A PRO-ACTIVE man with a learning disability has made a documentary about the treatment of disabled people during the Holocaust.
Berge Kanikanian screened his ‘Aktion T4 Awareness Project’ at the House of Commons last Tuesday (18), in front of MPs, representatives from Ealing Mencap, the press, the council, and professionals from the fields of education, social care, learning disability and the Holocaust.
Mr Kanikanian, 45, hopes to use the film as an educational tool which can be shown in schools, colleges and youth centres to prevent and tackle bullying and disability hate crime.
The idea for the project came to Mr Kanikanian, of South Ealing, when he attended a Tomorrow's Leaders course run by Inclusion North.
He then travelled to Poland and Germany around two years ago to seek the truth on his chosen subject with volunteers who did the filming and were essential in its creation, including director and editor James Hills.
On his trip, the documentary maker visited a concentration camp from 1939 where it is believed that 18,000 prisoners were held.
He went to see a large community of disabled people whilst in Poznan, Poland, and through an interpreter spoke to a variety of people in Hadamar, Germany.
Mr Kanikanian learnt that an estimated 70,000 people were killed in Aktion T4, Nazi Germany’s Euthanasia programme where thousands who were judged incurably sick by doctors were murdered, and that disabled adults and children were blamed for the problems in Germany.
His passion for raising awareness of this appalling treatment grew and Mr Kanikanian received support to make his project come to life from a number of supporters such as Ealing Mencap, Accession, Ealing council, Royal Mencap, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, funders, personal assistants and his family.
Mr Kanikanian said: “I believe this film is about fathers and mothers and disabled people who need a better quality of life. I spent four years on it and I think it’s important for small children because they suffer the most from hate crime.”
He said the screening went well and he was happy to see MPs across parties attending, who he hopes will continue to support the project.
MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Angie Bray, said: “I was delighted to give Berge his introduction to parliament. I think the potent message will now get carried further. Many people think they know about the Holocaust but they do not know how it extended to disabled people.”
At the House of Commons, Matthew Coulam, Business Development Manager at Ealing Mencap, said: “Berge’s film is powerful and difficult to watch, but people do not change unless they are made to feel uncomfortable.
“With support he could develop the project into a social enterprise and be paid to present the documentary.
“This is an ongoing issue which has been highlighted over recent years by Royal Mencap’s Stand By Me campaign.
“Berge also screened this film at Ealing Hammersmith and West London College as part of the R-word campaign.”
He added: “It is apparent that there is a need to educate young people to think about the consequences of abusive actions. One way to do this is to show what can happen if this culture of abuse is taken to an extreme or adopted by people in power.”
Until 2010, Mr Kanikanian was a member of Ealing Mencap’s power group, a self advocacy group for people with learning disabilities, and co-chair of the Ealing learning disabilities partnership board.
The filmmaker said that Ealing Mencap are kind hearted friends of his who are good to him.
On behalf of Mr Kanikanian, Mr Coulam thanked the All Party Parliamentary group for young disabled people for helping to organise Tuesday’s event.
Other feedback on the day included the film being described as moving, amazing, and one spectator said he could not find words to describe what a good job Mr Kanikanian had done.
After almost four years work, the thirty minute documentary is awaiting only the finishing touches before it will be ready for a public launch and the man behind it is reaching out for ideas of how he can show it to young people.