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Source: Susan Karlin, Using Comics to Educate about the HolocaustCo.Create, July 19, 2013.

For several years, legendary comic illustrator Neil Adams and Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff have partnered on projects that use comics and animation to teach about the Nazi genocide.

Their first DVD–They Spoke Out: American Voices of Protest Against the Holocaust–debuts at San Diego Comic-Con with an exclusive July 19 screening and panel discussion with Adams and Medoff. Episodes can be viewed at TheySpokeOut.com, and the DVD will be on sale at booths 1709 and 1829, where Adams will be signing copies.

“We’re not throwing the Holocaust at you,” says Adams. “We’re offering a way to help American kids experience the Holocaust through these videos, so they can make their own decisions as to how deeply they want to go into further study.”

Created by Disney Educational Productions and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studiesin Washington, D.C., it features six 10-minute motion comic episodes illustrated and mostly narrated by Adams–best known for his dynamic style and work on Batman and X-Men–and written by Medoff, the Wyman Institute director and author of 14 books. The episodes blend traditional animation and comic book-style illustrations with newsreel footage, photographs, and historical documents.

“Teens raised on YouTube, video games, and other visual media are likely to be more receptive to comic books about the Holocaust than heavy textbooks about the Holocaust,” says Medoff. “This presents today’s educators with a whole new set of challenges.”

One episode, Messenger from Hell, is narrated by former Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee, cocreator of Spider-Man, Hulk, and the Fantastic Four.Messenger tells the story of a Polish courier, Jan Karski, who smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and the outskirts of the Belzec death camp, then risked his life to bring the news of the Holocaust to the free world. The DVD release coincides with the 70th anniversary of Karski’s meeting at the White House with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Another episode is The Dina Babbitt Story about a teenage cartoonist and future Warner Brothers animator who survived Auschwitz by painting prisoner portraits for Josef Mengele. Before Babbitt died in 2009, Adams and Medoff (along with the late comic legend Joe Kubert) attempted to retrieve her art from The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, by auctioning original artwork by noted comic illustrators to earn money for her legal bills.

“My work with Neal Adams began when I approached him about Dina Babbitt’s struggle–she was an artist fighting for the return of her original art,” says Medoff. “Neal had led the courageous and successful fight in the 1970s to convince comic book publishers to return original art to the artists. As Neal and I were talking about ways to help publicize Dina’s cause, he said, ‘Let’s do a comic strip about it.’ The strip was called The Last Outrage and was published by Marvel. That brought a tremendous amount of attention to Dina’s plight. Then Disney Educational Productions suggested making The Last Outrage into a motion comic, which led to the They Spoke Out series.”

Read the full article.

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Source: Judy Maltz, Haaretz, April 11, 2013.

The very first interview Claude Lanzmann recorded for his groundbreaking nine-and-a-half hour documentary “Shoah” ended up on the cutting-room floor. It was an interview he conducted almost 40 years ago in Rome with Benjamin Murmelstein, a Viennese rabbi and intellectual who served as the last head of the Jewish Council in Theresienstadt. Although the question-and-answer session went on for an entire week, generating hours upon hours of tape, Lanzmann never found an appropriate place for it.

Until now.

These outtakes from “Shoah” form the basis of Lanzmann’s soon-to-be-released film, “The Last of the Unjust” (a play on the title of Andre Schwarz-Bart’s classic French novel), a three-and-a-half hour documentary that reveals, in his words, “the height of Nazi cruelty and perversity.” Lanzmann promises that the testimony featured in his latest cinematic work is the ultimate rebuttal to the “so-called banality of evil” theory popularized by Hannah Arendt – whom he disparagingly refers to as “Frau Arendt” – by demonstrating just how corrupt and conniving a man was Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann.

In addition to Murmelstein, the film has two other protagonists: Claude Lanzmann of today and Claude Lanzmann of 40 years ago.

“Yes, I am also an actor in this film,” the world-renowned filmmaker tells Haaretz. “You can see me at two very different ages, and one certainly needs courage to do something like this.”

Lanzmann is in Israel this week as a guest of the Jerusalem Cinemateque, where he presented “Shoah,” his 1985 landmark film, as part of a month-long retrospective on his cinematic work, all of which focuses on the Jewish and Israeli experience.

The editing on his latest film, says the 87-year-old, was extremely draining. “For two years, I edited for 10 hours a day,” he says. “I’m blind by now.”

And where does someone his age find that sort of energy? “I have no age, and this is my problem,” says Lanzmann. “I have a very strange relationship with time, because to be able to work 12 years on a film, as I did on ‘Shoah,’ you cannot do it if time is a normal thing in your life. For me, time stops. It does not pass by.”

Lanzmann is pacing around, conducting business in French over the phone, as we enter his suite at the Jerusalem King David Hotel. When he eventually sits down, he makes a point of letting us know he was not at all happy with a certain story that appeared on the front page of Haaretz the previous day. It was a story about European film archives profiting from their collections of Holocaust footage. What angers him is not that anyone would be making money off of images of genocide, but rather, that anyone would dare suggest that any such images exist.

“They don’t,” he says categorically. “The core of the story is the gas chambers, and there is no footage from inside the gas chambers. All other sorts of footage are side things.”

When “Shoah” was broadcast in weekly TV segments in Iran two years ago, Lanzmann took the opportunity to write an open letter to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the world’s most notorious Holocaust denier, reassuring the national leader he had nothing to fear.

“I said ‘If you want to find proof in ‘Shoah’ that the Shoah really happened, you will not find this proof. Why? Because there is not one single corpse in ‘Shoah’. And that’s because there were no corpses. People who arrived in Auschwitz were gassed within the first two hours. Their bodies were turned to ashes, and these ashes were dumped in sacks in the river or allowed to blow away in the wind.”

Indeed, “Shoah” was considered revolutionary in its time not only because of its length but because it relied entirely on first-person testimony and did not incorporate any archival footage. As Lanzmann explains his approach to filmmaking:

“The voices of the Sonderkommando [the Jewish prisoners in the death camps forced to dispose of the bodies], the people who got as close as was possible to the actual killing, and the voices of the killers are much stronger than any image.”

Two months ago, when he was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear Award for lifetime achievement at the Berlin International Film Festival, Lanzmann had the opportunity, after quite a long time, to watch “Shoah” again. “It was difficult,” he acknowledges. “It’s a powerful film, even for me.”

Before beginning work on his latest film, Lanzmann had taken a break from filmmaking for a few years to complete his memoir, “The Patagonian Hare,” recently translated into Hebrew. Meanwhile, he continues to serve as chief editor of Les Temps Modernes, a journal founded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

Does he prefer one form of storytelling to another? “There’s not much difference between them,” he responds. “To make a film is a way of writing and in the book ‘The Patagonian Hare,’ there are many films, in fact, very beautiful films, but I will not be the one to make them.”

Lanzmann is surprised to hear that so many Jews from his native France have relocated to Tel Aviv in recent years. “Tel Aviv – really?” he asks. “I thought they liked Netanya.” When we discuss whether they are justified to feel threatened by anti-Semitism in France, Lanzmann is skeptical.

“I think it’s exaggerated. One cannot blame the institutions or the government in France – they are very vigilant. One never knows, but I don’t think it will develop in an unbearable way.”

Known around the world as a staunch defender of Israel, Lanzmann hesitates to say anything critical about the country or its leaders.

“I have always cared more about what unites Israelis than what divides them,” he says. “Whether they’re leftists or rightists, no leader has ever said a word about Israel’s nuclear weapon. They know to keep a secret. When they are abroad, they also speak the same language. Even Haaretz does.”

When asked to weigh in on Culture Minister Limor Livnat’s request that Israeli filmmakers exercise more self-censorship, he offers a nuanced distinction.

“Sometime there are people who make films not for Israel but for abroad – they think that people will like these films because they are critical of Israel,” he says. “But there are also those who criticize Israel out of sympathy and compassion – these are the best ones. I think the people we’re talking about – they can be critics of Israel but they do it out of sympathy. “

Lanzmann says he’s extremely impressed by many of the films coming out of Israel in recent years.

“There are very gifted filmmakers in this country,” he says. But no, he hasn’t seen either of the two Israeli documentaries – “The Gatekeepers” and “Five Broken Cameras” – that were candidates for the Oscar this year. Referring to the former heads of the Shin Bet, interviewed in “The Gatekeepers,” he notes half-joking, “I know some of them, and I know how they were and how they talk when they retire. They become ultra-lefties.”

No, he has no plans at the moment for another film, but yes, definitely another book. Is he willing to give a hint about its subject?

“It’s still too fresh, but there are not many subjects worthy of interest,” he says. “You have life or death – that’s all. And they’re connected.”

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Source: Haaretz, March 30, 2013.

Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany’s 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them. To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?” “A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.” But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.

Since the exhibit — “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” — opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945. “Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”

The exhibit is reminiscent of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann sitting in a glass booth at the 1961 trial in Israel which led to his execution. And it’s certainly more provocative than British actress Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at a recent performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Eran Levy, an Israeli who has lived in Berlin for years, was horrified by the idea of presenting a Jew as a museum piece, even if to answer Germans’ questions about Jewish life. “It’s a horrible thing to do — completely degrading and not helpful,” he said. “The Jewish Museum absolutely missed the point if they wanted to do anything to improve the relations between Germans and Jews.” But several of the volunteers, including both German Jews and Israelis living in Berlin, said the experience in the box is little different from what they go through as Jews living in the country that produced the Nazis. “With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece,” volunteer Leeor Englander said. “Once you’ve been ‘outed’ as a Jew, you always have to be the expert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on.”

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Museum curator Miriam Goldmann, who is Jewish, believes the exhibit’s provocative “in your face” approach is the best way to overcome the emotional barriers and deal with a subject that remains painful for both Jews and non-Jews. “We wanted to provoke, that’s true, and some people may find the show outrageous or objectionable,” Goldmann said. “But that’s fine by us.” The provocative style is evident in other parts of the special exhibition, including some that openly raise many stereotypes of Jews widespread not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe. One includes a placard that asks “how you recognize a Jew?” It’s next to an assortment of yarmulkes, black hats and women’s hair covers hanging from the ceiling on thin threads. Another asks if Jews consider themselves the chosen people. It includes a poem by Jewish author Leonard Fein: “How odd of God to choose the Jews. But how on earth could we refuse?” Yet another invites visitors to express their opinion to such questions as “are Jews particularly good looking, influential, intelligent, animal loving or business savvy?”

Despite the criticisms, the “Jew in the Box” has proven a big hit among visitors.

Read the full article.

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Maximilian Schell in The Man in the Glass Booth

 

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Source: Fox News, January 26, 2013.

Hardline clerics in Iran who deny the Holocaust had their chance Friday night to tune in and confront their ignorance of history.

On Friday, an opposition Iranian satellite channel based in London aired “Genocide,” an Academy Award-winning 1980 documentary on the Holocaust produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The sobering film, aired with subtitles in Farsi, was shown in order to combat the Iranian regime’s frequent denial of one of history’s most tragic events.

The Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights organization which also is home to the Museum of Tolerance, Holocaust museums in Los Angeles, Jerusalem and New York, coordinated the showing to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.

“Genocide,” or “Nasl Keshi, in Farsi, has been aired around the world, but Friday’s viewing was the first time Iranians have been able to see the film. The film aired on Iran’s NTV Simay Azadi, on satellite and streaming online.

Read the full article.

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Source: The Jerusalem Post, December 7, 2012

Sweden has launched an investigation into an artist who made a painting out of Holocaust victims’ ashes, AFP reported Friday.

Police said the prosecutor’s office would investigate the case and was considering pressing charges against artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff. Police inspector Annika Johansson told AFP that authorities launched the investigation in response to a complaint filed by a member of the public, alleging the painting was “disturbing the peace of the dead.”

A Swedish art gallery owner has defended his gallery’s decision to show a painting made out of Holocaust victims’ ashes as “having no moral flaws.”

Martin Bryder, who owns a gallery in Lund, told Sverige Radio that he “sees no moral problem or flaw with exhibiting” a painting which the artist von Hausswolff made from ashes of Holocaust victims from the Majdanek extermination camp.

According to a local newspaper, Sydsvenskan, Von Hausswolff had collected the ashes more than 20 years ago. The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund on Dec. 15, according to the radio station.

Salomon Schulman, a teacher of Yiddish and member of Lund’s Jewish community, wrote in the same local newspaper that he found the display “disgusting” and called it “a desecration of Jewish bodies.”

He added: “Nowhere was the Third Reich more popular than among the educated academics. Today, the Holocaust and racism are still part of their salon talks.”

In a text published by the gallery, the artist is quoted as saying: “The ash has followed me, always been there … as if the ash contains energies or memories or souls of people … people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the 19th century’s most ruthless wars.”

The directorate of the museum at Majdanek is outraged by the art. “We are deeply shocked and outraged by the information that the painting allegedly was made with the ashes of Majdanek victims. This action is an artistic provocation deserving only to be condemned,” said a statement published on Wednesday by the museum staff.

“In addition, it is certain that the Swedish painter did not enter into possession of the ashes legally.”

Source: The New York Times, September 30, 2012 

JERUSALEM — When Eli Sagir showed her grandfather, Yosef Diamant, the new tattoo on her left forearm, he bent his head to kiss it. Mr. Diamant had the same tattoo, the number 157622, permanently inked on his own arm by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Nearly 70 years later, Ms. Sagir got hers at a hip tattoo parlor downtown after a high school trip to Poland. The next week, her mother and brother also had the six digits inscribed onto their forearms. This month, her uncle followed suit.

“All my generation knows nothing about the Holocaust,” said Ms. Sagir, 21, who has had the tattoo for four years. “You talk with people and they think it’s like the Exodus from Egypt, ancient history. I decided to do it to remind my generation: I want to tell them my grandfather’s story and the Holocaust story.”

Mr. Diamant’s descendants are among a handful of children and grandchildren of Auschwitz survivors here who have taken the step of memorializing the darkest days of history on their own bodies. With the number of survivors here dropping to about 200,000 from 400,000 a decade ago, institutions and individuals are grappling with how best to remember the Holocaust — so integral to Israel’s founding and identity — after those who lived it are gone. Read the full article on The New York Times

Source: Der Spiegel, October 1, 2012

With 252 pieces, the puzzle for children eight years old and above is meant to provide hours of fun. But the toy, which sells for $24.99 on Internet retailer Amazon.com’s site, has caused a great deal of irritation instead. The problem? Once assembled, the puzzle features an image of the crematorium at the infamous Nazi concentration camp Dachau.

Gerda Hasselfeldt, head of the federal parliamentary group for the Christian Social Union, a conservative Bavarian party, has asked Amazon to suspend sales of the item, SPIEGEL has learned. “For the survivors of the concentration camp and the relatives of victims this is a slap in the face,” reads the letter Hasselfeldt sent to the company’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.Just 12 miles from the Bavarian capital Munich, Dachau lies within Hasselfeldt’s constituency. “The Dachau concentration camp is a place of remembrance for the suffering of countless people,” she wrote. “It cannot be in Amazon’s interest to sell such a toy.”

‘A Trivialization of the Place and Its History’

A spokesman for the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial told the local daily Münchner Merkur that he is outraged by the puzzle. “The toy is a trivialization of the place and its history,” Dirk Riedel said, adding that memorial officials wanted the legality of sales of the puzzle on Amazon to be reviewed.

The image was taken by Robert Harding, a photographer who has provided countless pictures for puzzles, some 80,000 of which are offered by Amazon alone. As of Monday morning, the link to the puzzle was no longer available and it appeared that the Web retailer had taken it offline.

A cached version of the link revealed a number of critical reviews from users, who called the product “disgusting” and in “extremely bad taste.””Remembering such a horrible period in human history is absolutely right and it should be a duty,” one reviewer wrote. “But that’s the wrong way. There is no reason to produce a jigsaw puzzle from that photo!”

The concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in the spring of 1933, just a few weeks after Adolf Hitler was named Reich Chancellor. It served as a model and what the memorial center calls a “school for violence” for other SS-run camps. Before it was liberated by American troops in 1945, some 200,000 people from across Europe had been held prisoner in the camp and its subsidiaries. Some 41,500 of them were murdered.

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, September 12, 2012 (read full article)

Heard the one about the six clowns that get put on a train to a concentration camp? No? So, the first clown says to second clown… In fact, in the award-winning Holoclownsto, nobody says a word. You will soon be able to find this out for yourselves. Troupp Pas D’Argent, an acclaimed theatre company from Brazil, is bringing its clown show about the Holocaust to London. (…) It is a completely wordless piece that works for all ages. In short, it is a great piece of theatre.

So far so good. And yet, whenever I tell people we are presenting a clown show about the Holocaust, I tend to get one of two reactions. The first is confused nervous laughter followed by a pause and possibly the expectation (or hope) that I will say that I am only joking. The second is confused anger that manifests itself in a barrage of questions or, worse, a sad shake of the head. The shake of the head is near impossible to deal with. The person’s mind is made up and will not be changed. The barrage of questions, however, is really interesting: how dare they do a clown show about the Holocaust?; is the Holocaust something to laugh about?; what do they know about the Holocaust? Are they even Jewish?

Each one of these questions raises yet more questions about the nature of taboos — how far one can go on certain subjects, what is permissible and what isn’t. (…) Stand-up comic David Schneider has been mulling over the idea of humour within the context of the Holocaust for some time. When I ask him what makes one joke about the Holocaust funny and another simply offensive, he is fully aware of the volatile nature of the subject but suggests there are perhaps two basic rules — you have to be able to defend it, and it must have truth. After that, getting a joke right is all about context — who is telling the joke, who is the audience and where and why the joke is being told. In the right context and handled right, jokes on even the most taboo subjects can break down barriers and change the way we think for good. Of course, get it wrong and it will blow up in your face.

(…) And yet the most profound tragedy has invited the most profound response from artists from all genres. I will never forget sitting in a cinema for 10 hours watching Shoah. I will never forget reading Primo Levi’s If This is a Man and I will never forget laughing for the first half and crying for the second half of Roberto Benigni’s film comedy, Life is BeautifulHoloclownsto is not disrespectful or distasteful. Troupp Pas D’Argent has simply created a show that continues in the tradition of Benigni and Primo Levi in holding up a light to the darkness. It is a work of intelligence and compassion that highlights the experiences of all the Nazis’ victims.

It is not a show about pratfalls (though there are great pratfalls) and it is not a show about balloons (though there are balloons) and it is not a show about acrobatics or silly music, though they are present too. But it works precisely because it is a clown show. As Troupp Pas D’Argent itself says: “The story we tell isn’t less tragic because we tell it as clowns. It is the contrast between the innocence of our characters and the terrible nature of what happens to them that makes it a story that cannot be forgotten. The clown exists to present the folly and stupidity of mankind and make it recognisable to the audience.”

Grinning and waving, 14 women who survived the horrors of World War II paraded Thursday in an unusual pageant, vying for the honor of being crowned Israel’s first “Miss Holocaust Survivor.”

Billed by organizers as a celebration of life, the event also stirred controversy. In a country where millions have been touched by the Holocaust, many argued that judging aging women who had suffered so much on physical appearance was inappropriate, and even offensive.

“It sounds totally macabre to me,” said Colette Avital, chairwoman of Israel’s leading Holocaust survivors’ umbrella group. “I am in favor of enriching lives, but a one-time pageant masquerading (survivors) with beautiful clothes is not what is going to make their lives more meaningful.”

Pageant organizer Shimon Sabag rejected the criticism, saying the winners were chosen based on their personal stories of survival and rebuilding their lives after the war, and physical beauty was only a tiny part of the competition. Read the full article on Haaretz.com

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I Will Survive (July 2010)

A YouTube clip depicting five people dancing to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s song “I will survive” in front of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz has resurfaced at the center of a trans-Atlantic controversy.

Australian Jewish artist Jane Korman filmed her three children and her father, 89-year-old Holocaust survivor Adolk, in the video clip “I Will Survive: Dancing Auschwitz.”

The clip depicted the Korman family dancing in front of Holocaust land marks in Poland, including infamous entrance sign to Auschwitz death camp reading “Arbeit Macht Frei,” a Polish synagogue, Dachau, Theresienstadt, and a memorial in Lodz.

Her father at one point in the clip even wore a shirt on which the word “Survivor” was written. Read the full article on Haaretz.com

Articles and interviews on the controversial video can be found on the artist’s website.

Source: Spiegel Online International (29-5-2012)

The word “Holocaust” is not some new way to say “Congratulations” in Duckburg, home to Donald Duck and his comic cohorts. But in the most recent German translation of the Junior Woodchucks comic from the Mickey Mouse universe, that is exactly how it appears. In the episode titled “Where is the Smoke?” a dignitary honors a team of firefighters, with the German words, in the bubble above his beak, boasting of the “awards to our brave and always alert fire lookouts! Holocaust!”

The original comic, written by Carl Barks and appearing in 1972, used the word as a synonym for “inferno” or “blaze.” The duck dignitary gives plaques to the fire lookouts for pinpointing the “awesome Holocaust.”

German publisher Egmont Ehapa, which brings the Mickey Mouse comics to the country, says the mistake was not a translation error. The word didn’t appear in the translator manuscript, spokesperson Elke Schickedanz told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The mistake came up during production, when the English text in the word bubbles was not thoroughly removed, she said.

The comic book, which was supposed to appear on May 8, was promptly recalled. The word “Holocaust” was blacked out by hand and the new edition should be available in stores this week. There were still a few copies of the original German comic sold in May before the recall.

Donald Duck Takes On The Nazis
Schickedanz says that Ehapa is very careful about avoiding sensitive terminology. In Barks’ comic “April Fools,” a copy of Hitler’s tome “Mein Kampf” repeatedly shows up in a Duckburg trash dump.

When the publisher printed the German version it reduced the number of times that the book appears in the comic. Still Ehapa came under fire about seven years ago for translating comic books that attempted to make the horrors of the Holocaust more accessible to young readers.

It’s also not the first time that Donald Duck has been mixed up with the Nazis. During World War II the US enlisted Walt Disney, creator of the comics, in efforts using Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bambi and others to spread anti-Nazi messages. In 1984 Donald Duck was awarded the rank of sergeant by the US Army for his wartime service.