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Source: Alec Luhn, The Guardian, November 28, 2016

The wife of Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has caused controversy by dressing in a concentration camp uniform for a televised ice dance routine that some have called the “Holocaust on ice”.

Tatiana Navka, a former Olympic ice dancer and the wife of presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and her dancing partner, actor Andrei Burkovsky, appeared in striped uniforms bearing yellow six-pointed stars on the popular celebrity skating TV show Ice Age.

Their routine for the song Beautiful That Way – by Israeli singer Achinoam “Noa” Nini – was based on the Academy-Award-winning Italian film Life Is Beautiful.

In the film, a Jewish father pretends for the sake of his young son that the family’s internment by the Nazis is part of an elaborate game.

In their performance, Navka and Burkovsky smiled and pantomimed shooting at each other in front of an imaginary child, before Burkovsky exited to the sound of machine gun fire.


“Definitely watch this! One of my favourite numbers!” Navka wrote under photographs from the performance on her Instagram account, adding that: “Our children should know and remember that terrible time.”

The judges gave the pair perfect scores for both technique and artistry, but the performance divided news outlets and social media users.

One suggested Navka and Burkovsky be sent to a place “where they give out those kind of pyjamas for free,” while another said they should have “starved for a few months, worked in the freezing cold to get into character”.

A popular tweet said the producers at state-owned Channel One, which broadcast the show, were “f**ked in the head”.

Dozens of others tweeted angry comments at the Twitter account of the Russian embassy in London.

A similar scandal unfolded in April when actor Alexander Petrov dressed as a Nazi soldier for a routine on the TV show Dancing With the Stars. Internet users at the time sarcastically suggested he do a number about the concentration camps.

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Source: Lilit Marcus, #Holocaust selfies are inevitable if you turn solemn sites into tourist trapsThe Guardian, October 9, 2014

I’m a travel writer, and I’m Jewish. That means that, whether I’m writing about them or not, visits to Jewish sites – including museums, synagogues, and restaurants – are often an important part of any trip I take. But there’s one kind of Jewish site in which I have absolutely no interest in visiting: a concentration camp.

I know many people for whom visiting a concentration camp is a serious act or even a triumphant one. A few years ago, a viral video of a camp survivor and his grandchildren dancing around at Auschwitz to the tune of “I Will Survive” had me crying at my desk. For people whose families perished at these places, the visits are mournful and a way to pay tribute all the ones they’ve lost. And events like last month’s excavation of the gas chambers below the camp of Sobibor show that former concentration camps need to be preserved as evidence of what happened there.

But even when the concentration camps and other Holocaust-related sites themselves are presented with respect and dignity, not every visitor acts accordingly. The American basketball star Danny Green’s “#Holocaust” selfie he posted on Wednesday from Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is hardly the most offensive: I’ve seen far too many photos of people smiling, waving and throwing gang signs in front of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz. A friend came back from a visit to Dachau, telling me about the tourists who had taken cheesy selfies in front of prisoner uniforms. And earlier this year, the American college student Brenna Mitchell’s self-described “Auschwitz selfie” went viral and launched many conversations about what is and isn’t appropriate taste at such serious historical sites.

For some people, a visit to a place like Auschwitz isn’t about paying respect or learning about history – it’s simply yet another “must-see attraction” they’re checking off in their guidebook, a thing to be Instagrammed, like the Mona Lisa or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Holocaust is so visceral and wrenching to me that I’d rather opt out of visiting a camp altogether than run the risk of having to interact with the people who will treat it like an attraction at Disneyland.

Thanks to work by historians, scholars, artists and activists, there are thousands of ways that I can (and do) learn about the Shoah. But I don’t need to see where people were murdered in order to grasp its gravity – and I especially don’t need to see those killing fields when they’re full of tourists stopping in on their way to the beer garden.

In a short story by the late writer Leonard Michaels, the main character – a Jewish mathematics professor named Nachman – attends a conference in Krakow, Poland, where he is assigned a tour guide who tells him that she is taking him to Auschwitz because she’s aware that some of his family members were there. Nachman, however, has another idea. “I don’t want to tour Auschwitz,” he tells the guide. “I would like to see the ghetto, particularly the synagogue.” In other words, he wants to see where they lived, not where they died.

It’s that idea – I want to see where they lived – that drives my personal Jewish tourism. Everyone has their own way of remembering the past, of committing it to memory. Mine is to see the places where Jewish people lived, where they thrived, where they fell in love and baked apple cakes for Rosh Hashanah and held Passover seders and taught their children to read Hebrew. Concentration camps are anathema to that. I’m glad that many have been preserved, so that there will be always be reminders of the horrible atrocities that humans visited on other humans. But I’ll never go there myself. –Lilit Marcus

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Source: Justin Peters, Oh No, Russia’s New Olympic Darling Skates to the Theme From Schindler’s List, Slate, February 8, 2014.

The star of Saturday’s team figure skating session was undoubtedly Julia Lipnitskaia, a young Russian who thrilled the crowd with her short program. “The diminutive 15-year-old Russian figure skater positioned herself to become the darling of the Sochi Games,”wrote Kevin Kaduk at Yahoo’s Olympics blog. “This Russian Teen Prodigy’s Figure Skating Performance Was Freakin’ Incredible,” blared the headline of a BuzzFeed article praising Lipnitskaia for a “beautiful and nearly perfect routine that left us speechless.” NBC commentator Johnny Weir called Lipnitskaia “a wild hybrid of Sasha Cohen and Tara Lipinski,” whatever that means. And Lipinski herself—also an NBC commentator—said that Lipnitskaia had a great shot at the gold medal.

Well, I can’t wait to see what Weir and Lipinski say about Lipnitskaia once the women’s individual competition starts. According to the New York Times, the Russian teenager’s “signature piece”—one she’ll likely perform in the Olympic long program—is set to John Williams’ theme from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama Schindler’s List. But that’s not all: The routine features Lipnitskaia skating as the film’s iconic “girl in the red coat,” a young Polish Jew who is killed by Nazi soldiers.

I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Finally, someone has adapted the saddest scene from a Holocaust movie into an acrobatic figure-skating routine.” No? Just me? No one else?

In case you haven’t seen Schindler’s List for a while, it tells the story of a German industrialist who, by employing Jews in his factories, saved them from near-certain death at the hands of the Nazis. In the movie, the “girl in the red coat”—a rare splash of color in the black-and-white movie—is first seen during the violent liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. Later, Oskar Schindler finds the girl’s dead body, and, stricken by guilt and remorse, decides to take action.

Here’s a clip of the girl’s first appearance in the movie:

And here’s Lipnitskaia’s “red coat” routine, from the 2014 European Figure Skating Championships:

Surprisingly, there’s a long history of high-level figure skaters incorporating Schindler’s List motifs into their routines. From Katarina Witt to Irina Slutskaya to Johnny Weir himself, lots of great skaters have performed routines set to the Schindler’s Listtheme. These programs aren’t always well-received. As a recent post on the figure-skating blog Morozombie put it, it’s perhaps best to be “wary of attempts to portray the evils of the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people on ice.”

And yet, skaters keep on skating to Schindler’s List. Why does something that seems so vulgar strike the figure-skating community as the best idea ever? Where’s the disconnect?

Figure skating does not prize subtlety. Young women slather on makeup, load up on sequins, and plaster on huge smiles to win high marks from the judges. Their musical selections, too, do not emphasize restraint. As that post on the Morozombie blog notes, a Schindler’s List theme represents “a convenient opportunity to use dress up in sombre colors, use various overwrought dramatic contrivances and make overly melodramatic and agonized faces.” When skaters play sad, they play really sad.

Of course, Spielberg’s use of the girl in the red coat has itself been criticized as mawkish—one of the Spielberg film’s “overly sentimental tropes,” in the words ofEntertainment WeeklySchindler’s List on Ice makes sense, then, in a perverse way: It’s the marriage of a sport that demands hyper-emotionalism and a film that delivers it more than any other in modern times.

In the end, it comes down to execution. Lipnitskaia’s Schindler’s List program— choreographed by Ilia Averbukh, a former Olympic ice dancing medalist who is himself a Russian Jew—is better than most. The Morozombie blog noted that “when she skates as the little girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List, Miss Lipnitskaia’s flaws become virtues that just work,” while USA Today called Lipnitskaia’s routine “spectacular but respectful.” The 15-year-old Russian skater is so beautiful and graceful on the ice, she ends up transcending material that she probably has no right using in the first place. – Justin Peters