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Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Source: The Times of Israel, January 31, 2015

A documentary film featuring footage from the Auschwitz death camp has been broadcast to Iranian viewers, exposing many of them for the first time to the atrocities and mass-murder committed by the Nazis against the Jews.

The documentary, titled “Germany’s Führer,” was broadcast on Holocaust Memorial Day by Manoto1, a London-based satellite TV station, and was shot by an Iranian film crew which visited the site. The film details the Nazis rise to power in Europe and discusses the stages leading up to the execution of the Final Solution for the extermination of the Jews.

The showing of the film coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day and marked 70 years since the camp was finally liberated by the Soviet army.

Owning a satellite dish in the Islamic Republic is forbidden by the government, but nevertheless, the documentary was estimated to have been viewed by scores of Iranians.

It is unclear to what extent the film actually managed to change the deeply rooted opinions of many Iranians who maintain the Holocaust was fabricated or perpetrated by the Jewish people as a means to garner world sympathy.

“All these crimes were committed by the Jews themselves so they reach their real objectives,” one viewer wrote on Facebook, according to the Times of London.

Yet the screening of the film did succeed in sparking a lively online debate in Iran, leading some to draw parallels between the Nazis and their leader Adolf Hitler, and the heads of the Islamic Republic.

“We are being trampled under the boots of the likes of Hitler today. At least Hitler wanted to improve the lives of his own people but these people ruling Iran today want everything for themselves,” the Times reported one viewer as writing.

Holocaust denial is widespread in Iran and the position has often been reinforced by the country’s leaders, most notably former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who referred to the Holocaust as “pure fiction.”

However, Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, has publicly acknowledged the Holocaust.

“Any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis committed towards the Jews as well as non-Jews, was reprehensible and to be condemned,” Rouhani told CNN in September 2013.

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Source: News.com.au, January 23, 2015

An Italian artist and activist has ‘Simpsonised’ the Holocaust in a series of unsettling cartoons.

aleXsandro Palombo redrew the beloved Simpson characters as Jews in Auschwitz to mark the 70th anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation.

He said the project, called ‘Never Again’, is “an invitation to reflection, an artwork to raise awareness, an indictment against intolerance, a punch to inhumanity.”

One image shows Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie emaciated in a gas chamber, while another has the cartoon family looking dejected behind a barbed wire fence.

“We must educate the new generations and tell them what happened. We have to do it without filters, bluntly, over and over again, through the memory of facts and terrifying images that reflect the horror of the Holocaust and the extermination of millions of human beings,” the satirical artist explained.

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Palombo continued: “Only the awareness of the horror of that period can create the anticorps to prevent anti-Semitism to spread again. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the symbol of this inhumane delirium, the industry of death. It is only through memory that we are able to fight racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and all forms of intolerance that threaten the society, our the freedom and the respect for all diversity.”

This is not the first time Palombo has redrawn The Simpsons or other popular cartoons to make a political statement.

In November, the artist redrew famous female animated characters, including Marge Simpson, as domestic violence victims for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Graphic illustrations of characters such as Snow White, Ariel and Cinderella with bloodied, bruised faces being bashed by their partners went viral.

In the aftermath of this month’s Charlie Hebdo massacre, Palombo shared numerous political cartoons supporting the victims as well as freedom of speech.

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Source: Haaretz, January 17, 2015

A 16-year-old teen from Liverpool, in the United Kingdom, has created a history project that tells the story of World War II and the Holocaust using Lego building blocks, according to Pixable website.

“I chose Lego because that is what I’m good at,” said John Denno about his project. “I can’t draw for the life of me so I thought this would be an interesting way to present the project.”

Denno’s project is a series of dioramas (3D models) illustrating key events in the Third Reich between 1933 and 1945.

All the Lego pieces Denno used were from standard sets. The only customization he did was Hitler’s signature mustache, which he drew with a marker.

Other characters were made by mixing and matching Lego pieces. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, for example, was created using pieces from Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon, Star Wars’ Chancellor Palpatine and Luke Skywalker. “The biggest thing I realized… is just how long the persecution went on,” Denno said. “From 1933, Jews slowly lost all their rights until they were being murdered in the thousands.”

The Holocaust may have been new to Denno, but he has been building elaborate Lego models all his life. Some of his creations, including scenes from Star Wars and the last days of Jesus, can be viewed on his flickr account.

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Source: Annette Insdorf, New Documentaries Touch the Holocaust, Huffington Post, January 12, 2015

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust remains a vital source of drama for motion pictures. Two very different documentaries opening at Manhattan’s Quad Cinema this month demonstrate how the act of filmmaking can be commemorative, investigative, and even revelatory.

Farewell Herr Schwarz (currently playing) represents the compelling personal quest of Yael Reuveny, an Israeli member of “the third generation” (grandchildren of Holocaust survivors). She explores family history in an accessible and illuminating way, tracing ancestral burdens from Israel to Germany, where she now lives.

The Touch of an Angel (opening January 16 at the Quad, as well as the Laemmle Town Center 5 in LA) is rooted in the testimony of “first generation” survivor Henryk Schönker, a Polish Jew from the town of Oświęcim (renamed Auschwitz by the Nazis). After the war, he moved back to Oświęcim, but was forced to leave in 1955 and emigrated to Israel.

Farewell Herr Schwarz , a co-production of Germany and Israel, traces Yael Reuveny’s fascination with her grandmother Michla’s tale of separation from her brother Feiv’ke: originally from Vilna, both survived the Holocaust, but never found each other in 1945 at the Lodz train station where they were supposed to meet. She traveled to Palestine, assuming he died.

But he was alive. He chose to stay in the very area of Schlieben where he had been a Buchenwald prisoner. Renamed Peter Schwartz, and married to a Gentile woman, he remained secretive about his past. His son Uwe learned only in 1995 that his father was Jewish–a heritage he embraces during the film’s second section. The third part focuses on Stephan—the grandson of Peter Schwartz–who studies Jewish history in Berlin and then moves to Jerusalem.

Photographs are suggestive in Farewell Herr Schwarz , which returns to a cracked pre-war photo in which the two siblings are beside each other–the crease representing all that ultimately separated them. Later, Stephan shows Yael a framed photo of her great-uncle Peter, taken three months after his Liberation from Buchenwald: while still wearing a concentration camp uniform, he is smiling–along with other inmates, now holding rifles.

Given the importance of photos in Farewell Herr Schwarz , the film’s inclusion of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel–with everyone frozen in place–suggests a static memorializing. This is a contrast to the very mobile act of commemoration practiced by Reuveny’s filmmaking.

Tel Aviv is also the current home of Henryk Schönker, but The Touch of an Angelbegins with him entering an abandoned, ruined space and painting a canvas there. What a surprise to learn that this was his family home in Oświęcim, which the Nazis turned into their headquarters. He is a riveting subject and–although deaf–speaks an elegant pre-war Polish.

In 1939, Schönker’s father was the chairman of the Jewish community, whose task–ordered by German military authorites–was to organize the Bureau of Emigration of Jews to Palestine. But The Touch of an Angel is less didactic or historical than poetic, including imaginary glimpses of the miracles Schönker recalls.

Director Marek Tomasz Pawlowski superimposes actors’ faces on old photos, an effect that prepares for the insertion of actors into archival footage. (The extras include Oświęcim’s own inhabitants.) While some critics bristle at reenactments in a documentary, art was so important to Henryk and his family (music as well as painting) that the aesthetic experimentation seems valid.

For example, he remembers hearing in Cracow a neighbor’s “violin weeping” and says, “I inhaled this music.” Like Dariusz Jablonski’s magnificent film Photographer, The Touch of an Angel interweaves the score of Michal Lorenc contrapuntally, as gentle music accompanies Schönker’s wrenching memories.

Pawlowski calls his technique “archicollage.” Interviewed via e-mail, he said it enabled a “journey into the past, creating short, silent impressions through the stylization of archival material.” He already used this type of experimentation in his documentary of 2007, The Runaway (winner of thirteen international awards).

The film’s producer Małgorzata Walczak explained that it took many years of research by historians before their company Zoyda Art Production found evidence supporting Henryk’s recollections. “Leo Schönker, Henryk’s father, was the last chairman of the Jewish Community in Auschwitz,” she wrote in an e-mail.

“He established the Bureau of Emigration of Jews to Palestine. This chance for legal immigration is hardly known, and raises the question of how many Jewish refugees might have been saved if other countries had accepted them. Summoned by Eichmann to Berlin, he reported on his Bureau’s activities in the hope of saving thousands of Jews willing to emigrate.”

In Berlin, Leo Schönker also met with Professor Leo Baeck, “who said about the tragic situation of Europe’s Jews, “‘They are going to be squeezed like a lemon and the peel is going to be thrown into the furnace.'”

This fearful prediction was indeed realized, but a fraction of European Jewry managed to survive. Films like Farewell Herr Schwarz and The Touch of an Angelprovide a bridge from their experiences to our own time. As Yael Reuveny put it, “Farewell Herr Schwarz is not a film about the Holocaust – or about Peter or Feiv’ke or my grandmother – but about us, their children and grandchildren.” She called storytelling a “survival method … to put order into the catastrophe.”

Columbia University Film Professor Annette Insdorf is the author of Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust.