An Open Letter to NYC: We Were So Beloved

Manfred Kirchheimer, 1986, 145 min

Between 1933 and 1941 thousands of Jews fled Nazi Germany and Austria for America. Leaving behind brothers, sisters and parents, more than 20,000 of them came together in Washington Heights in New York City. Here, for the first time, they lived among Jews. While horrific reports trickled in from the camps, the emigrants cooperated to build their new society.
Like Shoah and The Sorrow and the PityWe Were So Beloved uses gripping personal testimony to examine the complex emotional and philosophical implications of the survival of the Jews of Washington Heights.

Manfred Kirchheimer, born in 1931 in Germany, came to the US in 1936 when his family fled the Nazis. He studied film at Hans Richter’s Institute of Film Techniques of the City College and spent 24 years in the NY film industry as an editor, director, and cameraman, editing over 300 films for the documentary departments of American television networks, with subjects ranging from cultural programming such as Leonard Bernstein in Venice, for CBS to biography for Time-Life Films as in Krushchev RemembersStations of the Elevated (1980) and We Were So Beloved(1986) are Kirchheimer’s most celebrated films. Stations, featured at the New York Film Festival, is a lyrical documentary that follows elevated subway trains that are illicitly painted by early proto-graffiti artists. Other films include Colossus on the River (1963), Haiku (1965), Leroy Douglas (1967), Claw (1968), Short Circuit (1973), Bridge High (1975), Tall: The American Skyscraper andLouis Sullivan (2004), SprayMasters (2008), and Art is…The Permanent Revolution (2012). He was just awarded the prestigious 2016 Guggenheim Award in Film and Video.

Q&A with Manfred Kirchheimer and reception with foods from Washington Heights to follow screening.

This program is part of An Open Letter to NYC:
Immigrant Documentary Filmmakers and Their Films

Starting with the periods before, during, between, and after the two world wars through to the present day, the American film industry would not exist without the immigrant filmmaker. In fact all contemporary American art and media, including the current documentary renaissance, is enlivened by and rooted in the modern immigrant experience. An Open Letter takes stock in immigrant, refugee and expatriate documentary filmmakers and/or documentary films about immigration and pays special attention to filmmakers from dominant and emerging NYC populations including those of Caribbean, Eastern European, Latin American, South and East Asian, Middle Eastern and West African descent. Programmed by Jessica Green and Edo Choi.

This series is supported by New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) as part of the 2016 Immigrant Cultural Initiative.


German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany tell about their experiences under Hitler, fleeing to America, and building a new community here. They are asked about their attitudes towards recent immigrants.