocaust film genre, and it’s timing couldn’t be better given the shocking rise in antisemitism across the globe.

Bardejov - Official Trailer - Starring Robert Davi & Danny A. Abeckaser

Davi plays Rafuel Lowy, a Jewish leader struggling to protect his people from the Nazi’s expanding empire. It’s 1942, and the Slovakian town of Bardejov is increasingly under Hitler’s control.

You won’t find any Nazis goose-stepping across the streets. The local Hlinka Guards prove more than eager to do the Third Reich’s bidding.

Rafuel’s role as both a spiritual leader and local businessman has kept him and his friends safe up until now. The Jewish death camps need new prisoners, forcing Rafuel to find a way to save his fellow Jews.

When the call goes out to recruit hundreds of local Jewish girls to “work” in a German shoe factory, Rafuel concocts a wild scheme to thwart that plan.

Director Danny A. Abeckaser recreates the look and feel of ’40s-era Europe despite a modest budget, and the screenplay underscores the challenges Bardejov’s Jewish population faced. The Nazi plan encroached on core liberties piece by piece, making tiny promises with crushing expiration dates.

Appeasement seems the only possible answer … until it isn’t.

That tension powers the first act, suggesting how the most reasonable people hoped to negotiate their way out of the nightmare.

Davi, so memorable in both supporting and leading roles, brings both his steely presence and knack for serving the needs of each scene. His Rafuel can be kind and considerate one moment, then impulsive and raw.

The actor ensures it all flows from a place of authenticity.

“Bardejov” drags a bit in the middle, but once the desperate plan snaps into action it takes on a new, emboldened purpose.

Abeckaser’s film isn’t interested in clumsy, modern-day comparisons. Nothing rips us from the era in question, but it’s impossible to watch the horrors play out without remembering Oct. 7.

Emil A. Fish, a Slovakian survivor of the death camps, co-produced the film and helps frame the story. We shouldn’t need that kind of bookending in 2024, but sadly the facts on the ground suggest otherwise.

It’s a shame so few people know about this chapter in World War II history. Now, thanks to the gritty “Bardejov,” some will at last.

HiT or Miss: “Bardejov” reminds us there are still powerful stories tied to the Holocaust that need to be told on screen. 


    1. Should be daily, given the general apathy toward the Holocaust, the massive ignorance of history, and the surging Jew hatred coming from all sides, even here.

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