[From The Guardian]
David Cesarani, who has died aged 58 following surgery to remove a tumour on his spine, was the leading British-based historian of his generation of the modern experience of the Jews. He was also a notable commentator and broadcaster on the Jewish past and present, and took a prominent role in Holocaust education in Britain and abroad.
In the mid-1980s he led research by the All-Party Parliamentary War Crimes Group into Nazi criminals and collaborators who had come to live in Britain after the second world war. The result of this was an official report that evoked considerable public concern when published in 1987 and ultimately led to the creation of the 1991 War Crimes Act, which controversially extended British legal jurisdiction to cover war crimes committed elsewhere.
Lecturing on the history of the Holocaust to groups within and without the Anglo-Jewish community, which was a feature of his work in the 80s, led to his involvement in the British government delegation to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education and to work with the Home Office unit responsible for establishing Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain, which was first observed in 2001.
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The subject of the holocaust is a difficult one to discuss on film, not least because so much has been done on it before. Human rights lawyer Philippe Sands’s latest feature, My Nazi Legacy, alternatively titled A Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did, begins as a fairly standard effort, with archive footage, moody music and a slightly monotonous voiceover. The subjects are two men in their 70s, an Austrian and a German, who are the sons respectively of Nazi war criminals Otto Wächter and Hans Frank. Both were key architects of Hitler’s policies throughout the eastern part of Germany, collectively responsible for thousands of deaths. Horst von Wächter and Niklas Frank are interviewed over a series of months about their fathers, families and lives during and after the war.
The film gains a real hold, however, when it becomes apparent that a rift is growing between the two men. Niklas becomes increasingly uncomfortable with Horst’s determinedly rose-tinted view of his father, who was known by some as “the butcher of Poland”. Niklas condemns his own father for his crimes and for his lack of paternal affection, while Horst firmly believes that von Wächter was good inside and had little idea over the atrocities being committed under his command. He pities Niklas, saying that he is an egomaniac whose “life is practically annihilated by his father”. The fascinating difference between two men with such similar backgrounds becomes the documentary’s most interesting element, with Sands’s increasingly difficult relationship with von Wächter adding an unusual tension not seen in the average history documentary.
[My Nazi Legacy is released in select cinemas on 20th November 2015.]
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Just a brief reminder that there will be no lecture this week (week beginning Monday 19th October).
This week, however, we begin Yiddish language seminars which will be held as follows:
- Tuesday 20th October, 11am-12pm, group 1 (LR2)
- Thursday October 22nd, 12pm-1pm, group 2 (LR1)
- Friday 23rd October, 1pm-2pm, group 3 (LR1)
Please check your timetable and the group lists on blackboard to make sure you attend the right seminar slot.
[From The Guardian]
A historian and vocal critic of the Austrian government’s irresolute attitude towards returning properties stolen from their Jewish owners by the Nazis will be jailed on Monday after being convicted of defrauding the state, in what leading Holocaust historians have condemned as a “deeply troubling overreaction”.
Stephan Templ, the author of Unser Wien (Our Vienna), a book that catalogued hundreds of prominent Jewish-owned properties seized by the Nazis that were never returned, received a one-year sentence as punishment for having omitted the name of an estranged aunt in an application on behalf of his mother for the return of property seized from his Jewish relatives in 1938.
Templ’s book, co-written by the historian Tina Walzer, created a huge stir when it was published in 2001. It included little-known accounts of Viennese landmarks – from the city’s famous ferris wheel to luxury hotels – that had been Aryanised and for which owners or heirs had been either never, or insufficiently, compensated.
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