Monthly Archives: June 2015

Martin Amis: “O homem não pode entender o holocausto, porque o holocausto não é humano”

O escritor Martin Amis volta a Auschwitz num romance que é uma espécie de comédia/sátira do Holocausto. The Zone of Interest é sobre o quotidiano de uma vila habitada pelos familiares dos SS onde se exterminam judeus. Que linguagem para falar do absurdo? Ele explica numa conversa intimista com leitores sobre o romance que chega a Portugal na Primavera.

“Sabemos muito sobre como tudo foi feito, sobre como Hitler fez o que fez; mas parece que continuamos sem saber quase nada acerca do porquê. Porque é que ele fez aquilo?” A interrogação acerca das verdadeiras intenções que estiveram na origem do Holocausto, do que motiva alguém a empreender uma tarefa com aquela “dimensão de horror”, surge como uma das razões apontadas pelo escritor Martin Amis para, quase meio século depois, revisitar um território que já tinha explorado em Time’s Arrow, or the Nature of Offense (1991).

É o princípio de uma conversa sobre o seu mais recente romance, The Zone of Interest (Knopf), o seu 14º romance, uma espécie de comédia sobre o Holocausto que divide opiniões especializadas. Há quem o considere uma obra-prima, como o norte-americano Richard Ford, ou a crítica inglesa que o considerou o melhor livro de Amis em 25 anos, desde London Fields (1989); e também há quem, como Joyce Carol Oates nas páginas da New Yorker, o tenha achado superficial no modo como trata questões tão profundas como a desse “porquê”. A discussão sobre The Zone of Interest mantém-se viva meses antes do romance ser editado em Portugal, na próxima primavera, pela Quetzal.

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UK schoolboys fined and released after theft of Auschwitz artefacts

[From The Guardian]

Police say two 17-year-olds stole buttons, a comb, spoons and other items near where prisoners’ belongings were originally kept by Nazi guards.

Two British schoolboys arrested at Auschwitz have each received a year’s probation, suspended for three years, and a 1,000 zloty (£170) fine after admitting stealing artefacts from the former Nazi death camp.

The boys, both 17, were released by Polish authorities on Tuesday afternoon after spending the night in jail. They were arrested on Monday while on a history trip with the independent Perse school in Cambridge.

Polish police said they had tried to steal a comb, spoons, buttons and pieces of glass from block 5 where Nazi guards stored prisoners’ confiscated belongings during the second world war.

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UK Queen visits Germany’s Bergen-Belsen concentration camp site

[From the BBC New website]

The Queen is visiting the site of the World War Two concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, in Germany.

The camp, where teenage diarist Anne Frank was among thousands to die, was liberated by British soldiers in 1945.

The UK monarch, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, laid a wreath at a memorial there on the final day of her four-day state visit to Germany.

The Queen also viewed Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate before travelling to the site of the camp near Hanover.

Around 50,000 prisoners from all over Europe were killed at Bergen-Belsen or died later as a result of their treatment in the camp.

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It Takes a Village to Revive a Lost Art: Band brings back to life Hungarian Jewish musical tradition lost during the Holocaust

[From The Wall Street Journal]


In 1944, a half-million Jews were deported from Hungary to Nazi concentration camps. Along with the lives that were lost, an entire tradition of folk music became obscured during the Holocaust.

Seven decades later, Frank London began his detective work. “I’d call my informants,” said the trumpeter and bandleader, a longtime mover on New York’s “ethno-folk” scene, as he dubbed it.

Mr. London talked to old friends, like the song collector Bob Cohen. He studied Israeli websites that cataloged the songs of immigrants, looking for the Hungarians among them. He came across the music of Budapest cabarets from the 1910s and ‘20s. He consulted the songs collected by Béla Bartók, and other ethnomusicologists, before the war. “I spread the net as wide as possible.”

The cultural gumshoe was working up a concert repertory for the Glass House Orchestra, which honors the Hungarian Jewish folk tradition and adds something of its own—new pieces inspired by century-old sources, including the Roma, or Gypsies, and Hasidic dynasties reaching back to the 18th century. The eight-piece band was formed last year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the mass deportations, taking its name from the Glass House—one of 76 safe houses set up by Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz to shelter Jews around Budapest.

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When Alvin Ailey Choreographs the Holocaust

[From the Jewish Daily Forward]

Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, the iconic African American company has branched into new territory. In fact, it’s unprecedented, explained its artistic director Robert Battle, who choreographed the piece. Its musical score was composed by Erwin Schulhoff, a Czech-born Jew, and one of many musical artists who were killed or otherwise silenced by the Nazis.

“No Longer Silent” was conceived by Battle in 2007 as part of a Juilliard project — and the brainchild of conductor James Conlon — to commemorate three such composers, who include Franz Schreker and Alexander Zemlinsky.

“I was immediately drawn to Schuloff’s music for its urgency, rhythms, grandness, and ritualistic sounds,” said Battle as he sat in his corner office in the company’s West 55th Street complex. “It has tension and friction and reminded me of Stravinsky whom I love. It also reminded me of Martha Graham‘s early modern dance motifs. And then I got cold feet. Everything I loved about the music also terrified me.”

What finally anchored it for Battle was discovering just how much he and Schulhoff had in common. They both studied the piano, shared an interest in the avant-garde and jazz, and explored non-traditional artistic expressions in their own work. But there was also the human connection.

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Holocaust cinema: why film-makers are revisiting a never-to-be-forgotten hell

[From the Guardian]

Auschwitz-set Son of Saul is focusing the film industry’s attention on the wartime atrocities committed by the Nazis – and it couldn’t be more relevant.

“No one could bear to look at these things without losing their sanity,” said WG Sebald, just before he died in 2001: he was talking about the Holocaust, and specifically the numerous acts of bestial persecution visited on the Nazi’s unfortunate victims. This has been a preoccupation of film-makers too, ever since the first newsreels emerged from concentration camps after their liberation. The desire to show, to tell, to educate, comes up against decency, taste and revulsion. What purpose, exactly, is served by documenting and/or recreating unwatchably violent and horrible images: hapless civilians murdered in their millions; shot, beaten, starved and tortured in greater numbers than ever believed possible; an entire national civilisation that prided itself on its sophistication undergoing the most spectacular moral breakdown in history. At what point do film-makers take responsibility for the trauma their images inflict, even if they are simply reflecting actual events?

The story behind the recently completed German Concentration Camps Factual Survey film attests to that: it was compiled from footage sent to London in 1945 by combat film units, as Belsen, Dachau, and Buchenwald were liberated: more was acquired from the Soviet film crews present at the death camps further east, Auschwitz and Treblinka. At some point the project – which briefly involved Alfred Hitchcock as a consultant – was abandoned, for no clear reason. The best guess is that its stated aim – to confront the surviving German population with atrocities carried out in their name, and partly in their midst – was neither effective nor expedient, as the allies sought to rebuild and reorganise in the already-burgeoning cold war with the USSR. But even at 70 years distance, the images it contains are appalling. The enormous mounds of emaciated corpses, tipped into giant burial pits; crowds of starving, disease-ridden survivors barely clinging to life; the unutterably gruesome remains of a man who had attempted to dig his way out under the wall of a burning building, only to be shot by soldiers waiting on the other side.

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Viktor Frankl’s book on the psychology of the Holocaust to be made into a film

[From The Guardian]

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl’s account of his attempts to rationalise the Holocaust, has been optioned for a film adaptation, according to Deadline.

Frankl, a contemporary of Freud, lost his whole family during the Nazi’s attempted extermination of the Jews. He developed his theory of “healing through meaning”, known as logotherapy, while a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Kaufering concentration camps. He counselled his fellow prisoners, many of whom were suicidal, with a philosophy that argued that striving for meaning, not pleasure nor power, is what keeps us alive.

His book detailed the psychological reactions that an inmate progressed through during their time in the camps and how their behaviour changed if they survived and were liberated. He argued that men were “decent” or “indecent” regardless of their station. So a Nazi guard who showed kindness could be a decent man, while an inmate who exploited his fellow prisoners for personal gain, could be indecent.


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The family firm that hunts Nazis

[From The Guardian]

Serge and Beate Klarsfeld have spent their lives tracking down war criminals so they can be brought to justice.

The Klarsfelds run one of the world’s more unusual family businesses. They are Nazi hunters. Seven decades after the end of the second world war, they are still as actively involved as ever in seeking justice for the victims and survivors of SS war crimes and the French Vichy collaborators.

In Paris today, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, perhaps most famous for unmasking Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, concede that their hunting days are over, but business is thriving as they busy themselves with the task of documenting the Holocaust in France.

“We are always working and always together,” says Serge Klarsfeld, 79, who can claim to have brought at least 10 war criminals and French collaborators to justice. As his wife, Beate, four years his junior, says: “It’s easy. We sit together. We work together, we play together.” To which Serge, a man not always known for his sense of humour, adds: “And we sleep together. But it’s like people having a small shop, you know, one is selling, one is buying. Yes, we are a family business.”

They have two children and their son, a lawyer, works with them. “Arno is very much involved,” Beate says.

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Reunion with looted painting is ‘second victory against the Nazis’

[From The Guardian]

David Toren remembers staring at Max Liebermann’s Two Riders on a Beach as his great-uncle signed over his estate to a Nazi general. Now his family has it back.

Most of David Toren’s family died in the Holocaust and he, then a teenager, only survived because his father got him to safety via the Kindertransport. Now Toren has spoken of the emotion of being reunited with a painting the Nazis seized more than 75 years ago.

“I felt the sense of victory – the second victory against the Nazis,” he told the Guardian.

Toren, now 90, was 13 when he last saw Two Riders on a Beach, an early 20th-century masterpiece by the German painter Max Liebermann, at the home of his great-uncle, David Friedmann, a passionate art collector, patron and prominent society figure in Breslau.

The painting was returned to Friedmann’s heirs this month. Toren, a retired lawyer, is now blind and family members have decided to sell the painting. It is a painful decision, but “there is no other solution”, he said. “You can’t cut up the painting [to share it].” An artist has created a braille version for him.

Two Riders on a Beach will be the first painting to be sold from the secret hoard of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of one of Adolf Hitler’s art dealers, Sotheby’s has announced.

Painted in 1901, it was among more than 1,200 artworks found in Gurlitt’s dilapidated flat in Munich in 2012. They had been hidden from the world for decades and long ago assumed to have been destroyed in the war.

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Music used as resistance to the Nazis captures new audiences

[From The Times of Israel]

A sold-out US tour of ‘Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin’ indicates a growing interest in recovering — and reinterpreting — the productions staged by Holocaust victims as prisoners.

BOSTON – It might be hearing the survivors’ haunting voices, singing Yiddish songs recorded after the Holocaust, or maybe it’s listening to romantic songs from the “cabaret” at Westerbork, where Jews awaited weekly transports to death.

With many back-stories to choose from, a new wave of researchers and artists is elevating “music as resistance” to the forefront of Holocaust education. A leading project is the traveling mega-production called “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin,” a memorial concert for the musical prisoners of the Nazi camp Theresienstadt, also known as Terezin, outside Prague.

Launched in 2002, the production hinges on a lavish, full orchestra performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s seminal Requiem, a Roman Catholic funeral mass. It was this complex Latin arrangement that Jewish conductor Raphael Schachter, imprisoned in Theresienstadt, chose to perform with a chorus of 150 fellow prisoners in 1943.

To build their story around the 84-minute Verdi masterpiece, “Defiant Requiem” creators interspersed it with live narration, video testimony from Theresienstadt survivors, and “show” footage shot by Nazis inside the camp. The finished product has been performed more than 30 times around the world, and recently wrapped a coast-to-coast US tour.

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