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Category Archives: Television

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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: The Guardian, November 12, 2014

Nicki Minaj has apologised for the offence caused by her new video, which was inspired in part by images “representative of Nazis”. The rapper explained that although the clip for Only includes animated images evocative of a Leni Riefenstahl film, she would “never condone Nazism in [her] art”.

Minaj’s comments followed a statement from video director Jeffrey Osborne, who insisted he would not “apologise” for his work “or dodge the immediate question”. Yes, the film’s “flags, armbands, and gas mask (and perhaps my use of symmetry?) are all representative of Nazis”, he told MySpace, but he reminded viewers that the clip also draws from American, Russian, and Italian iconography. “As far as an explanation, I think it’s actually important to remind younger generations of atrocities that occurred in the past as a way to prevent them from happening in the future,” he went on. “If my work is misinterpreted because it’s not a sappy tearjerker, sorry I’m not sorry. What else is trending?”

In her own statements, Minaj claimed Osborne was “influenced” by the Sin City franchise and the Cartoon Network series Metalocalypse. And to burnish her anti-Nazi bona fides, she stated that A Loucas, the producer of the video, is Jewish. “I didn’t come up w/the concept, but I’m very sorry & take full responsibility if it has offended anyone,” she wrote.

Only is definitely a victim of bad timing: it was released on the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht. But the Anti-Defamation League also highlighted the way Minaj herself assumes the role of Führer in the video. “This video is insensitive to Holocaust survivors and a trivialisation of the history of that era,” wrote the League’s US national director, Abraham H Foxman. “The abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to Jews and all those who can recall the sacrifices Americans and many others had to make as a result of Hitler’s Nazi juggernaut.”

Only is the third single from Minaj’s forthcoming album The Pinkprint. It debuted at No 35 on the UK singles chart.

genocide

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.

Traumatic past experiences can haunt the present as ghosts. It is no surprise, thus, that many Holocaust-related fictions have reworked a mythological figure from the Jewish folklore: the dybbuk, a malevolent wandering spirit that takes possession of the body of a living being in order to fulfill his unfinished tasks. In the Mossad file on Adolf Eichmann, shown recently at an exhibit in Tel Aviv, the Nazi criminal was code-named dybbuk.

This legendary figure gained popularity in the first decades of 1900 after the play The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds (1914) by Russian Jewish playwright S. Ansky and the Polish fantasy film The Dybbuk, based on the play and directed by Michał Waszyński in 1937.

As a post-Holocaust theme, the dybbuk has been used both in a comic key and in a horror register.

1. Genghis Cohn

The Dance of Genghis Cohn (1967) by French novelist Romain Gary features a former SS officer, commander Schatz, haunted by the dybbuk of a Jewish ventriloquist he had sent to death in the camps with a public execution. In 1993 Elijah Moshinsky made a tv-film adapted from Gary’s novel, Genghis Cohn. The comedian’s ghost does his best to cause his “host” the most awkward and embarassing misadventures.

The film can be watched on YouTube.

2. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk is a 2007 short novel by Sid Fleischman, renowned author of children’s books. It tells the story of Freddie, an American soldier who has stayed in Europe after the war to work as a ventriloquist. One day Freddie finds in his closet the ghost of a twelve-year-old boy killed in the Holocaust. The boy, Avrom, asks Freddie if he can inhabit him during his shows, and uses this opportunity as a way to find in the audiences the SS officer who shot him and his sister.

3. The Unborn

The Unborn is a 2009 horror film directed by David S. Goyer. Sofi Kozma and her twin brother Barto, at Auschwitz, were subjected to the experiments of Doctor Josef Mengele. Many years later a young woman, Casey (we eventually learn she is Sofi’s granddaughter), begins to have strange hallucinations and her eye color shifts from brown to blue. Barto, as it turns out, died during a Nazi experiment to change his eye color, and awoke from the dead in the form of a dybbuk. Sofi’s unresolved past is the cause of his perpetuation. The key issue of the film, according to Aaron Kerner, is

(…) how one generation might haunt the proceeding generations. Goyer’s film then might function as a literalized manifestation of second or third generation survivors riddled with “survivor guilt”. The weight of the Holocaust, even when survivors elect not to speak about it (perhaps because they don’t want to burden anybody with their traumatic memories), can be enormous and return to the succeeding generations as an uncanny specter, manifesting in forms of (survivor) guilt or melancholia. (Film and the Holocaust, p. 160).

This is Your Life was a reality-tv series broadcast on NBC from 1952 to 1961. In the series – that Time magazine defined in 1960 “the most sickeningly sentimental show on the air” – the host Ralph Edwards surprises a guest and proceeds to take them through their life in front of an audience including friends and family. During the episode aired on May 27, 1953, Edwards presented the story of Hanna Bloch Kohner, a Czech survivor of Westerbork, Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Her husband and parents had been murdered. “Upon arriving at Auschwitz, they handed you soap, and you went to the showers. Your shower had water, others were not as fortunate, like your mother, father and your husband, Carl. They all lost their lives in Auschwitz”, the host tells Hanna. Now, thanks to This is Your Life, she can finally meet her brother, living in Israel since the end of the war.

The episode is emblematic of the ascending Americanization of the Holocaust through popular culture in the 50s, especially in the form of domestic melodrama. As Edwards put it: “Out of darkness, of terror and despair, a new life has been born in a new world for you, Hanna Kohner. This is your life. Even as your heart goes out to those less fortunate than you, you rejoice humbly in the bounties America has given you. (…) To you in your darkest hour, America held out a friendly hand”.

Still from Patterns of Force, episode of the science fiction television program Star Trek: The Original Series, broadcast on February 16, 1968. The crew of the Enterprise tracks down a Federation observer on the planet Ekos, dominated by a Nazi-inspired regime. Kirk and Spock learn that the Ekosians are planning “a final solution” — the extinction of all Zeons who reside on their planet, and the destruction of the neighboring planet Zeon. The Zeons are a clear reference to the Jewish people, and they carry names like Isak and Abrom.

Spock’s physical appearance plays a focal role in a (…) scene that more directly evokes Nazi racial policies. When Kirk, Spock, and the resistance fighters infiltrate Nazi party headquarters in search of Gill [the Führer], Kirk creates a momentary diversion by pretending to be a Zeon officer who has discovered an “alien” spy masquerading as a Nazi. He turns Spock over to Melakon [the Deputy Führer] who, as an expert on the “genetics of racial purity,” analyzes the specimen: “Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears—definitely an inferior race. Note the low forehead, denoting stupidity—the dull look of a trapped animal”. Melakon orders Spock executed, explaining that he wants “the body saved for the cultural museum. He’ll make an interesting display”.
Jeffrey Shandler, While America Watches. Televising the Holocaust (p. 149).

Identification Card, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC.
From the “Education” Section of the USHMM website: “Designed as small booklets to be carried through the exhibition, the cards help visitors to personalize the historical events of the time. (…) The Museum has developed nearly 600 identification cards. Approximately half of them are about Holocaust survivors. These cards describe the experiences of those who hid or were rescued, as well as those who survived internment in ghettos and camps. The other half represent the experiences of people who died. (…) To create the identification cards, a team of five Museum staff members interviewed 130 survivors of the Holocaust. The survivors described their own experiences as well as those of relatives who died during the Holocaust. The identification cards were developed from those interviews and from other oral histories and written memoirs. Each identification card has four sections. The first section provides a biographical sketch of the person. The second describes the individual’s experiences from 1933 to 1939, while the third describes events during the war years. The final section describes the fate of the individual and explains the circumstances – to the extent that they are known – in which the individual either died or survived”.

The “story-telling” conception of the USHMM Identity Card Project parallels the dynamics of spectator’s identification with the characters of a film and equates the Museum visit to a cinematic experience. Below, page from the Chicago Tribune TV Week (16-22 April 1978) introducing to the first airing of NBC’s miniseries Holocaust through the list of the main characters.

Still from Tribunal, episode of the science fiction tv-series The Outer Limits (aired on 14 May 1999, during the fifth season). The time-traveller Nicholas Prentice goes back to 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau and takes note of the Nazi crimes he witnesses on his palm computer. The episode was written by author and producer Sam Egan, son of a Holocaust survivor.