Třeboň, Occupied Czechoslovakia: a German soldier comes every day, pointing a gun at a mother and demanding milk, bread and butter; a young girl watches as the four thousand German soldiers camping behind her house are replaced by as many Soviet soldiers; a little girl pretends to be a mannequin in her grandmother’s shop to hide from SS officers; a high school student helps her friend sew a Jewish star on her coat and take her first steps wearing it in public.These are some of the extraordinary tales of “ordinary” women from a small Czech town during World War Two.
The animated short documentary “Second Hand War” (wt) foregrounds wartime snapshots that didn’t make it to the history books, focussing on women’s experiences. The version of history portrayed is fragmentary and contradictory, combining first-hand accounts and gossip passed down through the generations, privileging the fragile poetry of human subjectivity over verifiable facts.
Fragments of personal connections to this period of history are pieced together to create a subtle overview of daily life under occupation and what it meant to be a woman at that time, while at the same time revealing the gaps in our collective memory.
We developed the idea for this film while working on our previous shorts “Black&White” and “All Her Dying Lovers”, which are what first brought us to Trebon. We went to research a scandalous urban legend about a nurse from WWII, but during the interviews people kept telling us other stories about women from that time. We were really struck by how rarely we hear about the “female” side of history, and how everyday experiences and struggles get overshadowed by battles and tanks. We were captivated by what we heard, and thought those tales also deserved to be told. We believe history is always a current subject, and recently it has taken on a particular relevance as arguments over who gets to write history and what should be preserved are raging through social media. Although our focus is specifically feminist, we feel that our film will also speak to these wider debates, and that the combination of oral history and expressive animation is the perfect format for it.