Filmmaker Steven Spielberg has told a United Nations conference that the Holocaust must never be forgotten as "justice lives in memory".
Oscar-winning film director, writer and producer Steven Spielberg stressed on Monday the importance of gathering testimony to horrors such as the Holocaust in order to create awareness and preventative measures for the future.
"Mass graves don’t have to open up before we act," Spielberg said in the keynotes address of a special UN General Assembly session marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. "It is a great accomplishment of our species that the testimonies [of survivors] can be heard in the high chambers of society." The director of the epic Holocaust-era film Schindler's List said the memory of the Holocaust remained with us today and the victims of past genocide had now become "teachers to victims of recent genocide."
"Genocide is an evil. But, the greatest evil is when people who have been spared the horrors commit themselves to despair," Spielberg said. "We know despair and remembering are a choice. But we need to confront and act on what we learned," he added.
Touching on his preparations for Schindler's List, Spielberg said directing the film and interviewing survivors were part of his approach to offering a platform for what he said was an often-encountered hope of survivors to be "heard, believed and understood". "It took me years of directing sharks, aliens, and dinosaurs before I felt ready to tackle the Holocaust," he admitted.
THE Hungarian government’s Holocaust memorial year has got off to a bad start. Randolph Braham of City University of New York, a historian of the genocide of Hungarian Jews, has returned an award given by a former president. A survivor himself, he has also asked for his name to be removed from Budapest’s Holocaust museum. Hungarian Jewish leaders are threatening to boycott the government’s programme.
The cause of their anger is a planned statue to commemorate the Nazi invasion of 1944. The 7.5-metre statue shows the German imperial eagle attacking the Archangel Gabriel, symbolising an innocent and virtuous Hungary. The statue is to be unveiled in Freedom Square on March 19th, the 70th anniversary of the invasion. Both Jewish leaders and historians condemn it for portraying Hungary as a victim of the Nazis, not as a willing collaborator. More than 430,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944, with the active help of Hungarian officials.
Professor Braham says the planned statue is just the latest attempt to whitewash the era of Admiral Horthy, Hungary’s ruler from 1920 to 1944. He calls it a “cowardly attempt to distract attention” from the Horthy regime’s collaboration and “a brazen drive to falsify history”. A Calvinist church in the square already has a bust of the admiral.
The government rejects such criticism. The statue is not part of the official Holocaust memorial programme. It commemorates all of the Nazis’ victims, not just Jews, and marks the loss of Hungarian sovereignty, as referred to in the new constitution. Yet Janos Ader, the president, is trying to repair the damage. On January 27th, Holocaust memorial day, he stated clearly that Hungarian officials collaborated with the Nazis and called the Holocaust “the pain and irreplaceable loss” of the nation. Many radio and television stations heeded his call to stop broadcasting for 70 seconds at 7pm in memory of the victims.
Jewish leaders were surprised that there were no negotiations over the planned statue. The best explanation is that, on April 6th, soon after its unveiling, there will be a general election. The ruling right-wing Fidesz party is leading in the polls but, with many voters undecided, its victory is not certain. The new statue has been welcomed by Jobbik, the far-right party that has the third-largest number of parliamentary seats. Fidesz leaders want Jobbik voters to switch to them. Portraying Hungary as an innocent victim of the Nazis, not as an eager ally, may help to persuade them.
When the first incident of damage to "The Diary of a Young Girl" was discovered in a Tokyo public library early last year, officials simply withdrew the memoirs of Anne Frank (main picture) and thought little more of it. Then something similar happened to another copy of the same book at a library just a few kilometers away. By the summer, it had become an epidemic, with single pages roughly torn out of some copies while others were missing a dozen pages or more before being put back on the shelves.
More than 300 copies of Anne Frank's diary held in Tokyo libraries habve vandalized
Library staff members have also acted to safeguard the books, with undamaged copies being removed from the public shelves and placed on the counter where they are signed out, allowing staff to monitor the people who read them. The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo was swift to act as well, donating to local libraries 300 copies of arguably one of the most famous memoirs to emerge from World War II.
A part of the syllabus in many Japanese schools, the diary records the thoughts and fears of Anne Frank while she hid with her family in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during the war. The first entry date was June 1942 and the diary continues until the family was betrayed and arrested in August 1944. Her diary was first published in 1947 and has since been translated into numerous languages. In 2009, the book was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. And while the authorities seek the person who damaged the books, Japan is asking itself who could set out to cause such damage to such an iconic book and why.
FDR, pictured with his treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau, inscribed this photo, “from one of two of a kind.” Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York
A few years ago, I attended a discussion at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan about Franklin Roosevelt and the Holocaust. The featured speakers, historians Deborah Lipstadt and Richard Breitman, gave sensitive and nuanced accounts of the period that were steeped in their own research and a deep knowledge of a time that has become one of the most closely examined ever. They discussed Roosevelt’s strengths and weaknesses as he confronted demands that he rescue Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany while preparing America for war in the face of fierce isolationism, nativism and anti-Semitism at home.
After an hour, the session was opened to questions. An elderly woman stood up and identified herself as a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who had been a prisoner at Auschwitz. She recalled seeing Allied planes in the sky over the camp (“little silver birds, maybe thousands of them”). But the bombs never fell. Lipstadt and Breitman had explained earlier that the planes were not able to reach Auschwitz until late in the war and that, in any case, bombing the camp would probably not have stopped the killing. But that did not satisfy the woman.
“If they would have bombed the crematoria, they could have at least stopped them from murdering the Jews,” she said, her voice rising in indignation. “That’s why I blame the Allies for it, including the United States. My parents died there—my whole family died over there, OK? And I was 16, so it’s not like you said that Roosevelt couldn’t do nothing.” The audience of several hundred, which had been largely subdued during the talk, suddenly erupted in applause and shouts of encouragement.
It’s a scene that I have seen play out with minor variations many times over the last decade at similar public events about the Holocaust. No matter the evidence to the contrary, it has become received wisdom among many American Jews that Roosevelt deliberately and coldly abandoned Europe’s Jews in their hour of need.
FDR and the Jews Richard Breitman Allan J. Lichtman
This marks a dramatic reversal in the image of a president who won more than 80 percent of the Jewish vote in all four of his successful campaigns, who surrounded himself with Jewish advisers and was portrayed by Hitler’s propagandists as Jewish (and not in a good way). Roosevelt brought thousands of Jewish professionals into government, prevented Hitler from overrunning Britain and Palestine (thus saving their large Jewish populations), chose to fight Germany first after the United States was attacked by Japan, and paved the way for New York’s first Jewish governor and senator.
Presidential scholars have consistently ranked Roosevelt as the best chief executive in the nation’s history for his handling of the Great Depression and World War II. But even among liberal Jews who still hold him in high regard for those achievements, his reputation has been tarnished as he has been viewed increasingly through the prism of the Holocaust. What started out in the late 1960s as legitimate historical revisionism—looking critically at what the Roosevelt administration and American Jewry did during the Holocaust—has morphed into caricature, with FDR often depicted as an unfeeling anti-Semite.
This historical debate has a significant contemporary subtext, one that helps explain the intensity of the passions it still arouses. That subtext is today’s debate among American Jews about Israel. In recent years, the distorted view of FDR has been promoted by a small group of Israel supporters who cherry-pick the historical record to portray his handling of the Holocaust in the most negative light possible. These scholar-activists deploy similar sleight of hand to paint a picture of most American Jews as having been disengaged and apathetic about the fate of their European counterparts at the hands of the Nazis, and to cast as heroes a small group of right-wing Zionists who mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to pressure Roosevelt to act. In this narrative, the complexities of history are erased and the passage of time is unimportant. The not-so-subtle message: like the Jews of Europe in 1939, Israel is under an existential threat and cannot count on anyone for help—even the United States, even liberals, even Jews in the United States, most of whom are insufficiently committed to Zionism. Betrayal happened before, and no matter how friendly a president or a country may appear to be, it can happen again.
A fire broke out at the apartment where Anne Frank lived before she went into hiding from the Nazis, it was reported today. Firefighters were called last night to the block on Merwedeplein in Amsterdam where the teenage diarist lived between 1934 and 1942. According to the city's fire department, the occupant of the apartment was not at home when the small fire started.
The only surviving moving footage of her was taken there showing her leaning out of a window. Anne moved three miles away to the Achterhuis, which is now a museum called the Anne Frank House dedicated to her and the Holocaust, on the Prinsengracht with her family in July of that year. In 2004, the apartment on the Merwedeplein was made available to foreign writers who cannot freely write in their own countries to take shelter.
In this May 1941 photo Anne Frank, left, plays with her friend Hanneli Goslar, right, on the Merwedeplein square in Amsterdam
Anne Frank, the young Jewish diarist who with her family hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam, outside the apartment