Monthly Archives: April 2016

László Nemes: ‘I didn’t want Son of Saul to tell the story of survival’

[From The Guardian]

5760The Oscar-winning debut film has stunned audiences with its unflinching portrayal of Auschwitz victims. Here, the director explains why he wanted it to be a visceral, immersive experience that avoided the usual ‘safe road’ ending for viewers.

Immersive is a word normally associated with thrillride films such as Gravity or Lord of the Rings, or boutique costumed events such as Secret Cinema; it is not one that tends to be linked with cinematic descriptions of human misery at its most extreme. But that is how Hungarian film-maker László Nemes likes to refer to his Oscar-winning Holocaust picture Son of Saul, which penetrates to the heart of the grotesque killing machine of Auschwitz.

Nemes, 39, says he wanted Son of Saul, his first full-length feature film, to be a visceral experience and that he had “spent years experimenting with immersive strategies”; really, what he is talking about is Son of Saul’s extraordinary ability to evoke both the baleful dread inside the concentration camp, and the frenetic chaos of its extermination process. For virtually the entire film, the camera is rammed hard into the face of its protagonist Saul Ausländer (the surname, pointedly, means “alien” in German), with unspeakable cruelties largely enacted in blurred, out-of-focus sections of the frame, or just off-screen. The restricted perspective, Nemes says, was designed to reflect the fragmentary experience of the prisoners themselves. “The human experience within the camp was based on limitation and lack of information. No one could know or see that much. So how do you convey that?”

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Joe’s Violin: a Holocaust survivor, a schoolgirl and an unlikely friendship

[from The Guardian]

7144Intergenerational friendships aren’t the YouTube hits of interspecies friendships – but a new film, Joe’s Violin, might help change that.

The documentary short, which had its world premiere at Tribeca film festivalon Thursday, tells the story of a blossoming friendship between a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor and a Bronx 14-year-old schoolgirl, brought together by a violin he acquired at a displaced person’s camp in postwar Germany.

Joseph Feingold was born in Poland in 1923, to a loving family who all played instruments. He was a violinist. “Music meant so much to us,” says Feingold in the film. But when the Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland, Feingold was sent to a Siberian labor camp at just 17, where he remained for six and a half years. His mother and youngest brother were killed in concentration camps.

Feingold returned to Poland after the war, but fled to Germany with his father to escape the Kielce pogrom in 1946, a massacre that murdered 42 Jews.

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Online DP camps collection is poster child of post-war Jewish rebirth

[from the Times of Israel]

Online DP camps collection is poster child of post-war Jewish rebirth.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 17.39.17In the years directly following World War II, more than 250,000 displaced Jewish people began to rebuild their lives. In the process of moving ahead after the horrors of the Holocaust, they renewed former religious, social, political and cultural interests while waiting in Central European displaced persons (DP) camps for permission to immigrate to other parts of the world.

For decades historiography tended to jump from the end of the Holocaust directly to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. However, in recent years, more attention has been paid to the experience of Jews who resided in the DP camps in Germany, Austria and Italy until 1952.

Currently, a digitization project by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is publishing an online collection of 1,178 posters and some 6,500 photographs attesting to the rebirth of Jewish communal life in the DP camps immediately following the war.

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The Bitter Taste of Victory by Lara Feigel review – writers and artists respond to the camps and Nuremberg

[from The Guardian]

3508When Germany surrendered to the allies in May 1945 a debate was already under way as to how the country should be coaxed back to civilisation. For some it had gone so far down the road to infamy that there seemed no prospect of its being rescued. Others took a more compassionate view, and urged that a huge re-education programme be undertaken to expose German minds to ideas of peace and tolerance. One means of effecting this transformation was culture. Artists and writers would put shoulders to the wheel to help rehabilitate the country and its people – to cleanse its poisoned soul.

That was the theory. Lara Feigel’s absorbing book relives the era in all its uncertainty, and delves into the irreconcilable differences and contradictions that would come to thwart the project. One roadblock to the argument for renewal was the dubious efficacy of culture itself. After all, Germany had created, pre-1933, the most advanced and enduring culture in Europe. If the country of Goethe and Beethoven had failed to halt Hitler, what difference could British and American arts possibly make? The question was an especially raw one for those who had seen the concentration camps first-hand. In April 1945 Richard Dimbleby, reporting from Belsen for the BBC, struck a piteous note of horror: the starved inmates “looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they had never lived at all”. This central, unfathomable crime of the Nazis haunts those whose experiences Feigel has corralled here; some in fact regarded the entire German nation as complicitous in the crime. Repugnance took on physical symptoms. The photographer Lee Miller, recalling her visit to Dachau, found herself “grinding her teeth and snarling, filled with hate and despair”. Martha Gellhorn, also at Dachau, wrote that she had walked in there “and suffered a lifelong concussion, without recognising it”.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Holocaust testimonies, Knowledge entries, Literature, Other primary sources (not Yiddish)

Still lives, distant voices: haunting recreations of 1930s Poland – in pictures

[From The Guardian]

1024In homage to Rembrandt and Vermeer, Richard Tuschman makes dioramas of Jewish homes in Kraków between the wars, full of wistful, troubled families.

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Imre Kertész obituary

[From The Guardian]

2667‘To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric,” wrote the German critic Theodor Adorno soon after the second world war. He later modified his statement by saying: “The main question is: can we go on living after Auschwitz?” This was the problem with which the Nobel prize-winning Hungarian Jewish writer Imre Kertész, a survivor of the Holocaust, grappled throughout his life and literary work, until his death at the age of 86.

Kertész’s first and most influential novel, Sorstalanság (Fatelessness, 1975), is the story of a 14-year-old boy, Gyuri Köves, who survives deportation to Auschwitz and captivity in Buchenwald, and, on his return to Hungary, finds it impossible to relate his experiences to his surviving family. The book was at first hardly noticed by Hungarian critics and only became a success many years later once it had been translated into German and then, in 2005, made into a film by the Hungarian cinematographer Lajos Koltai. While lacking the biting irony of Tadeusz Borowski’s Auschwitz stories, Sorstalanság differs from most accounts of Nazi concentration camps in its relentless objectivity, and as such is a unique achievement of its kind.

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UK subjected survivors of Nazis to oppressive questioning, files show

[From The Guardian]

Whitehall officials subjected British victims of Nazi persecution to months and sometimes years of oppressive questioning as they applied for German-funded compensation – questioning their harrowing accounts of their experiences in concentration camps, newly released documents reveal.

In one case, officials spent years investigating the family background of the renowned secret agent Violette Szabó – the Special Operations Executive agent who was dropped by parachute into France, captured, tortured, and executed in Ravensbruck concentration camp – to determine whether her daughter was entitled to compensation.

Records of hundreds of claimants incarcerated by the Nazis, many of whom were unsuccessful, were released on Thursday at the National Archives, more than 50 years after the German government agreed to contribute a total of £1m to UK nationals or their dependants. The money was eventually shared among 1,015 individuals.

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