Monthly Archives: February 2016

Son of Saul: Taboo-busting Holocaust tale to put Hungary on Hollywood’s map

[From The Independent]

In all the controversy over the lack of diversity in this year’s Academy Awards, what hasn’t always been noticed is the remarkable story behind the Holocaust drama Son Of Saul, the front-runner for the foreign-language Oscar.

When it comes to the challenge of representing the Holocaust on screen, the risks of appearing clumsy, insensitive or downright trite are obvious (Roberto Benigni’s 1997 comedic Life Is Beautifulmay have won an Oscar but is still seen by many as ill advised).

Laszlo Nemes, 38, the Hungarian film-maker behind Son Of Saul, was born long after the Second World War. But he knew he was tackling taboos by recreating the horrors of the Nazi genocide on screen with his story about a sonderkommando in Auschwitz – an inmate who disposed of the corpses.

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Another cooking lesson in Yiddish: Poppy Seed Cake | מאכלים אָן אַן עלטער: אונגערישער מאָן־קוכן

דוד בראַונס זיידע פֿלעגט באַקן אַ געשמאַקן מאָן־רולאַד; שׂרה־רחל און איוו ווײַזן אײַך ווי מע גרייט עס צו.


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Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949 by David Cesarani – review

[from The Guardian]

3008Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish underground, was among the first to reach London and Washington after observing the mass killing of Polish Jews. In an interview for Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 film Shoah, Karski, still astonished after so many years, gets to his feet as he recalls the reaction of Felix Frankfurter, Franklin Roosevelt’s confidant. “I don’t believe you,” he recalls Frankfurter saying. “I know you are not a liar, but I don’t believe you.”

Similar sentiments will occur to the half-attentive reader throughout almost every page of David Cesarani’s account of the Final Solution. How many Jews were killed? How were they killed? Did the Hitler project really imply the extermination of every single Jew in Europe? And what sort of person could be relied on to kill one human being after another – women and children, the old, the young – day after blood-drenched day?

Cesarani’s justification for another book about the Holocaust is that a generation of new research has failed to find its way into public consciousness. “The nomenclature itself is increasingly self-defeating,” he begins. Terms such as “the Holocaust” or “Shoah”, even “genocide”, in the legitimate course of memorialising Jewish sufferings, have walled off mass killings from the events surrounding them. To that end Cesarani treats the subject in a stripped-down factual idiom, avoiding any pervasive explanation of motives. What we get in this context are facts, and these facts consist largely of killings.

This is a book as hard to read as a set of Human Rights Watch reports. But it’s difficult not to be first moved and then overwhelmed by the mere listing of what happened, and in this respect Cesarani, who died in October, has fulfilled his ambition of reclaiming the killings of Jews for another generation.

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Asylum by Moriz Scheyer and But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens – review

[From The Guardian]


Moriz Scheyer was the arts editor of Vienna’s prestigious Neues Wiener Tagblatt, a successful essayist and critic, and friend to Stefan ZweigBruno Walter and Gustav Mahler, when the Germans invaded Austria in 1938. He and his wife were also Jewish. For the next six months, before they escaped to France, Scheyer observed with growing disgust the speed and ease with which once sophisticated, cultured Vienna became a German city, complete with parades, slogans and Nazi brutality, and one in which Jews were regarded as pariahs. Anger and disbelief lie at the heart of Asylum, his account of survival in hiding in southern France through the years of German occupation. How, he asks again and again, could such persecution be allowed to happen in a civilised Europe?

France, loved by Scheyer since boyhood, was the natural place to seek refuge once his two stepsons had reached Britain to pursue their studies. What struck him at once, however, was the ostrich-like attitude of the French, who not only refused to recognise what was taking place just over the border, but all too soon, when the Germans arrived, proved so willing to accommodate themselves to their demands; indeed, to anticipate them. Scheyer is full of scorn for the French who chose neither to see nor to hear, but reserves his fury for the “fellow spivs and thugs of the Master Race of Criminals” who collaborated, and he refers to Pétain’s much trumpeted “révolution nationale” as “prostitution nationale”. The women, many of them from “good” society, who courted the occupiers with competitive zeal, savouring the “Nazi aphrodisiac”, come in for particular opprobrium. Paris, he wrote in the part diary, part memoir that would become his book, had “let itself go”, and the goose-stepping German soldiers treated it like a “fabled brothel of earthly treats”.

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Why Adolf Eichmann’s final message remains so profoundly unsettling

[from the Guardian]

Had it not been for an unguarded conversation between Adolf Eichmann’s son and the Argentinian girl he was dating, the chances are that the shabby “Ricardo Klement” would have lived out his days in obscurity a few miles north of Buenos Aires. Unlike Josef Mengele, the sadistic camp doctor at Auschwitz, who was feted in the more glamorous circles of Argentinian society, Klement was a failure in his adopted country. He ran a laundry business for a while but it went bankrupt. He lurched from job to job. And when he was captured by Mossad agents on 11 May 1960, shuffling home from the bus stop, they couldn’t quite believe that this was the high-ranking Nazi officer who was responsible for the deportation of millions of Jews to the death camps.

Since his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, Eichmann has become the subject of continued controversy – much of it not so much about the man himself, but often more about the very nature of evil. Yesterday’s release of a hand-written letterfrom Eichmann to the then Israeli president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, requesting clemency, will only continue the debate. “There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders,” Eichmann’s letter pleaded. “I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”

In other words: not my fault, I was only obeying orders. His self-delusion was unassailable, even at the end. Eichmann’s request was denied and two days later he was hanged in Ramla prison.

In her famous account of the trial, the philosopher Hannah Arendt described Eichmann as a small-minded functionary, more concerned with the managerial hows of his job than the moral or existential whys. According to Arendt, Eichmann wasn’t a man for asking difficult questions, he just got on with the job of managing timetables and calculating travel costs – thus her famous phrase “the banality of evil”.

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Do we need to rethink how we teach the Holocaust?

[from the Guardian]

Many peo2480ple argue that it is crucially important for young people to learn about the Holocaust to prevent racism and prejudice in the present day. But in a focus group interview exploring secondary school students’ attitudes to the Holocaust, Ella, a year 12 student from Peterborough turned that idea on its head.

“I didn’t stop being racist because of learning about the Holocaust … I’ve always not been racist,” she said.

Ella is one of more than 9,500 students consulted by University College London (UCL) researchers as part of a three year-long national study looking at secondary school students’ knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust. This study (launched by the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education) drew primarily on survey responses from almost 8,000 young people and interviews of nearly 250 students. It aimed to find out what young people should know about the Holocaust and why.

The Holocaust has been part of the national curriculum since the early 1990s, but many teachers are uncertain about what the educational aims of teaching this subject should be and what content to include or to prioritise, especially when faced with limited time and a packed curriculum. The centre’s earlier study, Teaching About the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools, found that in a variety of subjects teachers’ intentions were most likely to enable students to understand the ramifications of racism, transform society and learn the lesson of the Holocaust to ensure it never happens again. However, as the study went to argue, such universal, trans-disciplinary aims are difficult both to assess and to translate into pedagogical practice.

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