News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 5, 2013

CANDLES to show new film on unknown Holocaust survival

TERRE HAUTE — A remarkable and little known story of survival in the darkest days of the Holocaust will unfold Friday night at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute.

The museum will be showing “No Place on Earth,” a new 88-minute film about 38 Ukrainian Jews who survived the Holocaust by living in underground caves for nearly a year in German-occupied Soviet territory.

The film, to be shown at 5:30 p.m., is the first of its kind telling the story of the Stermer family and their relatives that survived Nazi occupation by hiding underground for 344 days.

Rick Hirschhaut, executive director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, who will attend the CANDLES screening, visited the cave in 2010. He saw, first hand, the place the families used as a safe haven until 1944 when Soviet forces pushed the Germans back to the west.

“It’s a wheat field as far as the eye can see,” Hirschhaut said of the area in which the cave is located. A small depression in the field indicates the entrance to the cave. A steel ladder takes the modern visitor down one level. Another ladder leads to yet another level. Then a very narrow, winding entry way leads to the place the family called home for a year, he said. In total, the cave stretches more than 70 miles in length.

Only a few younger male members of the family ever ventured outside at night to find firewood and to steal rations for survival. None of the family saw sunlight until their liberation.

Until recently, the Stermer’s story was almost unknown outside of the southwestern area of Ukraine where the cave, known as Priest’s Grotto, is located. One survivor, Esther Stermer, wrote a personal memoir of the struggle. More recently, Chris Nicola, an American caver, co-wrote a book on the story called “The Secret of Priest’s Grotto.”

Esther Stermer and her extended family, ranging in ages from 3 to nearly 50, lived underground to escape almost certain extermination at the hands of the Gestapo. Villagers living near the cave knew the Jews were underground and attempted to suffocate them by closing the small opening to the cave at one point, Hirschhaut said. Even the Germans were aware of the Stermers, but didn’t want to brave the difficult passages deep inside the cave to find them, he said. Near the end of the war, one member of the family was killed after he left the cave too soon.

Some members of the Stermer family who lived in the cave still survive today. Their stories of Priest’s Grotto became the bedtime tales for their children and grandchildren. Now, thanks to the new movie, their stories are here for the rest of us.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Urinator Causes Portland to Flush Reservoir Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees Pope's Relic on Wheels Departs to Rome Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast Raw: Pro-Russian Militants Killed on Base Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes
NDN Video
Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Florida State Ends Top Of the 5th With Bizarre Play vs Jacksonville | ACC Must See Moment Kate Upton Loves Her Body, Every Part Of It Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video Miley Cyrus Hospitalized After Severe Reaction To Medicine Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Toddler climbs into vending machine 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Much-Anticipated 'Gone Girl' Trailer Finally Debuts! (VIDEO) Dog and Toddler Wear Matching Outfits in Adorable Photo Series

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010