Among millions and millions imprisoned in the Holocaust, one man in particular stands out — and stood out even to his Nazi captors. “At the Mauthausen garage yard, a black point stood about amidst the dust-colored multitude,” writes novelist Joaquim Amat-Piniella. “It’s a black boy from Barcelona, born in Spanish Africa. The officer who had spotted him from the balcony ordered that he be brought up to him. His robust and muscular body surprised the Nazis,” as did his cultivation: that he responded to their questions in German may well have kept him from being sent immediately to the gas chamber. His name was Carlos José Grey Molay, also known as Carlos Greykey, and his remarkable life story is the subject of 5124.GREYKEY, Enric Ribes’ short documentary film above.
Narrated by Greykey’s daughter Muriel Grey Molay, “5124.GREYKEY uses retro techniques, recreated home movies and personal/archival photography to visualise a daughter’s memories of an enigmatic father.” So writes Rob Munday at Short of the Week, going on to describe the film as “consisting of painstakingly recreated home movies (reshot on Super 8 and 16mm — as Muriel couldn’t retrieve them), photos (both from Muriel’s archive and historic archives) and stop-motion (created by S/W alums I+G Stop Motion).”
Through these materials, “much like how the daughter builds a solid understanding of her Dad’s past, bit-by-bit, a picture of Jose only starts to form after we are given the pieces of the puzzle to put together ourselves.”
The Barcelona-born son of parents from modern-day Equatorial Guinea, Greykey was studying medicine at university when the Spanish Civil War broke out. Conscripted, he fought against the rebels, and later moved on to France, where he fought against the Germans. It was the Nazi victory there that put him in the Mauthausen concentration camp along with Amat-Piniella. Like everyone else interned there, he received a number — the titular 5124 — but his refinement and formidable language skills (in addition to his native Spanish, he commanded not just German, but also French, English, and Catalán) secured him the special position of serving at the table of the camp’s commander. Whatever privileges attended this position, Greykey’s wartime experience haunted him for the rest of his life: a life swept up in enough currents of history to be more than overdue for a feature film-treatment.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.