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Young Alex Kurzem




The Mascot

Running time: 55 minutes

Winner of the 2003 Rouben Mamoulian Prize for Best Australian Short Film at the 50th Sydney Film Festival.

The Mascot is the story of one man’s struggle to discover his stolen identity.

From contemporary and historical perspectives, The Mascot traces the journey of Alex Kurzem, a long-term resident of Melbourne, Australia, to reclaim his past in wartime Europe. Saved from the death pits by the very Nazi soldiers who killed his family, these soldiers transformed him into their five-year-old mascot.

Alex Kurzem lived in a village in rural Belarus (Eastern Europe) until he was five. In 1941 Nazi Extermination Troops arrived in his village, massacring all the Jews. Alex witnessed the murder of his whole family and the whole community. He managed to escape to the forest. After wandering alone for months, surviving extremes of hunger and listening to the sounds of predatory wolves, he was found by Nazi soldiers. He faced execution. But in an astounding turn of events, one soldier saved his life. He was then cared for by the soldiers and adopted as their mascot or good luck charm.

Instructed never to reveal his Jewish identity, and indoctrinated with a new past and name, he lived as a young Nazi. At the age of five, Alex was a child soldier, complete with uniform and machine-gun. As a celebrated mascot of the frontline troops, he appeared in propaganda newsreels of the time.

Immediately after Hitler’s defeat, he was sent to a transit camp and was nearly adopted by a once prominent Latvian couple. Alex buried this traumatic experience and made his way to Australia in 1949 to begin a new life. There began the slow but certain assimilation into a new land, from the Bonagilla Camp experience, the bleakness of the outback, even working as an elephant boy with Wurth’s Circus and then finally to Melbourne.

For fifty years he lived a normal suburban life – work, family, horse racing and friends. As a ‘new Australian’ he married and had three children. He worked as an electrician. But all this time Alex Kurzem lived with a secret he did not even reveal to his wife and children. Then, in 1996, a series of remarkable events served as a catalyst to change his decision to take his story to his grave. All he had were two words – Koidanov and Panok. So started the quest to find their meaning and, he hoped, his true identity.

Alex’s journey into his past is beset with official and personal obstacles. Four years later Alex found a name and a birthplace and even placed a flower on his mother’s resting place. The Mascot is Alex’s unique story.








Alex Kurzam today

The Mascot flyer (pdf 120KB)


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