Now, the late Lafayette resident’s story of before, during and after the war is slated for full disclosure in On the Wrong Side, a short documentary by Lucy Henke, Ph.D., a UL Lafayette associate professor of marketing, that is set for screening at the GI Film Festival’s International Warrior Night at 6 p.m. May 24 in Washington, D.C.
The 39-minute film was spawned by a mutual connection between Henke and Slater — as well as a shared Berlin lineage. After a preliminary meeting with Slater and her family in 2014, Henke became enthralled by the life of the then-92-year-old.
“Once I met (Slater), I knew I had to make it,” says Henke. “She was completely compelling and charming and lovely and totally driven to share her story.”
On the Wrong Side is Slater’s recount of a member of the German army whose family (and herself) sympathized with the Jewish people. She joined the forces as a teletypist — one of the few jobs available for women during wartime — under her father’s condition that she did not affiliate herself with the Nazi party. After Hitler’s almost-death on July 20, 1944, Slater and Kurt Kleinfeld, her then-partner, attempted to flee to neutral Switzerland.
After American troops freed her, Slater returned to Berlin. According to her obituary, she emigrated to Enid, Okla., in 1955, where she served as a certified medical transcriptionist for St. Mary’s Hospital. It wasn’t until 1990 that she moved to Lafayette so she could be close to her twin daughters.
The film initially ran as a work in progress in November 2014 during the Southern Screen Film Festival in Lafayette, which Slater attended and answered questions. Now, the full-length production will air in the Canadian Embassy as part of the 10-day military movie festival, taking place Saturday, May 21 to May 29.
“There were many interesting chapters of her life that I had to leave out, and I found that very difficult to do,” Henke confesses. “Writing the final script — eliminating whole story lines — was a serious exercise in self-discipline.”
The two day-long interviews were swollen with conversation, pictures from Slater’s childhood and even a letter from Steven Spielberg thanking her for contributing to his program, the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, which he founded in 1994 to videotape first-person accounts of Holocaust survivors and witnesses.
The two interviews — scheduled months apart due to Slater’s brief hospitalization — spanned hours, and Slater’s daughter, René Pearson, says “I expected Lucy to call me in two hours and say that my mother was tired and that was enough. She went, like, six to eight hours, and she did great.”
Henke’s film, which is her first foray into film making, was a selection for the 2016 Fargo International Film Festival, and will be screened at the Big As Texas Short Film Festival in December.