Oklahoma State Rep Dennis Johnson Wants To “Jew You Down”

The video speaks for itself. Apologies aside, its a safe bet its not the first time he’s said it and not the only antisemitic stereotype in his arsenal.  Occurs at 20 Seconds.

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Remembering The Holocaust In Film 2013

The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 7th-8th  2013. In honor of that, here is my annual list of Holocaust films I feel are worth seeing.

The Holocaust has always been sporadic material for Hollywood. Every few years a small budget independent or documentary will show up. Mainstream Hollywood rarely invests big dollars. While many Holocaust films are done, very few are big budget. A great documentary on the subject of how Hollywood has addressed the Holocaust is Imaginary Witness:Hollywood and the Holocaust.

Here is my list of Hollywood movies and television media that I feel offer the most to the viewer in the portrayal of events and figures of the Holocaust. I am only including films I have seen and whose main focus are the Holocaust as compared to the Holocaust being just one historical event in the movie. An example would be Band Of Brothers. This mini-series addresses the Holocaust but is not about the Holocaust.

No Place On Earth  38 Jews survived the Holocaust by living in the gypsum caves of the Ukraine for 511 days until Russia liberated the area.

In Darkness: Based on true events, the film tells a story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lwów (since 1945 Lviv, Ukraine), who used his knowledge of the city’s sewer system to shelter a group of Jews of the Lwów Ghetto during  the occupation of Poland.

Lidice” was not released mainstream in the United States and it is not directly a Holocaust Movie. I am including it because it is such heart-wrenching story,  I can’t believe it has never been done mainstream. It revolves around the assassination of the “Butcher Of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich by Czech partisans and the Nazi retaliation against and massacre of the entire town of Lidice. The movie is hard to find and subtitled but its a must see.

Sarah’s Key addresses the very sensitive and hushed subject of French complicity in the Holocaust. It revolves around the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup, in which French police arrested thousands of Jews in Paris in July 1942.

Julia Jarmond, an American journalist married to a Frenchman, is commissioned to write an article about the notorious Vel d’Hiv round up, which took place in Paris, in 1942. She stumbles upon a family secret which will link her forever to the destiny of a young Jewish girl, Sarah. Julia learns that the apartment she and her husband Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before.

Defiance is the story of the Jewish Bielski brothers. succeeded in escaping from the massacre of the German in their village where their parents were killed. They hide in the woods and sooner other runaway Jews join them. They guerrilla resistance created a makeshift village in the woods to shelter and protect more than 1,200 Jews. Five generations later, “20,000 Jewish people are alive because of the work the Bielski brothers.

“The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” and “The Reader”.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. Adapted from the book of the same name by John Boyne. A short, faithful adaption to the book. The story is told from the perspective of the child of a Concentration Camp Commandant who befriends a Jewish child imprisoned in the a camp. The child has been shielded by his father from the horror, brutality and the truth of the purpose of the camp. This movie received quite a bit of criticism in portraying an unrealistic view of German ignorance of the Holocaust.

The Reader(2009). Ralph Fiennes reminds us of his brilliant performance in Schindler’s List to once again tackle the Holocaust in a much different light. His character has an affair with his care-taker. Years later, while a law student observing a Nazi war crime trial, he is re-united in a shocking way. She is a defendant charged with war crimes. The Reader has sparked some revisionist sentiment in the Jewish community. The criticism is that film through its central theme attempts to legitimize a notion that ordinary Germans were completely ignorant of The Final Solution until after the war.

Paperclips(2004) An extraordinary documentary that I stumbled across surfing cables channels once night. Whitwell Middlepaperclips School in rural Tennessee is the last place you would think would be a hot bed of Holocaust study. It however is the setting for this documentary about a unique experiment in Holocaust understanding. The students at Whitewell collect six-million paper clips to better understand the extent of Holocaust and share that understanding with Holocaust survivors.

The Diary Of Anne Frank(1959). The 1959 version appears to be Hollywood’s first mainstream attempt to bring the Holocaust to the masses although it did so by sacrificing the depth and emotion of the Holocaust to give the public a Hollywood anne_frank_imageblockbuster movie. The movie itself was a Hollywood hit by the standards of the day. It won three Oscars. An interesting side note is that Audrey Hepburn turned down the role of Anne Frank because she herself lived in occupied Holland and witnessed Nazi atrocities first-hand. To get a feel for early Hollywood treatment of the Holocaust, the Diary of Anne Frank is a must see, but be sure to view the original before viewing the remakes.

Holocaust(1978). A four-part made-for-TV mini-series. That was the first major network big time portrayal of the subject. The series was a monstrous success, drawing a 49 percent market share. So many people watched this mini-series in New York City when first broadcast, that when commercials were on, the local water pressure dropped due to the large number of people using their toilets at once. It won Golden Globe and Emmy awards. It was instrumental in rocketing the career of Meryl Streep. Michael Moriarty is brilliant as an out of work lawyer who enters the Nazi party and advances through brutality and helping implement “The Final Solution.”

Schindler’s List(1993). The Holocaust comes to Generation X with the Steven Spielberg story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and Nazi party member who started out getting rich off the backs of Jewish slave labor and ended up finding his own humanity. He went on to save thousands of Jews from the gas chamber, risking both his personal wealth and his safety to save as many Jews as possible. He spent his entire fortune to bribe Germans and buy the lives of the Jews who worked for him. He kept them for the most part safe until Germany’s surrender. He ended up penniless. Today, there are more than 6000 descendants of “Schindler Jews” living around the world. The movie is done in and black and white and riveting from beginning to end. The movie itself was a huge critical and box office success winning seven Oscars

Sophie’s Choice(1982). Sophie’s Choice is a brilliant performance by Meryl Streep as a Holocaust survivor with dark secrets in her family’s past. Her performance as Sophie Zawistowska is ranked #3 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. She won an academy award for her performance. It should be noted that this film was released 11 years prior to Schindler’s list. It contains one of the most heart wrenching moments in movie history when Sophie recounts the night she arrived at Auschwitz with her children, and of how she was forced by a Nazi officer to choose life for one child and death for the other.

Life Is Beautiful(1997). Life Is Beautiful is told from the view of a man who uses the gift of humor to protect his only son from the inhumanity while in a concentration camp. The film is incredible in that it allows you to smile and laugh with Guido right up until the tragic end and not feel sad. This movie won three Academy Awards. While classified as a Holocaust film, this film is also a joyous celebration of the human spirit.

The Pianist(2002). This movie is told from the viewpoint of a very talented piano player played by Adrian Brody. He hides out in the Warsaw Ghetto throughout the Warsaw Ghetto Liquidation and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. When the German occupation begins, he simply wonders when he will be able to return to his music. When the killing begins, he is forced to hide and change his priorities to simply trying to survive. Even though he can no longer play, music is the hope and salvation that keeps him alive.

The Grey Zone(2001). The Grey Zone is gritty, dark and sometimes hard to follow. It is, however, a must-see for all those who want an understanding of the Holocaust beyond the basics. The Grey Zone deals with an issue that is very sensitive to Holocaust survivors. Jews sending other Jews to the gas chamber. These Jews were called “Sonderkommandos“. Sonderkommando members did not participate directly in the killing which was reserved for the guards. While their primary responsibility was disposing of the corpses, they often took a much more active role in getting the inmates ready to enter the gas chambers. These inmates were kept in close groups and had much better living conditions than the average inmate. They were also killed off at regular intervals to prevent any word of the inner workings of the Nazi death apparatus from leaking to the outside world. This movie is about one of several Sonderkommado revolts that took place. It features an outstanding peformance by Harvey Keitel.

Playing for Time. Playing for Time is a made-for-T.V piece that is worth seeing. It ias another movie that gives a perspective on the inner workings of Nazi concentration camps in which some inmates were forced to play music for the others as they marched to the gas chambers or life-death selection process. The purpose was to keep them calm and reduce the chances of revolt.

Europa Europa(1991). A young Jewish boy poses as a German “Aryan” orphan and joins the Hitler Youth in the early days of World War II. An interesting look at the racial, moral and religious identity struggles faced by Jews as they did what they could to prevent their extermination in Nazi Germany.

Music Box(1989).This is one of the few movies dealing with the issues of aging former Nazis and Nazi sympathizers who committed war crimes living in the United States. Jessica Lange and Armin Mueller-Stah give great performances. The movie is based on the true story of John Demjanjuk. While the premise of a daughter representing her father on trial with such high stakes is a stretch, it works well here. Jessica’s emotional opening statement is also unrealistic and inadmissible. The movie is incredibly moving on all levels. You are torn between her father as a loving grandfather and a brutal murderer guilty of terrible war crimes. In an interesting twist of life imitating art, the father of Joe Eszterhas who wrote the screenplay, was accused of writing anti-Semitic propaganda before and during World War II. Like the character in Music Box, his father denied being the person who wrote these materials. Mr. Ezterhas denies knowing anything about his father’s past at the time he wrote the screenplay.


That is my list of Holocaust films that I feel are must sees for anyone wanting to get a good understanding of the subject through Hollywood and also be entertained. Is this a definitive list? Absolutely not. There are numerous other US and foreign mainstream films and documentaries dealing with general and specific issues surrounding the Holocaust.

Please feel free to comment and add your own movies to the list with an explanation of why you feel it is an important film or simply why you enjoyed it. -NEVER FORGET!

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Soccer Nazi?

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 1.23.21 PMI hate soccer.  Did not grow up with it.   Don’t watch it. Don’t want to.  Bores me to death.  That’s just me.  It takes a riot or in this case,  a player getting banned for life for making a “Nazi Salute” to get my attention.  It certainly got everyone’s  attention when a Greek soccer  player made such a arm/hand gesture recently.  AEK Athens midfielder,  Giorgos Katidis set fellow athletes,  fans and the Twitter-sphere ablaze when he made a  “Nazi salute”  in celebration of a goal he scored in the Greek league.  He was banned from the national team for life as a result.  His coach,  AEK’s German coach Ewald Lienen, said the player doesn’t have an “idea about politics.”  Ok. I can except that.  Is he saying Katidis is also  ignorant of world history?  For his part, Katidis proclaimed ignorance on his Twitter page:

“I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant,” Katidis said on his Twitter account”

If this had happened  on a US team, while I still think that there would have be repercussions for a player doing it, he most certainly would not have received a lifetime ban. For better or worse, we as a society are much more tolerant of words and actions that may be construed as hate speech.  As a nation,  the United States was formed amid a battle for free speech.  Countries in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean regions have a different “free speech”  genesis. A different speech culture. They also have the first hand, on-soil experience with  the Holocaust. Many have Anti-Nazi hate speech laws. Greece, the country for which Katidis  played a part in that experience.  Between 60k and 70k Greek Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Most sent to their death at Auschwitz.  Many Greeks died resisting Fascist Italy and Nazi oppression.

One would think that  Katidis would be aware of this as compared to what he claimed on his Twitter page.  The Holocaust and by implication,  World War II, is taught in Greece starting the 6th grade.  It strains credibility that he could be part of this system and claim to not understand the implications of the Nazi salute unless he was our version of home schooled or has simply not attended any school. The lesson here? The notion of acts having consequences is universal.  Giving Katidis the benefit of the rubber-band stretch benefit of the doubt,  if he was ignorant as to the Nazi salute before, he has now received an expensive education that he will never forget.  It would have been a cheaper lesson to pay attention in 6th grade.

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Do You Own A Gun? Is That News?

CUBAN_BRIAN 003 4x6 72dpi fileLots of ranting both ways about the decision of the Journal News in New York to post an online database of local gun-permit holders in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school mass shooting. People claim its irresponsible journalism.  It’s dangerous. It’s an invasion of privacy etc.   Others claim right to know.

From a non-journalist’s perspective I question whether this was  journalism. It was more in the nature of tabloid blogging.  I believe a newspaper’s function is to report the news, not create it.  The fact that there are however many permits in that particular area -whether they are increasing, decreasing in the wake of the tragedy is in my opinion, news.  Who actually hold the permit is in my opinion, not news and  is meant to sensationalize the story.  If one of the permit holders actually killed  someone with that weapon then that particular incident is news.  The Journal News had a right to do what it did. That does not make it right however.  This was not journalism.   It was TMZ and the New York Post.  “Did  you hear honey… Joe Blow next door owns a gun….” It is however what I have come to expect and has often become more the norm in a world where everyone is a “Journalist” so newspapers walk and cross  ethical lines to keep up.  Welcome to the gossip world of “news gathering”.  The Journal News makes me proud to be an American.

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