Adolf Eichmann: An Obsession

This month, Jodi Elowitz shares three selections that explore the obsession with Adolf Eichmann in film.

MV5BMjMwNDI5MTM2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc0ODcyNDE@._V1_.jpgAs we watch neo-Nazis and white supremacists on our TV’s and in our news feeds it might be a good time to reacquaint ourselves with the original Nazis and just what happens when we remain silent. On Netflix, we can watch The Eichmann Show (2015), which portrays the decisions made towards filming the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, head of Jewish Affairs, who was responsible for deporting the Jews of Europe to their deaths. In the aftermath of liberation, Eichmann fled Europe and went into hiding in Argentina, until he was kidnapped by Mossad agents and brought to trial in Israel. The Eichmann Show, produced by BBC, stars Martin Freeman as producer, Milton Fruchtman, and Anthony LaPaglia as director, Leo Hurwitz. Both excellent actors have little acting to do since they take a lesser role to the integrated footage from the actual trial. The screen alternates from black and white to color as we move from the actual footage to the representational courtroom. Mainly focused on the arguments between Hurwitz and Fruchtman on the purpose of the filming, we are shown the obsessive nature of both men on a mission. Hurwitz is determined that the camera and the magic of film will compel Eichmann to show us his soul and that we will see a moment of recognition and regret for his crimes. Fruchtman is less concerned with finding Eichmann’s humanity as he is televising the “trial of the century.” He is more focused on the emotional impact of the recounting of the horrors of the Holocaust by the survivors. The trial was important for both playing a role in our understanding of the Holocaust, and because it was the first televised world news event, which would lead to other televised “trials of the century.” The trial is important because it helped us understand that those who died did not go like sheep to the slaughter, and it helped lift the stigma attached to survivors (especially in Israel), as the Nazi crimes were explained in full detail by those who experienced it firsthand.

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The 2017 Twin Cities Arab Film Festival

The Twin Cities Arab Film Festival is finally here! This year, the festival covers a wide range of pertinent and urgent issues, especially in light of ongoing islamophobia and xenophobia targeting immigrants and refugees globally. Here, we have compiled a list of films that highlight the stories of people who grapple with, resist and remember conflicts and tragedies in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Below are the blurbs featured on the official festival website. The 2017 Arab Film Festival will go on from September 27th-October 1st.

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Towards a Marxist Critique of the Cambodian Genocide

Between 1975 and 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), also known as the Khmer Rouge, fundamentally transformed the social, economic, political, and natural landscape of Cambodia. During this time as many as two million Cambodians died from exposure to disease, starvation, or were executed at the hands of the state.

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The dominant interpretation of Cambodian history during this period, known as the Standard Total View (STV), presents the CPK as a totalitarian, communist, and autarkic regime seeking to reorganize Cambodian society around a primitive, agrarian political economy. Under the STV, the victims of the regime died as a result of misguided economic policies, a draconian security apparatus, and the central leadership’s fanatical belief in the creation of a utopian, communist society. In short, according to the STV, Democratic Kampuchea, as Cambodia was renamed, constituted an isolated, completely self-reliant prison state. My publication From Rice Fields to Killing Fields: Nature, Life, and Labor under the Khmer Rouge (Syracuse University Press, 2017) challenges the standard narrative and provides a documentary-based Marxist interpretation of the political economy of Democratic Kampuchea.

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Ethical Reading: Approaching Genocide Literature in Middle and High School Classrooms

9781138657236.jpgReview of Sarah Donovan’s (2016) Genocide Literature in Middle and Secondary Classrooms: Rhetoric, Witnessing, and Social Action in a Time of Standards and Accountability.

In 2016, Michigan became the newest state to enact legislation to mandate the instruction of genocides for secondary students, specifically citing the Holocaust and Armenian genocide. Michigan joined seven states that have legislative mandates to teach about the Holocaust and genocide in public middle and high schools. Currently, several projects are calling for directives to teach about the Holocaust from all 50 states (e.g. New York’s Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and The Butterfly Project).

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Dressing the Fool: Silence as a Weapon in the Fight for History in “Denial”

A competent accomplished woman goes up against a populist outsider who has created a reputation built on lies.  Sound familiar? Maybe, but this is not about the 2016 US election: it is the plot of the film Denial (2016), based on the true story of the trial between Jewish Studies and Holocaust scholar Deborah E. Lipstadt and British Holocaust denier David Irving.

There is no denying that Denial is a film for our times. Conceived nine years ago, and filmed in 2015, the parallels between the trial and the President election is not lost on viewers. Frustratingly, we do seem to live in a time in which history is ignored, facts seem like an inconvenience and there is a prevailing ideology – that one’s opinion is more important, regardless if you can back it up with facts or not.  What happens in this scenario is that there can be no debate between anyone because those espousing opinion, cannot rationally articulate their argument against those who cite facts.

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Short Takes: New Films on the Holocaust

This month, Jodi Elowitz shares five selections that explore recent Holocaust fiction and documentaries from a variety of perspectives.

Now Streaming on Netflix

MV5BMjE2MjQ2MzA2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzAyMTI5NjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,687,1000_AL_What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (2015) is a documentary based on the article My Father, the Good Nazi (2013) written by British Lawyer, Phillipe Sands in the Financial Times Magazine. The article discusses the relation of Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank, Governor General of occupied Poland (General government) and Horst von Wächter, son of Otto von Wächter, District Governor of Krakow, Poland and later District Governor of Galicia during World War II. Both men were responsible for overseeing the extermination of Jews and charged with war crimes. Frank stood trial at Nuremberg and was found guilty on counts three and four (war crimes and crimes against humanity), sentenced to death, and executed on October 16, 1946. Wächter escaped prosecution and died while hiding in Rome in 1949.

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Bystanders, Rescuers or Perpetrators? The Neutral Countries and The Shoah

Bystanders, Rescuers or Perpetrators? The Neutral Countries and The Shoah

Edited by Corry Guttstadt, Thomas Lutz, Bernd Rother, Yessica San Román

unnamedThis volume offers a trans-national, comparative perspective on the varied reactions of the neutral countries to the Nazi persecution and murder of the European Jews. It includes a chapter by CHGS director Alejandro Baer and historian Pedro Correa entitled “The Politics of Holocaust Rescue Myths in Spain.”

The volume is based on the conference papers of the international conference of the same name which was held in November 2014 in Madrid. The conference was originally funded through IHRA’s Grant Program and co-sponsored by CHGS, among other organizations. The entire volume can be downloaded for free at this link.

Making Germany Great Again: Hitler returns, in “Look Who’s Back”

Look_Whoa_s_Back-329719366-largeThe idea of reviving a historical figure to return from the dead to our own time period is not new.  Many novels and films have dealt with this premise before though usually they focus on the return of someone likable. In the German film Look Who’s Back (Er ist wieder da) we get Adolf Hitler in Berlin circa 2014.

Billed as a comedy, Look Who’s Back opens in the clouds, reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 propaganda masterpiece Triumph of the Will. At first, Look plays like a science fiction film around the return of the deceased. It turns into a buddy-road picture, as Hitler and the recently fired, down-on-his-luck filmmaker Fabian Sawatzki (played by Fabian Busch) drive about Germany in Fabian’s mother’s floral delivery van. They film people’s reactions to Hitler in the hopes that Fabian can get the footage on the air at the TV station that fired him. (These scenes are actual reactions of unsuspecting people on the street to Hitler as played by the actor Oliver Masucci.) Is it a comedy? Yes. Is it funny? Yes. There are laugh-out-loud moments, several moments of uncomfortable laughter, as well as a few cringe-inducing scenes.

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Memorializing the Butcher? A Review of ‘If Only I Were That Warrior’

efef9762783e0a46f7211677ee95dda5_originalOn Saturday, February 20th the Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis & St. Paul presented If Only I Were That Warrior as part of their annual Italian Film Festival followed by a moderated discussion. In the film, director Valerio Ciriaci examines Italy’s brutal attempts to colonize Ethiopia in 1935 through the lens of the 2012 erection of a monument dedicated to Rodolfo Graziani. The monument, located in the Italian town of Affile, reignited the tense politics surrounding Graziani’s involvement in the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and its legacy today.

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