The Starfish is the true story of a German-Jewish boy whose life was forever altered at the age of 10, when his parents sent him and his two older sisters to live with non-Jewish families in Sweden to escape Nazi persecution. After living in Sweden for two years, Herb Gildin and his sisters journeyed across Russia and the Pacific to be reunited with their parents as refugees in America. Focused on building his lighting business rather than dwelling on the past, decades went by before Herb told his wife and children about his childhood, resulting in one last journey back to Sweden to attempt to reunite with the remaining family members who had taken him in 60 years earlier.
The Starfish is the untold story of a man’s struggle to not only succeed, but to accept himself and his circumstances during one of the most infamous periods of history—where it took sacrifice, courage, and at times the open hearts of others to survive. Herb’s tenacity, dedication, and determination to become something in the face of so many obstacles, is what makes his ultimate legacy a testament to the American Dream.
Herb’s family would not have been able to escape Germany and ultimately reconnect in the United States had it not been for the efforts of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS remains dedicated to providing welcome, safety and freedom to refugees of all faiths and ethnicities from all over the world.
The documentary is directed and produced by New York Emmy Award-winning Producer Tyler Gildin, Herb’s grandson. The Starfish is a reminder of the importance of generosity and the idea that if you save one life, you’ve made a world of difference.
The film made its world premiere at the Miami Jewish Film Festival in January of 2019. It has since screened at the Maryland International Film Festival, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the Boston Jewish Film Festival and the Syracuse International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Short Films Documentary. The film is now available for download on AppleTV, Prime, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu and Google Play.

Watch the film.

Release Date: May, 2019
Runtime: 39 minutes

Featured Press


LI Filmmaker’s Work Is a Thank-You Note To His Grandfather, a Holocaust Survivor – Newsday 

In Film, Grandfather Returns to Sweden to Thank Saviors – The Times of Israel 

 Daily Mail TV:

Filmmaker Reveals How His German Jewish Grandfather Escaped The Nazis – Daily Mail 

Jewish Grandpa Seeks Out The Family Who Hid Him From Nazis in Documentary “The Starfish” – Jewish Journal

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a figure in the distance. As he got closer, he realized the figure was that of a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” 
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” 
 “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t possibly make a difference!” 
“After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.” 
– Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley