Capturing Every Day Life in Conflict

We have grown accustomed to seeing photographs captured during conflict dehumanizing victims and fetishizing their suffering. Our Eye on Africa column has previously discussed the disproportionate ways in which the pain of non-western victims is consumed through the media, even though it does not educate us about the context leading to the suffering. Yet, other forms of war-photography capture something else: everyday life under conflict. Instead of focusing on the pain and suffering of victims, these photographs aim to highlight the continuity of life. They focus on the possibility of a future and the necessity to maintain a sense of self. Conflict and suffering can in fact be captured in ways that do not always freeze moments of agony and death in eternity.

Graffiti in Aleppo, Syria

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Photographing Displaced Persons: Then and Now

In our post on the photography of Maxine Rude – on display in the Eiger-Zaidenweber Holocaust Resource Center at the Sabes JCC – we touched on issues involved in exhibiting these photographs, including that a photographer’s choices on how to present a subject (framing, selecting, and excluding subjects) may influence a viewer’s perception.

A curator also makes influential choices, deciding how and what to include in an exhibit, and what to exclude. In putting pieces of art or photography together, these works may take on new and unexpected meanings in a visitor’s mind that were never intended by artist or curator, but are a result of the exhibition nonetheless. Or, a curator may intentionally be drawing comparisons that were not in the original artist’s mind.

In presenting Maxine Rude’s work, we take note of her portrayal of children and families, asking questions of the viewer about their response to seeing these victims of World War II and the Holocaust.

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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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The Cost of Forgetting: Preserving the Memory of Korea’s “Comfort Women”

It has been more than 70 years since Japan’s 35-year formal occupation of the Korean peninsula ended, but issues of reparations and memory surrounding the crimes against humanity committed by the Japanese government during this time period are still contested. It is estimated that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery during WWII. These young “comfort women” were abducted from their villages or persuaded to leave with the false promise of work, only to be imprisoned in comfort stations and sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers.

Continue reading “The Cost of Forgetting: Preserving the Memory of Korea’s “Comfort Women””

Book of the Month: The Dark Heart of Hitler’s Europe: Nazi Rule in Poland Under the General Government

The Dark Heart of Hitler’s Europe: Nazi Rule in Poland Under the General Government

by Martin Winstone

94e47c28-29dd-48e7-a860-a1bce7882457Even amidst the horrors of Nazi rule in Europe, the tragic history of the General Government – the Nazi colony created out of the historic core of Poland, including Warsaw and Krakow, following the German and Soviet invasion of 1939 – stands out. Separate from but ruled by Germany through a brutal and corrupt regime headed by the vain and callous Hans Frank, this was indeed the dark heart of Hitler’s empire. As the principal ‘racial laboratory’ of the Third Reich, the General Government was the site of Aktion Reinhard, the largest killing operation of the Holocaust, and of a campaign of terror and ethnic cleansing against Poles which was intended to be a template for the rest of eastern Europe.

Daniel Schroeter awarded Ina Levine Invitational Scholar Fellowship

One of the less known dimensions of the history of World War II was how Jews living under French colonial rule in North Africa were devastated by the fall of France and the establishment of the French collaborationist government of Vichy in 1940. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC has in recent years amassed a considerable archive related to the Jews of North Africa during the war and has encouraged scholars to research this subject.

Continue reading “Daniel Schroeter awarded Ina Levine Invitational Scholar Fellowship”

Alleged Nazi commander living in Minneapolis may face German prosecution

Source: AP

In June 2013, it was revealed after an investigation by the Associated Press that local Ukrainian immigrant and retired Minnesota carpenter, 95-year-old Michael Karkoc, allegedly served as a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning Polish villages and killing innocent civilians during WWII. Evidence surfaced that Karkoc entered the United States illegally in 1949 by concealing his role as an officer and founding member of the infamous Ukrainian Self Defense Legion. Continue reading “Alleged Nazi commander living in Minneapolis may face German prosecution”

Book of the Month: The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory, and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome

The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory, and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome

by Allesandro Portelli

Winner of the 2005 Oral History Association Book Award

107.jpgOn March 24, 1944, Nazi occupation forces in Rome killed 335 unarmed civilians in retaliation for a partisan attack the day before. Alessandro Portelli has crafted an eloquent, multi-voiced oral history of the massacre, of its background and its aftermath. The moving stories of the victims, the women and children who survived and carried on, the partisans who fought the Nazis, and the common people who lived through the tragedies of the war together paint a many-hued portrait of one of the world’s most richly historical cities. The Order Has Been Carried Out powerfully relates the struggles for freedom under Fascism and Nazism, the battles for memory in post-war democracy, and the meanings of death and grief in modern society.

The Priebke Case: It’s never too late for justice

Last June, the allegation that a 94 year old Ukrainian immigrant living in Northeast Minneapolis could have been a top commander of a Nazi- SS lead unit, received international media attention. The public’s response was polarized as for as many who felt justice needed to be served there were just as many who felt that we should leave him alone.  Should a person’s chronological age prevent them from being accountable for their crimes? Continue reading “The Priebke Case: It’s never too late for justice”