Posted Ewa Popowska
When on July 24th,1944 the movie crew entered the area of the concentration camp in Majdanek, the blood was still running down the stairs, discarded by the Nazis, who in the last few hours of being stationed there before the escape, did everything within their means to destroy as much as they could. At that time, the camp at Auschwitz still had not been liberated. The material recorded by cameraman, Stanisław Wohl, used in the first documentary film about the Nazi camp, Majdanek - cmentarzysko Europy (1944), is an authentic witness of history.
It was literally a matter of hours before the prisoners of this death camp were to be set free by the Polish and Russian Army, approaching from the East. Few survived those last moments of the camp activity. A large part of the camp was blown up by the escaping soldiers and hundreds of victims were shot in the very last minutes before the liberation.
Simple narration, emphatically commentated with voice over, shows the interiors of the camp, still in a state of ruin, with fresh signs of Nazis’ crimes, when the information about German death camps was being spread around the world but still not in a concrete form. Bodies laying around the place in chaos are cruelly real. So are the tears of the people coming there to find their friends and relatives, just realizing what had been happening behind the wall. Those prisoners, from different parts of Europe, who survived the horror of Majdanek, are saying to the camera what they went through during the war. Their words answer the camp descriptions made by captured German soldiers. The documentary includes authentic statements from both sides. Of those beaten, and those who did the beating.
This is what one of the pioneers’ of cinema theory, Bolesław Matuszewski, defined as a purpose of the cinema itself - to be a source of history. First of all, Majdanek… is a priceless testimony to the past. Nevertheless, it is necessary to know the context of its production, namely that the movie is not independent from the Soviet propaganda. Majdanek is being called ‘a new Hitlerite Katyń’, since it was made and censored by a group of filmmakers strongly connected with the Red Army. It was not enough to just expose the enemy’s fault, but to manipulate the movie viewers into having a positive image of Soviet politics.
Although Majdanek… is signed by Aleksander Ford, a highly controversial character in the history of Polish cinema, he is said to not have even appeared on the movie set, which was the territory of the camp. Although he never admitted that in public, Ford was from Jewish descent, which was not a secret. As a Jew, he probably did not want to see something which so easily, could have happened to him, if at a certain point in his life he had found himself in different circumstances. In the end, his main input into the final effect was during the montage of the material.
Watching the documentary now, almost seventy years after it was made, is still thrilling and appalling. Footage which ruthlessly shows corpses, the blood and bones of victims, which were so close to being freed, stays in the mind forever. Drastically authentic material was being used so often in non-fiction about the Holocaust and World War II. Nevertheless, let’s not forget the fact that using those recordings not only as evidence, but also as a subjective propaganda, is hard to forgive considering such a difficult and delicate case.
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May 14, 2012 | 1:14 pm
Posted Linda Katz
Innovation is often born from necessity. Israel’s environmental partnership began long before climate change became an ‘issue’, allowing the country to grow and thrive. Israel learned to produce food (in the desert) and conserve water, two resources needed for life, yet overshadowed in perceived value by oil and gemstones. Promoting Israel as a leader and teacher is vital as discussed in the Science and Environment session during AJC’s Access conference.
The facts: Kibbutzniks, as early as 1910, turned arid (then) Palestine into a land of milk and honey to feed a growing populous. The irony being many of these early farmers coming from Eastern Europe were prohibited from owning land, prohibited from farming. Drip irrigation, ‘Israeli-style’, may feed expanding world populations on an increasingly dry planet. Israel is number one in water reclamation, recycling 75% of its sewage and wastewater. For perspective, Spain is second, reclaiming 25%. Draught is igniting wars in Africa.
It’s not much of a stretch to say (most) wars and genocides are waged over resources such as oil, water, land, diamonds, and, of course power. Countries such as Cypress, Brazil, Argentina and Uganda are already learning about water management from Israel. A lesson most nations will need to master for survival, and, peace. Our AJC session declared the need to spread the word on campuses and beyond about Israel’s ability to lead in water management. Two Canadian women created the brilliant slogan: Water ISaRAEL Issue. Our group, led by Ruth Renert of MEKOROT, Israel’s National Water Company called for a day of action on March 22nd, International Water Day.
We can spread the word by taking actions large and small. Necessity: Building relationships, nations must work together to save life through water. Innovation: These same nations putting aside hate and anti-Israel/Semitism to survive. The need is real. We must help share Israel’s strengths.
May 14, 2012 | 1:06 pm
Posted Mendelssohn X
Article taken from: http://www.jewdyssee.com
Yesterday I posted the Ynet-article about the extremist group „Lehava“ who currently runs „Jewish Girls – Don´t date Non-Jews“-campaigns in Israel.
Interestingly, many decent people told me in private that those issues should be silenced because they could cause bad PR for Israel in these harsh times. The thing is just that as most Jews in the post-holocaust era, I have a good nose for Antisemitism, but additionally, as a German Jew I smell Nazism like a police dog smells drug particles.
And Nazism doesn´t start at the entrance door of Auschwitz, Nazism starts when someone like Hitler writes in 1923 about his anger of seeing blond German girls date Jewish men. It may be news to some people, but yes, „getting drunk“ and „being drunk“ are interrelated.
In the comments below the article some readers defended it by saying: Yes, this is important, because intermarriage is a silent holocaust.
I am serious, that is what they said.
I once wrote a text about this, which I didn’t publish because of bad timing, but I think right here, right now, is the right place to publish it. But before I do, I want to make it clear that I am not like those people who made the „ad“:
Everyone is free to choose his/her partner according to their own rules, and if observant religion is your top priority, you might wanna look for a similar partner, that´s fine. As we say: Find out what interests you and be as good as you can. But this is a highly confidential and personal decision. And if people make anti-Arab campaigns comparable to “Kauft nicht bei Juden”, it is a declaration of war against everything which is good about the Judaism I grew up with.
The creation of Israel, the Jewish State is a true miracle. So many utopias of the 19th and 20th centuries have failed, even the Soviet Union ceased to exist – only Israel, only Zionism managed to maintain this tiny state based on an idea. And world Jewry needed it. We, who were born after all the big wars, what do we know about being Jewish after the holocaust but before the Six-Day-War? After all, the viciousness of the Nazis was so beyond anything imaginable, so it is understandable that people have fears when being in countries with non-Jewish majorities. To me it is obvious that the lesson from history is that we need both a strong Jewish state and strong cosmopolitan Judaism worldwide. Ministers from Netanyahu´s coalition have described intermarriage in the diaspora as a „silent holocaust“. This is a very vicious way of holocaust denial. As if there is no difference between non-Jews trying to kill Jews, and non-Jews who are marrying Jews. So in official ads you hear slogans like „Intermarriage is Hitler´s victory“. Anyone who didn´t learn history from Groupthink motivations, but is willing to understand what actually happened between 1933 and 1945, knows that it is exactly the other way around. If Jews had remained in the Shtetl, orthodox and only among themselves, Hitler would have probably given them minor importance. He didn’t hate the Jew for keeping Jewish traditions. Don´t mix him up with the Greeks you know from Hanukkah. He hated them for entering and destroying his illusion of a racially pure Germanic tradition. He didn´t hate the Rebbe, he hated the cosmopolitan Jewish artists and activists, who gave young readers dreams about a better world, an international world, against the narrow-mindedness which Hitler thought to be the ideal. Hitler didn´t hate Jewish prayers as much as he hated articles like the one you are reading right now. And some Jewish leaders like Jabotinsky would have supported him in this, as also revisionist Zionism thought that the biggest problem of the Jewish nation is their prophetic dream of having the lamb sleep next to the wolf. Moral restraints were viewed as a sickness of the diaspora that rooted from political weakness. Hitler said the same thing with different words: The Jews have invented the conscience and moral guilt. Having the Likud Party, that comes from this revisionist Zionism, ruling in Israel, and me existing in Berlin, I guess you can tell what my answer would be to the question of who defeats Hitler more and who keeps his spirit alive not knowing the facts on the ground.
We need to free ourselves from the burden of defining our identity in a negative way. It cannot be that the only thing that keeps us together is that we were persecuted together. This seems like a strong answer, but it is a weakness as it is a self-impression based on the reactions of other people. Freedom, Jewish freedom, is what we gain when we make our agenda, because it comes from the innermost part of our hearts. And this needs to be defended against all threats from the outside as well as the inside. A people of 13 million with such a history and an amount of attention as if it were 500 million can only sustain if it has a special mission. If Hitler thinks that we invented morality we shouldn´t act like Jabotinsky who responds „Yes, you are right, sorry about that.“ Rather, we should be proud that we know what the next steps of humankind ought to be, even if this is too much for some Austrian idiot to understand. For this mission, we need our supreme ability to remember. Therefore we have to remember much darkness, such as the Holocaust. But the question remains, what do we do with the memories? Do we instrumentalize them or do we truly mourn? Every culture has something to offer to the world. The Hebrew prophets with their holy sermons against the oppressor but also for the widow and the orphan, is a gift to the world of such beauty—a world that should be a source of a self-conscious and humble pride. After seeing pogroms and mass murder it is understandable that some of us thought the solution is doing whatever it takes in order to become a normal nation just like other people. As Ben Gurion said: There should also be Jewish prostitutes.
But the only problem in this equation is that people don´t want to be LIKE other people. They simply are other people. So let our lesson from the Holocaust not be that we have to construct ourselves as separate from the world as Hitler and the Halachah want us to be. Let´s defeat Hitler by being proud of the fact that we stand for everything that he hated, and that we are still around, flourishing, with so many good people from NY to Berlin and Haifa to Eilat.
April 29, 2012 | 2:16 pm
Posted Mendelssohn X
You can find this article also here:http://www.jewdyssee.com
Not that it has ever been easy, but recently expressing sympathies for Israel among European leftwing liberals receives the same reaction as if you had said: I like fake boobs. People have a hard time imagining that there could be any other reason for saying something like this besides having been completely brainwashed.
The hostility towards the Jewish State is much bigger than those who harbor the hostility intend. I don´know how it is in the other European countries, where there is no Holocaust trauma, but for many on the extreme German Left and also Center, it makes sense to believe in a legend about the Germans learning more from Auschwitz than the Jews. Many think that „especially the Jews should know how it is like to be persecuted“. It is absolutely correct to view history as a teacher, and the Jews do this quite intensely with their strange glorification of national events, which sometimes leads to humanistic highlights like: „Don´t oppress the stranger for once you have been a stranger in Egypt“. And human beings should learn from the past, but the average Anti-Zionist believes that the war ended for the Jews just like it did for the Germans. There wasl respect to all fallen soldiers of Germany and Israel, but every person should agree that it was easier to return to Munich after losing a war, than to the not even existing Israel after losing everything and sometimes even everyone. And by this I´m not saying that it wasn´t a disaster for everyone involved also in Germany. But the war didn´t end for the Jews in 1945. The Jews as an entity weren´t at war. Some were struggling for a state in Palestine since the 1880s, others were leading comparable comfortable lives in the US, and others were exterminated – in Europe. The faith in humanity in Germany is far reaching, since the experience was that one can start and lose at least one World War and get away with it and get a new chance. If you see all humanity as one society, this experience is something for the richer upper class. A war is lost, but since then so much was won that it really doesn´t matter, Germany´s uncle is a millionaire. And since Israel is seen WITH RESPECT as part of the Western hemisphere – the cultural zone where killing homosexuals is not a National TV event – many think that Israel is basically Germany, but completely stuck in the wrong Testament. Actually, Israel has 99 problems, but a bitch AIN´T one.
But Israel´s defenders make the mistake that they DEFEND instead of EXPLAIN. You cannot defend the situation of the occupation in Hebron. You cannot expect a German leftwing politician to go there and return without saying anything. But you can explain WHAT HAPPENED making things as messed up as they are now.
What is needed to be understood is that Israel´s uncle is not a millionaire, Israel´s uncle was killed by the Nazis. So while even many humanists think that Israel is taking a bigger share than it deserves because of its rich American lobby aka the Elders of Zion, it forgets that the essential problem of Israel is not being an egocentric child, but being an orphan. Rightwing Orthodox Judaism is an egocentric child, but not Israel. Israel is the „Chosen People“ not because God chose them over others, but because they chose to live. The underdog who is trying to make it without the rich parents in the back has always been a socialist ideal. And early Zionists such as Theodor Herzl and others had evolved from the background of the enlightenment period in German (speaking)-Jewish history, and their vision of the Jewish State was always based on a respect for all humanity based on the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets. In „Altneuland“ Herzl introduced two fascinating characters, one is David Littwak, a strong Zionist who builds up a new society based on humanistic ideals rooted in biblical ethics, and Rabbi Geyer, a racist aiming at a segregated society. Herzl´s sympathies were with David Littwak. Nowadays both visions have their own state, David Littwak´s Israel is within the 1967 borders and Rabbi Geyer´s Israel in the occupied territories. When British universities make a boycott against Israeli academics, they are boycotting David Littwak, not Rabbi Geyer. In „Al Kusari“, one of the most famous Jewish religious texts by Yehuda Halevi, the pagan Khazar king, had a discussion with a Rabbi and told him that the only reason the Jews argue morally is because they are always the minority, but if they would be the majority one day in some state, it will show whether the ideals are reality-proof. And were they proof? Yes and No! Not as many Israelis seem to think of course, since Rabbi Geyer is stronger than ever when judging by racist Kahanist views among Israeli youngsters and the fact that many „self-hating secular rightwingers“ claim that only the National Religious Zionists are the last ones who still know what they are fighting for. The occupation is THE danger to Zionism, and the fact that many Israelis who felt unloved by Europe turned towards American Christian Evangelicals who aim at building an intolerant theocracy is rather sad, if not a tragedy. But on the other hand Israel has managed to build up a society in the Middle East with surprisingly high standards when judged by the historical situation. If you want to know how conflicts are usually solved in this region then look at Assad in Syria. This is authentic. But Israel isn´t the fake boob, it´s a very natural boob in a good shape and Assad is just a sad-Ass. The European sees only the soldier hitting the peace activist, and develops an antipathy towards the same Israeli state that immediately suspended the soldier. As bad and unsympathetic that soldier was – this was NOT Abu Ghraib. This was not Guantamo. And the people are right, this would never happen in Syria. Because no peace activist would get that far there.
So, once you explained all of this, it usually doesn´t satisfy a person who dedicated himself to the idea of Israel being the original problem. And as an argument comes the classic of all classics: Just because some people are worse, doesn´t make you good. But then, dear friends of friendly humanism, please also add: If no one is absolutely good, this does not make Israel worse, and it means the biggest caution should aim at one´s own judgements of others. And the clearest air of Nepal is breathable, once you notice that you can solve the Middle East conflict in your own street, in your own family in your own soul. Everyone has his Zionism and everyone has his borders of 1967 in which he should exist authentically.
As the poetry of the German poet Hermann Hesse goes: „Jüngling, halte stolz in deiner Brust, Minneleid und Minnelust, doch sollst du niemals glauben zu haben, mehr Gefühl als andere Knaben.“ It translates to something like: Dude, be proud of your emotions and your fire, but please don´t fucking think that you feel deeper than the others.
There is a great Jewish legend about a disciple asking his Rabbi in synagogue what the highest of the highest truth is. As a reaction the Rabbi runs out. After a few hours the Rabbi comes back and the disciple asks him where he´d been. The Rabbi replies: I was helping a poor widow and her kids doing some housework. You can´t be more leftwing than that. I hope that this Rabbi will replace Rabbi Geyer. And I hope that the Liberal Left in Germany and Europe will not turn their backs on the country of David Littwak which proves that blood, sweat and tears can be stronger than oil.
April 29, 2012 | 2:12 pm
Posted Linda Katz / NY, NY
I am a typical naive American. Certainly K.K. communicated this through rolling eyes while showing me around Jewish Krakow. Traveling through Eastern Europe with the mission of talking with Jewish communities, I was often amazed and awed by what I heard - even by what I knew. Yes, I am naive, and, optimistic.
Aware, yet surprised. I was awed by stories of ‘hidden’ and ‘discovered’ Jews reclaiming Judaism. It certainly made sense to hide a Jewish identity that brought death and alienation during the Holocaust, Communism, and pretty much all the years before and after. To me, an American with the freedom to choose to ‘be Jewish’, making the choice to proudly say yes takes courage, conviction and a lot of faith.
Faith I never had to test. Not really.
From 1880 - 1920, Eastern European Jews flocked to America, the land of religious freedom and economic opportunity. Sure, America like the rest of the world has anti-Semitism, I grew up with it, but Jews are accepted and acknowledged in much of the U.S.
However, human nature is filled with more similarities than differences across time and geography. Our nature as humans is filled with both kindness and strength as well as fear, greed, and insecurity. Naively, I write and talk about this fact, yet, find it easy to forget in the comfort of my kitchen.
Sharing a Passover meal with a close out-of-town friend, P., found us talking about Jewish rituals. She was curious, afterall, she is Jewish!
Our friendship has spanned over fifteen years, thousands of miles, and the sharing of Jewish rituals including Tashlich. She says: she told me she was Jewish. Did she? How did I not hear? Why not? Or did I hear her ambiguity about being Jewish? The same ambiguity I was hearing over the Seder plate?
Her parents moved to non-Jewish Palm Beach in 1947, finding it convenient and easy to leave their Judaism in Ohio. P. found it equally easy to continue this new family tradition of being NOT Jewish. P. easily lived her life without curiosity or interest of her known Jewish identity. When P.‘s daughter expressed interest in Taglit, P. discouraged her from going to Israel, and, from connecting with her Jewish roots.Why?
P. expressed no interest in talking further about this. Yet, how can I NOT be curious about her lack of curiosity and interest. Disinterest she has passed to her daughters. In Eastern Europe Jews have shaken off ghosts of the Holocaust and Communism, while here, in the safety of a democracy - and choice - P. has made a decision, a choice, to lock the door and throw away the key to this vital aspect of her identity. In this, she is not alone.
P. reminded me there are many NON-Jewish Jews here in America. Earlier in the day she proudly shared the spirituality of Easter as if hiding from the Passover story. Naively I wonder why…
I have asked these questions many times, and now I ask you: (Please share your thoughts!)
What does it mean to be Jewish?
How do you define or tell others about your Jewish identity?
What draws you to Judaism? To this religion that you may or may not practice in a religious way?
How - does Judaism help you to be a better person? Why does it help you be better? Have you become a different person if you are now learning about your Jewish identity?
April 29, 2012 | 2:08 pm
Posted Katarzyna Odrzywołek/ Poland
“When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.”
Paulo Coelho – The Witch of Portobello
Friday, 1 o’clock p.m., the fifth platform crowded as always. The Krakow – Warsaw train will arrive any minute. In my bag – several sets of sports clothes, comfortable shoes and a good book that, at least for me, will make the three-hour trip to the Capital a bit shorter. The noise of the incoming train was drowned out by a clear sound in my mp3 player. It was the beautiful Jewish song Hava nagila (Let us rejoice). Legs were eager to dance, but in a few hours it would have been clear that I had a rather misty idea of what this dance was really about. The destination of my journey was one of the Training Centres near Warsaw – Twins 2. It was the third time when workshops of Israel dance – Inbal – were organised there.
In three hours I moved from sunny Krakow to rainy Warsaw, the weather, however, did not spoil my positive attitude. After I had left the railway station, I instantly spotted the monumental and probably the most recognisable building in all of Poland: The Palace of Culture and Science. I moved quickly in that direction and mingled with the crowd of dozens of tourists with their luggage. I had a strange feeling that one of the most interesting weekends this year was about to start. And as it turned out later, I was totally right. I easily got to the right place as all participants were transported quickly by a coach that waited for us near the railway station. At 6 p.m. we checked in and I received a coloured name plate, the schedule and the key booklet. I took all my stuff to a cosy room but I was not in the mood to unpack them. I was extremely hungry when I spotted on the schedule that in 15 minutes there was going to be the festive inauguration of Inbal – the Sabbath Dinner! That was what I needed – magnificent dishes served with delicious kosher wine. Kabbalat Sabbath, the traditional challah with a pinch of salt, a dozen of round tables with people of different ages, all smiling and happy, waiting with excitement for the first common Israeli dances. To my surprise, the majority of them seemed as if they had known each other very well. It is not hard though to guess why – they dance together in groups such as Kahol in Krakow or Sunit in Warsaw, and go abroad to participate in workshops in Hungary or France. They master their skills under the guidance of the best instructors. I instantly wondered how I was going to keep up with people for whom the Israeli dance is a life passion. All my fears vanished after the first dance. And that was thanks to great instructors – Lena and Oren who step by step taught every part of the choreography. After a quick 15-minute training I was ready for the first dance, and the next one, and I even didn’t notice when the midnight struck. After I got back to my room the only thing I wished for was to reach the bed and fill the liquids. I came back to life after a dynamic wake-up from my room mate who turned on MTV at full volume.
Having eaten a light breakfast, I made my way to the enormous hotel terrace where, until the coffee break, I practiced what I had learned the day before. I enrolled in the beginners’ group led by Lena – an immensely dynamic and beautiful young woman with a professional attitude towards each participant. With music, the time flies very quickly. After the coffee break there was another surprise waiting for me – art workshops Star of David (instructor – M. Zybert). I cannot recall when for the last time I cut out, glued or painted anything. It was maybe for the Valentine’s Day in the primary school. I did not give up, however, and I made an original green and blue star of David with a Shalom inscription on it. As you can see in the pictures, the designs were simply outstanding. Probably every one of us felt like an independent artist whose work, despite not appreciated in their lifetime, would be successful and famous in the future. Currently, my star of David occupies the central place of a huge information table in my flat and is waiting for better times to come.
“Music soothes manners”. This is what my lovely grandma says as she sings all songs she knows while cooking dinner, tidying or gardening. And she is surely right. Sometimes she only lacks some accompaniment – a guitar, a piano or a drum. Or maybe the last item does not belong to this puzzle… at least this is what I thought until I tried playing this truly difficult instrument on my own. I liked the power of the African rhythms so much that not for love or money I wanted to give back my small drum to the instructor Robert Kawka. The perspective of the upcoming workshop during which I would be able to show off my “outstanding” vocal helped me to make the painful decision, which, as it turned out later, I didn’t regret. The workshop of the Sephardic songs, because this is what I am talking about, won my usually hard as stone heart and Mrs Anna Jagielska-Riveiro praised my voice and commitment. After a delicious dinner, which I literally wolfed down, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon dancing to the utmost. My plans turned real thanks to Magdalena Gostyńska – a young and talented girl passionate of Reggateon. Reggateon is [sic!] The hall, which to this moment resounded with the Israeli music, was taken over by dynamic rhythms of Sean Paul. For three hours Magda had no mercy for us. With full confidence I can tell that I burned not only the dinner I ate, but also a part of my fat reserves. In the evening, there was a surprise waiting for us. A coach drove at the hotel and took us to the 3rd New Jewish Music Festival, to a cosy cinema Nova Praha. The hall was full to its very brims. The first performer was the band Nord Cold Quarter that finds inspiration in original archive recordings of Balkan Sephardic Jews from the beginning of 20th c. Several words on the idea of the whole festival, which is aimed at searching in the Jewish music for the “historical” stylisations as well as new radical aesthetics. As the authors say, it is a meeting with reality and sensibility of the artists for whom tradition is the starting point, a kind of inspiration. Whereas the music of the contemporary times creates the context. The performance of the first group really calmed me down, which I can’t say about the crazy guys from the USA, namely The Sway Machinery. As one of the American critics said, their music takes no prisoners. And he was 100% right. When I was listening to a dozen of songs within an hour, I felt as if I were in two places at the same time: in a synagogue and in a rock concert. Two worlds, two realities mixed perfectly. An intriguing and not evident sound. The music of The Sway Machinery is the essence of the notion of “the new Jewish music”. It comes out from the bottom of the soul of the group founder – the charismatic vocalist Jeremiah Lockwood. I highly recommend the band. The next occasion to listen to their music will come in July during the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow.
Participation in two concerts, as it turned out, wasn’t the last event of the Saturday evening. After we got back to the hotel, we started trades and common dances, which for some of us finished only at dawn. Luckily, the breakfast was scheduled for a later hour which allowed us to recover after such an intensive day. Thanks to another workshop, this time ceramics, I can boldly say that I found a new hobby. Modelling clay jewellery, talismans and animals turned out to be an extremely pleasurable activity. Thanks to Mrs Dorota Gobiecka-Grosz and her daughter Paulina we learned the art of modelling and adorning beautiful objects. The most popular design among the handmade items was the person of the hunched Jew holding a coin in his hand – a stereotypical symbol of prosperity and wealth. After the workshops one could feel the tense atmosphere. Over 60 participants packed their things and slowly started to think about the departure. Inbal was coming to an end and I was tormented both with joy and sadness. I met fantastic people and acquired many new skills. I am sure that next year I will appear at this fascinating event with the group of my new friends – the true lovers of Israeli dance.
The project was co-financed from the funds of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The main organiser and coordinator of the undertaking was Monika Elliott.
April 29, 2012 | 2:04 pm
Posted Ian Shulman / Austria
This quote attributed to the Hollywood talent agent, ‘the last mogul’ Lew Wasserman seemed to be the key to the newest exhibition of the Vienna Jewish Museum - ‘Bigger Than Life. 100 Years of Hollywood: A Jewish Experience’. Just as the quote implies to look conventional, but think unconventionally, the exhibition doesn’t just tells the stories of legendary Hollywood Jewish producers, directors and actors.It also tries to analyze the role of Jewishness in Hollywood masterpieces—the hidden and vivid motives and the random and logical coincidences.
Most of the Jewish Hollywood founders were born ‘East of Vienna’, says the exhibition. Escaping the turbulent and hostile Eastern Europe, Jewish craftsmen and tradesmen were dreaming of their own promised land. The young and liberal civilization of America promised a relatively non anti-Semitic environment, equal opportunities, and milk and honey flowing down the Hudson river. While the emigrant life appeared to be tough and routine, the most adventurous headed towards the West Coast. There, in sunny California, they were going to build and film their promised land.
The exhibition continues to relate the success of Hollywood with the Eastern European Jewish heritage. The villainous creatures of ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Wolf Man’ both have Romanian roots, the femme fatale of ‘Cat People’ is Serbian, and the singing movie star of the 1920s, ‘The Jazz Singer’, is the son of a synagogue cantor. The museum seems to amass even more surprising coincidences. Thus, 1917 ‘Cleopatra’ Theda Bara had used a fictional biography to hide her Jewish roots, and most Nazi leaders from the 1940s movies were played by Jews who fled from Germany. In contrast, some American organizations of the 1930s were calling for a boycott of ‘Jewish Communistic Soddom and Gomorrah’, using obviously Nazi-inspired images. With other amazing facts, movie excerpts, personal letters, ‘Easy Rider’s motorbike and ‘Inglourious Bastard’s baseball bat, the exhibition tells a beautiful story of Jewish Hollywood from jazz singing Al Jolson to intellectual Woody Allen and a brutal Nazi hunter played by Eli Roth.
It’s amusing how another section of the museum draws a line again between the U.S., the Jews and Eastern Europe. With a capturing name, ‘Warhol’s Jews,’ the exhibition presents the portrait series of XX century’s most outstanding Jewish personalities created by Andy Warhol. The artist, whose parents were Russians from Eastern Slovakia, has compiled a list of the great Jews of our time. The ten chosen ones were Golda Meir, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Sarah Bernhardt, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Louis Brandeis, Gertrude Stein, the Marx brothers and Franz Kafka. Warhol himself wasn’t really interested in the series, but assumed it was going to have a market success. It indeed has: both exhibitions have finally turned the Vienna Jewish Museum in to a crowded modern place, where catchy contemporary topics lead to exciting texts and bright pictures and where everyone has a reason to come - be it a national pride, proof of the conspiracy theory or a pure love of art.
April 29, 2012 | 2:00 pm
Posted Monika Opalińska Poland
On the 23rd of April in the Historical Museum of Krakow Oskar Schindlers Emalia Factory, located at Lipowa 4 street, there was a festive opening of the exhibition titled “Is war men’s Business”. The title refers to the strongly established, well known stereotype and popular saying associated with Winston Churchill. However, the inclusion of twelve portraits featuring women proved that they too were active in war.
Often we discuss the merits of men when looking at heroic fights, soldier attitudes, and the underground conspiracy and partisans. Yet, Mrs Beata Łabno, the author of the exhibition, decided to focus on womens’ roles in war—their contribution to both fighting and heroic deeds that many men would have never made. At the time women had to be brave and were often forced to make very difficult decisions that demanded strong character, total determination and strong dedication. War took place not only on the battlefield but also invaded everyday life, threatening day to day activities and the security of one’s children.
Females were deprived of protection and had to face the unsafe environment , while at the same time becoming strong support for their husbands, fathers and sons. They had to move beyond their gentleness and weakness in order to become strong individuals that would play a big role in history. Women did not stay idle and passive. They were strongly involved in charity—they hid and protected Jews and helped identify prisoners. Many of them actively took part in the war as women soldiers or conspirators, risking their lives and paying the highest price for their courage and dedication.
Memoires and various certificates and documents donated by the families of these twelve featured women are very valuable proofs. People who walked through the exhibit, even those who were not personally connected to the time period or events, were strongly effected by numerous pictures, souvenirs and exhibits.The atmosphere almost recreated the history. Many of the exhibits were borrowed from the Warsaw Royal Castle as well as from the Jewish Historical Institute and many other historical institutions and organizations.
Portraits of those chosen twelve women who had been so unique in their individual way of fighting the occupant acts as a testimony to the great influence they had over the fate of many. Women should not have been seen only as victims of war, but also as main participants of many conspiratorial actions. Without them and their generosity and strength many plans and projects would have not been realized. It was really worth going through those women’s life history because they deserve to be regarded as real heroins.
Being there at that exhibition, seeing their faces on the pictures and reading their biography made me think how strong minded they were and how difficult their life was, and I admit I strongly admired those women who never gave up on fighting even in the darkest times.
You can see photos here: http://jewrnalism.org/home/news/item/37-report-from-the-exhibition-%E2%80%9Cis-war-men%E2%80%99s-business%E2%80%9D