Mar 28, 2017
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Holocaust Films/Books II
by Doniphan Blair
A typical inside page Holocaust article, this one from Pittsburgh Press on May 14th, 1945. photo courtesy Pittsburgh Press
To be sure, the NY Times ran 26 wartime articles on what was later called the Holocaust. (The lower case "h" version was already in use for centuries for large fires or book burnings, both also popular with Nazis, but the capitalized form became the term of art after “Nazi Holocaust” appeared in the English translation of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, 1948.) Alas, those articles were a tiny fraction of the war news, as noted in the critical documentary short, “Reporting on The Times” (2014), which also points out that they NEVER appeared on the front page, tried not to sound alarmist and often didn’t include the word “Jew”—Kafkaesque, if not for Kafka’s reasons. The excuse of the paper’s Jewish publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger: he didn’t want to appear biased or “a special pleader for Jews.” Admittedly, that might be misconstrued by middle Americans expert in firearms and needed for enlistment but who were being inundated by the isolationist and anti-Semitic tirades of Father Coughlin (a Catholic priest and Canadian, no less), in his popular, Sunday-evening radio show, Charles Lindbergh, the first celebrity of the Radio Age (for his solo, 1927 flight across the Atlantic and then the 1932 kidnap-murder of his son by a German-born carpenter), and others in the first "America First" movement.
As the Third Reich went down in flames and final paroxysms of butchery, Holocaust rumors and actual news raced across and out of Europe, regardless of the withholding of the “Camps Factual Survey” newsreel. Alas, after the biggest war in history, with over double the deaths of the previous biggest, only 25 years earlier, the wounds dug far too deep for facile reopening and examination. As with injuries suffered by children, the trauma had to be repressed until the patient had healed and matured enough to contemplate it without triggering post-traumatic stress or other disorders.
Nevertheless, some of the most-esteemed examples of eye-witness Holocaust reports, literature—poetry, even—arrived right after the war, starting with the Viennese Auschwitz-survivor and psychiatrist Victor Frankl (1905-97), who probably composed most of his “Man’s Search for Meaning” (1946) inside Anus Mundi. In a mere 134 pages, Frankl not only summarizes his camp experience and subjects it to psychological analysis but introduces a new philosophy, "logotherapy" (from “logos,” Greek for meaning), and what he calls “tragic optimism.” Say yes to life, Frankl exhorts his readers, despite the radical nature of the injury to humanity as well as himself, in what he views as an extreme example of the eternal “‘tragic triad’… (1) pain; (2) guilt; and (3) death.” It’s not WHAT one suffers but HOW and the meaning one imbues it, an epistemological and metaphysical quest Frankl elevates to THE primary life force, completely contradicting the “pleasure principal” of his colleague Sigmund Freud, also from Vienna (psychiatry’s central city, perhaps due to its many languages, cultures and levels of modernity). Alas, the Auschwitz Particle Accelerator proved Frankl right. Absent any pleasure—overwhelmed by the “pain principle,” in fact, many people kept body and soul together and alive by dwelling on happier times or deeper issues, even as they strove mightily to satisfy most basic needs. “Man’s Search for Meaning” sold ten million copies (tying "Mein Kampf", but across 24 languages) and the Library of Congress rated it one of America's "most influential books" in 1991.
A year after Frankl, the book “Survival in Auschwitz” (1947) delivered a more bug’s eye view, so to speak, of Auschwitz’s Kafkaesque grotesquerie, albeit in a dispassionate, scientific tone, since its author was yet another Jewish chemist, the Italian Primo Levi (1919-87). “I believe in reason,” Levi wrote (New Republic, 1986). “Thus, when describing the tragic world of Auschwitz, I have deliberately assumed the calm and sober language of the witness, not the lamenting tones of the victim or the irate voice of someone who seeks revenge.” Regardless, “Survival” periodically waxes poetic: “Dawn came on us like a betrayer; it seemed as though the new sun rose as an ally of our enemies to assist in our destruction.” Fully contradicting Adorno's "death of poetry," the Romanian-Jewish-French survivor, Paul Celan (1920-70), remarked, as he was being awarded a German poetry prize in 1958: “Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language… But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech… It gave me no words for what was happening, but it went through… and could resurface, enriched.”
'Man's Search for Meaning', one of the first books on the camps, made Vienna psychiatrist Victor Frankl a guru of sorts. photo courtesy V. Frankl
Not all master camp wordsmiths were men, of course. Indeed, some of the bleakest and most heartbreaking, on the one hand, and the most shamanist and transcendent, on the other, truths I encountered during a decade-and-a-half of research were from women, primarily my mother, with her revelations about wartime romance and human relations, including with "perpetrators," but also many others, in person and print. Wracked by guilt over abandoning her parents, a young schoolteacher, Sheina Sachar Gertner, and her new husband, Chiam, fled to the fields, forests and swamps of Lithuania to eke out a shadow-life, wandering in rags, begging for food and doing odd jobs, a bit like in the "autobiography" of Jerzy Kosinski (1933-91), a Polish Jew who immigrated to America after the war and authored popular books and screenplays, notably "Being There" (1979, with Peter Sellars). Shockingly wild and sexual, on top of bleak and surreal, Kosinski's "The Painted Bird" (1965) was eventually exposed as a novel, since he had spent the war as a child in hiding with his family among decent Poles, although the horror still raged all around. He apparently felt that such a domestic setting was insufficient to dramatize his Holocological vision; that anything he invented could hardly exceed what actually transpired at some point across an Auschwitz-accelerated Europe; and that calling it an autobiography and gettng an introduction from the famous Holocaust author Ellie Wiesel was just good marketing. Getner, meanwhile, appears to abide the absolute truth. Although she also didn't encounter a single German soldier the entire war, she was tortured by Lithuania’s small farmers (read peasants), their hateful gaze and callous disregard as well as abuse. Once, while traipsing house-to-house, begging for refuge—at night, in the snow, she got so angry, she started screaming, “You murderers, you murderers!” and thinking, “Why live if nobody likes me;” and, finally, considering turning herself in to a concentration camp simply to pass from this mortal coil among relatives, shielded somewhat from all that hate (“The Trees Stood Still”, undated but probably 1960s).
While Gertner provides the underworld dispairing view, Michilene Maurel (1916-2009), the non-Jewish scion of a Southern French architectural dynasty deported to the Ravensbruck camp for underground activities, found a philosophical takeaway and mantra as boldly optimistic as Frankl’s: "BE HAPPY, you who live in fine apartments, in ugly houses or hovels. BE HAPPY you who have your loved ones, and you also who sit alone and dream and can weep. BE HAPPY you who torture yourself over metaphysical problems, and… BE HAPPY, oh how happy, you who die a death as normal as life in hospital beds or in your homes," (from “An Ordinary Camp”, 1957, my emphasis).
After liberation, Buchenwald survivors had no where to stay but the camp, including writer Elie Wiesel, 2nd bunk from bottom, 7th from left. photo: US Army
Two years before Maurel's succinct solution to humanity's perennial "happiness problem," a Romanian-Jewish-American man, Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel (1928-July 2, 2016), unleashed what is widely considered the camps’ heaviest literary hit: the monumental AND brief, 107-page “Night” (1955), its short, declarative sentences (originally written in Yiddish) marching down to terse philosophical conclusions and severe Greek tragedy. "If only I could get rid of this dead weight, so that I could use all my strength to struggle for my own survival and worry only about my self,” Wiesel writes about his father, as they staggered the hundreds of miles from Auschwitz back into Germany proper on a “death march,” an odd tactic concocted by the SS to avoid having to fight Russians. “Immediately I felt ashamed of myself, ASHAMED FOREVER” (my emphasis). For Wiesel, sons abandoning fathers soon expands into the death of civilization and then of god, echoing Job's existential queries in the "Old Testament". A common concern given the moral collapse of the Holocaust, the rabbis elided this theological critique of the catastrophe with the claim that questioning the existence of god actually presupposes one. Wiesel disagrees, notably in his 1979 book "The Trial of God", based on a mock trail, he supposedly witnessed, held by inmates in Auschwitz. In point of fact, the Holocaust inspired almost equal portions of survivors to embrace atheism as to become orthodox Jews, with Wiesel considering himself agnostic.
Primo Levi's “Survival in Auschwitz" has only been filmed once, as an arty, one-man performance piece, "Primo" (2005), and Wiesel's masterpiece suffered similarly after he declined Orson Welles's 1950s offer to option "Night”, telling him that the narrative could only live on paper with the “silences between the words.” Admittedly, a truncated “Night”, with scarily skinny actors, appeared out of Romania a few years ago but with only a trailer and no additional documentation online, it's obviously unauthorized and largely inadequate. After living in France, where he became a journalist, and then Israel, Wiesel moved to the United States in 1955 while continuing to travel, including to the Soviet Union (1965), where he exposed the distinctly non-socialist oppression of its Jewish citizens in "The Jews of Silence" (1966), helping bring awareness and facilitate their mass exodus in the 1970s. For these literary and activist achievements, Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986 and “Night” remains a bestseller today, read by high schoolers around the world as well as across the country. As America’s best-known camp survivor (or survivor in general, after Levi died by his own hand in 1987), Wiesel pleaded with President Ronald Reagan not to visit a German cemetery which included some SS graves (he went anyway, 1985), and returned to Auschwitz with Oprah Winfrey to tape an episode of her show (2006). Even as an octogenarian, Wiesel remained dedicated to teaching children, advocating for tolerance and moving beyond “bystander mentality,” especially poignant after he was attacked in a San Francisco luxury hotel (2007). As an unarmed neo-Nazi beat him, attempting to force a confession that the Holocaust was a hoax—among other inanities, Holocaust deniers claim he lacked the iconic number tattoo, since it didn't seem to appear in one photo (he had one: A-7713)—Wiesel screamed for 20 minutes. Not a single door on the hotel floor opened.
No wonder so many survivors have tried to forget or, at least, not talk about what is, in any case, nearly indescribable. For a couple who held their story very close to their vest for a very long time read the excellent and mysterious "After Long Silence" (1999) by their daughter Helen Fremont, who slowly and cinematically unearths that her parents were not only not devout Catholics, as she had been brought up to believe (one clue: they never took communion), but that her vivacious aunt was a Women's Way of War warrior. Indeed, her aunt talked, seduced and bribed her way through a series of trips, traps and hiding places, shepherding Fremont's mother and grandparents over a thousand miles through Nazi Europe, from the Ukraine to Italy and, finally, safety. While her aunt stayed in Italy, marrying the Fascist official who helped them (a common WWW conclusion), Fremont's mother immigrated to the US, where she met a Jewish survivor of six years in a Soviet "gulag" (concentration camp). After their marriage, the new couple rationalized it would healthier to erase their histories entirely simply because: Raising children as Jews after the Holocaust amounts to child abuse. For many others, however, notably Fremont herself and other survivor children—eventually labelled "second-generation survivors" and introduced to the public in Helen Epstein's revealing and humanizing "Children of the Holocaust" (1988), psychological relief starts with the telling and learning of secrets. Of course, so does political healing, as evidenced by the world-wide need for journalistic exposes,"truth and reconciliation" commissions and artistic explorations after the civil struggles in South Africa, El Salvador and elsewhere.
Elie Wiesel and Oprah Winfrey go to Birkenau in 2006 to shoot an episode of her show; Wiesel had been there at age 15. photo courtesy O. Winfrey
Indeed, many survivors felt compelled to “bear witness"—Wiesel made it his life project, and they often cited that drive as their sole impetus to endure. The main report on the Chelmno death camp, one hundred miles north-east of Warsaw, where some quarter-million Jewish men, women and children were gassed to death and burnt to ashes, was delivered by its two sole escapees: Anus Mundi’s Adam and Eve. Tens of thousands of survivors went on to give soul-scorching eye-witness reports to resistance leaders during the war, at war crimes trials afterwards (notably Eichmann's televised Jerusalem trial in 1961), through books (like the plethora published in the mid-‘50s), in film and television documentaries, and then in personal presentations at schools (which got going in the '80s), or in scholarly research interviews, like by the Shoah Project. Founded by Steven Spielberg, after the success of "Schindler's List" in 1993, the Project has filmed over 50,000 "ordinary" survivors, whose stories had not been sought out nor even recorded, in many instances, but who almost always had one, two or more acts of monstrous barbarism to reveal, as well as altruism and bravery, even romance and humor, the latter's humanity highlighting the former's depravity. ("Yes, there was some joking in the camps, 'gallow's humor' on steroids...") Conversely, on the single Shoah Project interview I filmed, the subject, an Austrian-American male engineer, had little to report and less ability to do so. Nonetheless, almost all the others I have viewed included some heart-stopping statements, all the more revelatory 50 years after the fact, with the speakers at the height of their powers and in the comfort of their own homes.
When survivors did elect to bear detailed witness, they generally did so through books, which often start clunky and clichéd, especially the self-published volumes, with tender reminiscences of familial idyll in the peaceful penumbra before the war. With its shocking arrival, however, which brought the terrorizing threat of death and its deeply demoralizing enactment, many amateur authors rose to the occasion, much as their subjects did to theirs, revealing heretofore unspeakable truths while stripping their prose down to Hemingway- or Burroughs-esque levels. After her prosaic opening chapters, Sara Selver-Urbach renders arrival in Auschwitz as: "[W]e felt like we were were falling, amidst a most terrible commotion, straight down into a bottomless pit without any stages or transitions, that we were hurtling and pitching down, down, down at a dizzying speed," ("Through the Window of my Home", 1986).
Of course, there are also many brilliant books by gentiles (another term for non-Jew), who sometimes faced the same personal, familial and even community devastation, just not the extreme existential angst of having your entire tribe, people and culture in the meat grinder of extermination. In addition to Wiesław Kielar's "Anus Mundi", with its nuanced Auschwitz—punishing work and periodic butchery contrasted with devoted networks of friends (which arise rapidly in life-or-death situations), rampant black marketeering or women from the Gypsy camp dancing for tips (from inmates as well as guards), there's “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” (1959), by his fellow Pole Tadeusz Borowski. Preternaturally romantic, Borowski actually allowed himself to be arrested to follow his beloved girlfriend, who had already been seized, across the River Styx into the underworld. Although Borowski behaved decently in Auschwitz, according to witnesses, he responded to his terrible travails with biting black comedy, Kafka-esque metaphors and unvarnished atrocity in stories about a tough, cynical kapo, Tadek. Among other horrific duties, Tadek empties the cattle-cars of "squashed, trampled infants... like chickens, holding several in each hand." At the other end of the style spectrum, but with an equally striking title, is “The Theory and Practice of Hell” (1950, "The SS State" in German) by Eugen Kogon, a Russian Jew who became an Austrian anti-fascist journalist, converted to Catholicism and endured six years in Buchenwald’s “medical” barracks. Although criticized for reading Plato at night while others suffered, Kogon managed to remain pretty descent and save many lives before getting shipped out of the camp IN A BOX by the Nazi head doctor to the latter's home address! Along with ironic undertones, Kogon’s full-immersion sociology includes a surfeit of details on camp departments, mortality rates, even the Nazis' mind set, such as it was. “The only form of soul-searching to which they submitted…amounted to no more than a check-up as to whether the directions of their instincts corresponded to prescribed SS goals,” he writes. “[T]hey called this, ‘Licking the inner son of a bitch.’”
Eugene Kogon opposed Nazism, spent six years in a camp and helped found modern West Germany, at a book signing. photo courtesy E. Kogon
No matter how many books were published, however, they were not mass media. In the early ‘50s, millions of WWII's over-twenty million refugees were still trying to find a home, if not a country, while most of their neighbors were also too busy re-establishing regular life to catch up on their reading. Public intellectuals and educators, even if not besmirched by anti-Semitic bias, felt they lacked the necessary research or perspective, not to mention stomach, given that: A horror hidden in the bush looms larger in the imagination than one in the hand. In point of fact, the rapidly expanding psychological profession, despite being disproportionately Jewish, didn’t designate survivor trauma as a mental illness until 20 years after WWII. Nor did the schools of New York City, with its many psychiatrists and survivors, as well as survivor-psychiatrists, teach Holocology much beyond Anne Frank in the high schools, or even the universities, until the ‘70s or ‘80s. Nor did a lot of New Yorkers, Jews or not, talk about it; my family didn't, for example.
Some people are struck by the word "jew," to describe a Jewish person, and even more by "jewess," for a Jewish woman. Admittedly, Jew is a meaning-ladened noun (the verb, an ethnic slur, we'll get to below). It references a person belonging to EITHER the religion, the overall tribe (or so-called race) or the general culture (the "lapsed" or "lox-and-bagel" Jew, the "Jew lover" or "philo-Semite"), as well as, at various times in history, a nation—with arguments still raging about what confers which status where. The word "jew" derives from "Yehudi," meaning someone of the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel founded by a dozen sons and grandsons of the patriarch Jacob, who, in turn, generated the term "Israel." Meaning "one who prevails with god," Jacob earned that appellation after a night wrestling with an angel (symbolizing struggles with the self as well as god) but conferred it on the nation when he moved his family to Egypt during a severe drought. That story sets up "The Bible"'s second book, "Exodus", the enslavement of Jacob's descendants and their liberation by Moses, who leads them back across the desert, to what is now called Israel, issues the Ten Commandments and converts them from tribal ancestor-worshippers to "the people of the book," devotees of a universal law and civilization as well as deity. When the tribe of Judah started the first Jewish state around Jerusalem (9-7th century BC), Middle Eastern usage began to shift from Hebrew and Israelite to Jew, a transition completed after the Romans brutally suppressed the Jewish rebellions of the first and second century AD, triggering the "diaspora," meaning great dispersion. While the Romans were comparatively decent conquerors of polytheist peoples, whose gods could be brought into a heavenly host which included the Roman emperor, the monotheist Jews could not abide that arrangement, nor the Romans the Jews' royal rejection. While the 40 AD Roman attempt to put a Caligula statue in the Jerusalem temple was stopped by massive Jewish protests, things escalated with other desecrations and attacks culminating with the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–136 CE) and the raising of the city. Betting on better opportunities elsewhere, as well as an eventual marriage of the Judeo-Christian and Hellenic-Roman civilizations, Jewish men (mostly) journeyed across the Roman Empire, from Constantinople to Cologne, but also to Nigeria, Kenya, Yemen, India, even Bangladesh, often marrying daughters of prominent families, convincing them of the logic of one supreme god and founding communities of Jews or "crypto-Jews," which emerge when Jewish practices syncretize with local cultures. For an eye-opening survey see Ken Blady's "Jewish Communities in Exotic Places" (2000), the Persia chapter of which helps explain why the people of Iran remain obsessed with Jews, despite their sophistication in other regards and the latter's arrival in Iran 3000 years ago. "The Bible" covers the triumph of Queen Ester, the Persian king's Jewish concubine, then wife, who saves the empire as well as its Jews with the help of her cousin Mordecai, who is made vizier, a tradition followed by many subsequent kings and Muslim shahs. Blady, for his part, tells an equally colorful 6th century story about when a Persian king and many Jews joined a Zoroastrian cult advocating communism and free love. Although historians differ, it was probably overthrown by the chief rabbi, Mar Zutra ben Tuvia, trying to retain his flock, who then formed the small Jewish principality of Mahoza, until his capture and crucifixion seven years later. Amazingly, many of Blady's exotic communities are extant or traceable today.
Other New York Jews did talk about the Holocaust, of course, like Paul Pavel (1925-92), a Czech Auschwitz-survivor, who became a New York City-wide language specialist, a therapist and then a shrink specializing in artists, working with actor Spalding Gray and cartoonist Art Spiegelman, among others. Spiegelman's comic book "Maus", about his father's vast and vicious peregrinations, became the fresh Holocaust interpretation of 1986 (released in installments in his groundbreaking comic magazine Raw starting in 1980) and the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize (1992). Somewhat superseding "Night", "Maus" is the perfect primer for teenage boys (Anne Frank's "Diary" remains that for girls) due to: Spiegelman's appearance in the story as the son interacting with his father; the latter's conversational, no-matter-how-brutal portrayals (in perfect Yiddish-inflected English); and panel after panel of great drawings, with simply-rendered yet evocative animal characters—Jews as mice, Nazis cats, Poles pigs. Pavel also helped therapize some of my cohort and, when my brother secured me a one-time, full-immersion session—a controversial technique Pavel endorsed, I found him astonishingly at ease and enlightened (if dismissive of my romantic needs), making him an Auschwitz guru of sorts, much like Victor Frankl. How had he achieved this? In addition to obvious innate abilities, Pavel had nurtured aggressively. Despite being denied refuge in England, where his parents shipped him for safekeeping, and his incarceration and enslavement at age 13, a soul-killing turn of events, to say the least, "[h]e survived by learning skills like welding and plumbing to make himself useful," (NY Times obituary, 7/17/92). His post-war experience was phenomenally diverse: after the Soviets socialized his family's brick factory in Czechoslovakia, which he was running at the time, "[h]e fled to Israel, where he enlisted in the war of independence. Afterward he helped found a kibbutz, worked with juvenile delinquents and developed therapy techniques. Then he went to Germany to direct the Foundation for Redemocratization of German Youth, a war rehabilitation program. Next he studied at the Swiss Institute for Applied Psychology, and lived briefly in Paris." Although he didn't author a book, unfortunately, he did in a manner of speaking through Spiegelman, whom I also met once in the '80s. Surprisingly open to a cold call and Holocological rumination over equally-temperatured beers, Spiegelman was similarly astute and understanding, even enlightened, in part by his work with Pavel, who appears as a character in "Maus II" (1991), but also by the catharsis of Bearing Witness through high art comics—save for his constant chain-smoking and the large, black bags under his eyes, suggesting something amiss (happily, Art's still with us, 1948-).
Orson Welles (lf), as the Nazi, and the Jewish Edward G. Robinson, as the Nazi hunter, in the former's '46 'The Stranger'. photo courtesy O. Welles
Despite the reluctance to discuss the Holocaust, almost a year to the day after V-Day, the first feature with Holocaust footage, “The Stranger” (1946), arrived in theaters, directed by none other than Orson Welles (1915-85). Welles also starred as the Nazi, who was living incognito with an unknowing wife in Connecticut. Camp imagery makes a well-motivated appearance when the war crimes investigator pursuing Welles's character projects a newsreel to prove to the wife her husband's past. Coincidentally, “The Stranger” (1942) was already the brilliant, bestselling-to-this-day novel (but titles are not copyrightable) by Albert Camus, who wrote it four years earlier, in occupied Paris, under the nose of the Nazis, amazingly, even as he was doing armed actions with the resistance group Combat AND editing their newspaper of the same name. That "Stranger" also addresses the brutal disregard for life—the protagonist shows no emotion at his mother's funeral, in romantic relations and, finally, after killing an Arab man who threatens him—albeit in colonial French Algiers, where Camus was born and raised and which served as the perfect symbolic stand-in. Welles's primacy in tackling the Holocaust in mass media—oddly, "The Stranger" was his ONLY big box office success—should come as no surprise given he was a remarkably radical thinker, as well as a talented actor, writer and director, facts obscured by his long, overweight decline, admittedly hard to avoid when you become famous at 22 and make your masterpiece at 26, “Citizen Kane” (1941). Yet another mid-WWII movie addressing Hitlerian issues, it follows a newspaperman—so similar to publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst that he forbade mention of the movie in his many papers, which undoubtedly stimulated interest—as he goes from idealism to success but then degenerates into tycoonery and megalomania. Although initially panned, "Kane" came to be considered the greatest film in history by a majority of critics (until its 2012 dethroning by Hitchcock's "Vertigo", 1958). Ironically, Welles preferred his own rather bleak Kafka’s “The Trial”, starring Anthony Perkins, which he screenplayed and directed at 47. Obviously touched by the Jewish tragedy—he tried to convince Wiesel to let him film "Night", Welles also narrated, along with Elizabeth Taylor, the 1981 documentary “Genocide”, an early entrée to the now well-known genre, which followed the explosion of interest triggered by NBC’s nine-hour mini-series, “The Holocaust” in 1978.
“The Holocaust” entails the tendentious, interlocking stories of two families, one Jewish, one German—it was a mini-series, after all, directed by Jewish-American Marvin Chomsky (known for “Star Trek” and “Gunsmoke” episodes)—but it had moving moments and aired nationally and internationally, including in Germany to devastating effect. It also featured, as the German gentile wife of a Jewish artist, Meryl Streep, who became a hallowed Holocaust icon four years later for her eponymous portrayal and Oscar-winning accent in the excellent “Sophie’s Choice”, directed by Jewish-American Alan J. Pakula. The larger laurel, however, should go to the 1979 book of the same name by William Styron, also author of the acclaimed “Confessions of Nat Turner” (1967), a biographical novel about the leader of an 1831 slave rebellion. Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice” is a gripping and literary mash-up of hipster ‘50s Brooklyn, X-rated sex and Auschwitz, all overarched by unfathomable guilt—one of Frankl’s big three—embodied in the three central characters. First there’s the Polish-Catholic Sophie, who not only has to select one of her children for the gas but whose father is an anti-Semitic fanatic and activist, which, in turn, means absolutely nothing when she pleads for mercy with Auschwitz’s Commandant Hoss. Then there’s Sophie's charismatic but certifiably crazy Jewish-American lover, Nathan, who neither suffered physically nor fought, sitting out the war in the safety of New York—a guilt goldmine. Finally, there's the narrator, Stingo, a Southerner like Styron, with all the excess, oversize baggage of slavery that entails. So striking and story-encapsulating was Styron’s title, “Sophie’s Choice” soon entered the lexicon for “choice-less choice,” a day-one concept in Anus Mundi, where logic was annihilated alongside civilization and “There is NO why!” as Primo Levi was "helpfully" informed by a guard, shortly after his arrival in Auschwitz.
Mass Union soldier graves at the Andersonville concentration camp, Georgia. photo courtesy Andersonville Museum
That Nazism is a direct descendant of the Confederate “cause,” as emphasized by Styron, has been little noted by historians, despite the conspicuous parallels of white supremacy, slavery and extreme bellicosity—indeed, 19th century European and American racists read the same books. This makes WWII not just a continuation of WWI, as has been much noted, but of the American Civil War, which also bequeathed us modern, mechanized warfare replete with railroads, machine guns (the Union's hand-cranked Gatling gun), trenches, submarines, air power (reconnaissance balloons), total war (the infrastructure destruction and civilian punishment of Sherman's March to the Sea, recommended by von Clausewitz 30 years earlier) and concentration camps (one, in Andersonville, Georgia), not to mention the liberation of the slaves, the war's main bone of contention, despite what South-sympathizers may try to sell you. In point of fact, President Abraham Lincoln was a compromiser who could stomach slavery in the Old South but who adamantly, vigorously—monomaniacally, even—rejected it, both legally and morally, from the 1840s on, when, as a lawyer, he defended a freed slave from recapture and then a helper of escaped slaves, and politically, shortly thereafter. Indeed, Lincoln opposed slavery in Washington, D.C. and on land conquered in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and he attacked the 1854 Kansas–Nebraska Act, which allowed territories entering the union to decide by the ballot whether to become slave states. In point of fact, the American people agreed with Lincoln about ending the expansion of slavery and gave him a landslide mandate in the 1860 election (40% in a four-way race). Alas, a majority of Southerners refused to compromise, recognizing that an end to slavery's expansion was a harbinger of its eventual demise, preferring force of arms, while neglecting to adequately examine on whom they were declaring war. Indeed, Lincoln metamorphosed from a joking if genius politician into the great warrior democrat (despite being a Republican and suspending habeas corpus), as well as an intellectual commander-in-chief, pushing the envelope militarily and Art War-wise with his crystalline moral poems, like his Gettysburg and second inaugural addresses (1863, 1865, respectively). He also issued long letters of hectoring advice and strategy to his generals, which they fully warranted, until he found officers able to prosecute the war to its final arbitration: Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Indeed, the beleaguered Allies of WWII, not to mention modern humanity, owe that triumvirate a deep debt. If Abraham (the name of the first Biblical patriarch, as it happens) Lincoln (who was also cordial with contemporary Jews, immediately reversing the one war-time edict against them), Grant, Sherman and the rest of the Union's soldiery, which included BOTH African-Americans and white brigades from EVERY SINGLE Southern state—except South Carolina (whose citizens' harsh ideology and outright shelling of Fort Sumter started the war)—had not made the blood sacrifice needed to keep the “house undivided” and insure “that government of the people… shall not perish from this earth,” the South would have survived and supported the Third Reich, which would have conquered England and perhaps the Soviet Union, both dependent on a massively industrialized and unified America. That the South fought to the last draught of destruction, just like the Nazis 80 years later, indicates that theirs was a severe gestalt and ethical antagonism, much more than politics; and that fighting to exhaustion and unconditional surrender was obligatory to quell the will to fight, to complete the psycho-social surgery and to start the healing, as recognized by the South's brilliant lead general, Robert E. Lee, although recuperation remains a work-in-progress over 150 years later. One beguiling difference: while slaves in the South fetched up to a thousand dollars, the equivalent of hundreds of thousands today, the Nazis worked to death or incinerated their slaves, for whom a more precise term might be "firewood."
Getting back to Welles’s groundbreaking “The Stranger” (1946): it starred, as the war crimes investigator, Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973), a Romanian-Jewish-American who was an outspoken critic of Nazism and Fascism during the '30s and '40s; it was set in a quintessential New England town (“It could happen here…”); and it was one of the few film noirs to feature an actual Nazi—even though ALL film noirs are, in a sense, about Nazis. While most film historians have missed this salient, deeply moral, almost metaphysical, point, film noir emerged in the early 1940s because it was nothing less than the cultural mechanism whereby Western Civilization sublimated Nazism and its over-the-top atrocities while continuing to examine its cruelty, corruption and motivations, up-close and personal, through stories about comprehensible characters, not accented foreigners or outright monsters, although there were a few of those, too.
Caligari (Werner Krauss) reveals his Frankenstein (Conrad Viedt) in 'The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari', plumbing Germany's soul and predicting its Nazi future. photo: Decla-Bioscop Studios
In addition to providing psychological services, film noir's secondary path of artistic provenance is almost as astounding. After WWI, Germany enjoyed a spectacular film boom driven by its exclusion from the international film scene during the war (when Hollywood got going), its desperate need for entertainment after, and the post-war fecundity of its fine arts. On top of the Europe-wide Dada and Surrealist movements, which were also well-represented in Germany, German Expressionism established itself with world-famous painters like Max "Black Lines" Beckmann (1884-1950) and the romantic and hallucinatory Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938). Soon tiring of importing foreign films to fediasped their post-war film frenzy, native German studios sprang up and their chiefs, fingers on the box office pulse, started divining their audience’s deepest desires and fears but also, amazingly enough, futures. In a few short years, they turned Germany's Hollywood, Weissensee (a suburb of Berlin), into a film exporter rivaling if not exceeding the original. One opulent Expressionist masterwork is “Metropolis” (1927), Fritz Lang’s big budget, two-and-a-half hour futuristic tale about fantastic cities, abused workers, lush bordellos, evil robots and visionary women. Lang also wrote and directed "M" (1931), which he preferred, about a serial killer of girls, played by Peter Lorre (a Hungarian Jew and, later, American, where he was typecast as a murderer), who is hunted and captured by a team of beggars and criminals and tried in a kangaroo court. As it happens, criminals also revile psychopathic pederasts, both morally and for the heat they bring, and were policing themselves, until the arrival of the rather inept authorities. Another film zooming in on the zeitgeist was F.W. Murnau's bone-chilling "Nosferatu" (1922) about the legendary Rumanian count, Dracula. Not only a phenomenal horror film for its day—or any day, it concludes that great evil can only be vanquished by even greater innocence and love: Dracula is destroyed not by the man who visits his castle and ferrets out his secrets but that man's adoring wife, who seduces the vampire into staying out past sunrise, killing him while sacrificing herself. Sadly, Mernau lost the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the wife of the Irish Abraham "Bram" Stoker, author of the original "Dracula" (1897), leading to the destruction of all the film's prints, save a few bootlegs. Undeterred, Murnau went on to make the acclaimed "The Last Man" (1924), where he developed the first cinéma vérité, which he called the "unchained camera technique," and move to Hollywood. There Murnau did both the feature "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" (1927), which took Oscars at the first Academy Awards (1929) and remains a film for the ages, and "Tabu" (1931), a documentary about tribal life in Bora Bora, with the inventor of the documentary form, Robert Flaherty, before dying that year in California when his Rolls Royce, driven by his 14 year-old Filipino boyfriend, crashed.
Long before such stellar cinematic achievements, however, came “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920), considered THE first horror film, the Expressionist film movement's jewel and one of the greatest films of all time, despite being rather raw and an odd amalgam of artistic and commercial considerations. With its surrealist sets and potent brew of romance, murder and mysticism, not to mention plot twists, “Caligari” not only captured the German imagination but rather presciently predicted Hitler (see
). After they attended a country fair where a girl had been murdered, “Caligari”'s writers, Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz (true bohemians, given Janowitz was actually from Bohemia, Czech Republic, and both became pacifists after serving in WWI), concocted a story about a carney sideshow hypnotist who keeps a narcoleptic (someone afflicted with extreme sleepiness) in the proverbial "cabinet," waking him by day to answer questions about the future and, by night, to sneak out and murder the hypnotist's enemies—terrorizing the town. When the film’s narrator, Francis, and his friend, Alan, go to the fair and happen by Caligari's booth, the somnambulist eerily predicts Alan's death the following dawn, and then—what do you know?—enacts the stabbing. While Francis's love interest, Jane, her father and the police search for the murderer, Francis decides to spy on Caligari and discovers that he keeps a dummy of the somnambulist in the cabinet at night as an alibi. Sleuthing still further, Francis tracks him to the local insane asylum, where it turns out he's the institution’s director, conducting “forbidden experiments” on patients while obsessing over an evil, medieval mystic named Caligari. Although the doctor was arrested and Francis got the girl in the writers’ version, the film's producers in Weissensee thought they might do better box-office if the climactic conclusion was a little less anti-authoritarian. Following a suggestion from Lang, who didn't go on to direct (that would be Robert Wiene), they flipped the script and added a "framing story," which revealed Francis to be an "unreliable narrator." In fact, the entire film is a figment of his imagination given he's incarcerated in the asylum; Jane and the narcoleptic are simply other inmates; and the doctor trying to cure him? None other than the hypnotist Caligari! While the studio's rewrite shattered Mayer and Janowitz, it forced German viewers to decide who, in the end, was crazy, just as they would have to 13 years later when the Nazis seized power; it foreshadowed the 12 years following that, when lunatics WERE running the asylum; and its surrealist and cubist sets imbued a visceral sense of derangement. And the hypnotist and somnambulist? No less than Hitler and the German people, as indicated immediately after the war in the very title of “From Caligari to Hitler” (1947) by the brilliant German-Jewish media critic and circus and other spectacle aficionado, Siegfried Kracauer. After fleeing Hamburg for Manhattan, where he soon garnered Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships, Kracauer cognized what is common knowledge today: Pop culture is not just déclassé celebrity adoration, low art and suggestive dancing, but a way to palpate the masses' subconscious. Alas, a remake focusing on Jane, "The Cabinet of Caligari" (1962), has little redeeming value, despite the involvement of some of "Psycho"'s creative team, while a recent German documentary (2014), titled identical to Kracauer's book, talks about but doesn’t cinematically show his insights, despite some great old films clips and new director interviews.
Wanda Jakubowska's Polish-produced 'The Last Stage', 1947, was shot in Auschwitz, and considered the 'mother of all Holocaust films.' photo courtesy of W. Jakubowska
Film noir is considered by many to be Hollywood’s only original invention, given that the Western had long precursors in pulp fiction and German Expressionist cinema lacked noir's full triumvirate of sympathetic low-lifers, mundane but malevolent reality and cynical happenstance. But this is splitting hairs since much of Hollywood's noir was created by the many hundreds of German and Austrian artists who fled Hitler for Hollywood, Jews and gentiles alike, or both, as with Lang (1890-1976). (Lang's Jewish mother’s devout conversion to Catholicism and marriage to a Catholic would have meant nothing to the Nazis but she had the “good fortune” to die from natural causes before their arrival.) Lang made 23 features in California including the mid-war “Hangmen Also Die” (1943), a full frontal assault on Nazism story, which was often less memorable than the satires. "Hangmen Also Die" concerned the Polish underground's attempt to assassinate Heydrich, a principal architect of the Holocaust, even though, by 1942, he had already been killed by Czech resistors, resulting in the massacre of an entire Czech village, Lidice, 1,300 men, women and children, and the deportation of 13,000 more. Lang’s most famous Hollywooder was “The Big Heat (1953, 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating), an especially brutal noir, fueled by his growing pessimism in the face of old age and the burgeoning Cold War. Given ability to reflect the tenure of the times and examine the underlying malaise, without getting too preachy or specific, film noir became extremely popular in France, where the term was coined by film critic Nino Frank, in 1946, as well as in England, the rest of Europe and even Japan (albeit not so much in Germany, which was all too familiar with those concerns, long steeped in Expressionism and in need of something a little lighter. The most popular and critically-acclaimed noirs are almost all American: “Double Indemnity” (1944), "The Big Sleep” (1946), “The Third Man” (1949), and "Touch of Evil”, (1958, replete with Marlene Deitrich), among others.
Coincidentally, many of those film noirs were set in San Francisco, starting with the genre’s first, fully-realized offering, “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), from Dashiell Hammett’s creatively written, private-eye procedural (1929). The freshman film from the soon-to-be renown director John Huston (already a painter, he didn't intend to create noir). it scans a bit too talky and set-bound but still works wonderfully. San Francisco was the closest urbanized city to sunny, suburban Hollywood and producers could save on fog machines as well as travel. Not coincidentally, “Falcon”'s star, Humphrey Bogart, returned the following year to lead the still-fantastically popular "Casablanca" (1942), directed by Hungarian-Jewish-American Michael Curtiz and shot by "Maltese Falcon”'s cinematographer, Arthur Edeson, using the chiaroscuro lighting that identifies a classic noir, although "Casablanca" was actually a romantic drama. Like Welles's "The Stranger", it speaks of Nazism by name; indeed, it involves Nazi sympathizers, collaborating French officers, concentration camp survivors and resistance leaders. Nevertheless, it takes place in Morocco and it tells the story of a sympathetic American bystander-onlooker, Bogart's Rick Blaine, and his evolution from neutrality, criminality and corruption—Rick ran guns for Franco's fascists in Spain's Civil War (1936-39), considered by many to be the opening battle of WWII—to progressive politics, romanticism and sacrifice. Indeed, Blaine's, as well as Bogart's, most famous line is the mature, "It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world," which concerns getting Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, on the plane with her husband, the camp-surviving resistance leader, so that she can continue fighting the Women's Way of War, although he slips in the romantic knife with his earlier, "We'll always have Paris," and parting, "Here's looking at you kid." Paradoxically, San Francisco also became the premier location for the ‘60s' Romantic Revolution, which wiped away the film noir ‘50s, switching out its graphic black and white for colorful, complex psychedelia, not to mention exchanging self-sacrifice and -inspection for self-regard and -indulgence. Noir was an essential cultural trope for humanity to digest Nazism but two decades of it was enough and those dark ages were eventually overridden by the beats, rock and roll, and finally the ‘60s. Triggered by The Beatles singing for servicemen in Germany, oddly enough, the world’s attention turned 180 degrees to themes of love, nature, dream and freedom, notions first articulated in that bundled manner in the late 18th century by romantic poets from none other than... Germany!
'The Last Stage''s depiction of Auschwitz and its female guards has ferocious authenticity given Director Jakubowska was there two years prior to production. photo courtesy of W. Jakubowska
The first film to actually show Auschwitz arrived two years after V-Day, directed and co-written by an Auschwitz survivor, Wanda Jakubowska (1907-1998), a Polish-Catholic cineaste from Warsaw, who had been deported for political activities. Shot on location with endless mud and puddles, using actors in actual striped uniforms left from the camp, and guards and prisoners speaking their native German and Polish (though the Jews don’t use Yiddish), “The Last Stage” (1947) achieves hard-to-match verisimilitude. The script follows a Jewess, who escapes selection for death to become a translator, and then from Auschwitz itself, to Bear Witness to the partisans. In its dramatic denouement, the heroine has been recaptured and is about to hang in the camp's "appel grounds," or center, when the hangman clandestinely cuts her wrist ropes and slips her the knife. After the commandant approaches, to quell her shouts of denunciation, she slashes but does not kill him (see
). Only modestly marred by such pyrotechnics and Soviet socialist-realist styling, like the low-angle shots of the lovely lead, Barbara Drapinska, “The Last Stage” was called “the mother of all Holocaust films” by Austrian critic Hanno Loewy. Jakubowska went on to teach at Poland’s National Film School in Łódź, including to Roman Polanski, and to produce an Auschwitz trilogy (including “The End of Our World”, 1964, and “Invitation”, 1985), supporting her statement that thinking about telling her story while in Anus Mundi helped her survive—the curative power of art AND Frankl’s Search for Meaning.
A third early film of interest is “The Murderers Are Among Us” (1948) by Wolfgang Staudte (1906-1984). A West German who moved to East Germany, he was driven to direct that particular script to atone for his below-the-line work on “Süss the Jew" (1940), the notorious anti-Semitic film produced by Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels. A complete perversion of the popular 1925 historical novel by the anti-Nazi Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger, the film concerns a medieval Jewish moneylender who seduces a German prince with gifts and low-interest loans and takes over his town as well as a local lass. “The Murderers Are Among Us”—also the title of the fascinating, if sometimes sickening, 1967 book about hunting Nazis post-war by Austrian-Jewish survivor Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005)—was filmed on sets and is occasionally stilted. It still has strong moments, however: a chess player exclaiming, “Always protecting the king, never the little people!” or an alcoholic German doctor trying to kill the officer who ordered him to massacre women and children—on Christmas Day, no less! Dissuaded by his survivor girlfriend, who doesn't want to do to them what they did to her, the doctor turns the Nazi over to the police, making "Murderers" the uplifting film needed by Germans after that war and not a noir.
The diversity of survivor humanity depicted in the arty 'Night and Fog' (1955) by French New Waver, Alain Resnais. photo courtesy A. Resnais
Despite these ambitious attempts, however, Shoah cinema got little traction until Alain Resnais’s alternative documentary, “Night and Fog” (1955), and the Hollywood hit, "The Diary of Anne Frank", four years later. “Night and Fog” was developed from a Parisian art exhibit commemorating V-Day's tenth anniversary, with a script by survivor Jean Cayrol, and a title from the Nazi decree to disappear "undesirables" "under the cover of night and fog." It set the standard for authentic, visionary Holocaust investigations with its moody black-and-white mix of camp images (from shots of liberation to deserted buildings a decade later), introspective narration and eerie music by Austrian Hanns Eisler. Also half-Jewish and friends with Lang and Adorno, Eisler collaborated with poet/playwright Berthold Brecht, notably on "The Mother" (1932), from the same-named 1906 novel by Russian novelist and Judeophile Maxim Gorky. Premiering in Berlin, the popular play deployed a modern mix of irony, iconic truths, propaganda, comedy and optimism, while following a woman from the death of her son during WWI to her awaking to revolutionary action. Within a year, the Nazis were arresting the lead actors and both playwright and composer had to flee Germany. A very versatile artist, Eisler went on to compose BOTH East Germany’s national anthem AND scores of scores for Hollywood films, including many of Lang’s, until he was deported for so-called “un-American” activities—yet another great talent lost to Red Scare idiocy.
Bizarrely, Resnais’s title was spoofed by uber-Jew and late-blooming intellectual cineaste Woody Allen in “Shadows and Fog” (1991), the director's star-studded homage to German Expressionist film. Festooned with intricate love affairs, odd circus acts and a Caligari-esque search for a serial killer, it doesn't mention the word Jew, a la Kafka. Nevertheless, when Allen’s Kleinman character stumbles upon the town’s police chief and priest drawing up a list of names for nefarious purposes, including his own patently Jewish one, the film’s second-level metaphoring becomes all too clear, if not clearly put to more meaningful use, although it still rates as a descent "Holocaust comedy."
After “Night and Fog” Resnais drew on it for “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (1959), from a script by the mercurial and prolific Marguerite Duras (“The Lovers” 1984), whose first husband survived a camp. In existential conversation as well as explicit sex, the film pairs a Japanese architect, with family killed in Hiroshima, to a French actress, in Japan shooting a commercial. Her big backstory was a wartime affair with a German soldier, for which she had her head shaved, to publicly shame her for sleeping with the enemy—illustrating a morally complex, often condemned, but still "fighting for love" Women's Way of War activity. ("If you give them enough love, perhaps they will stop fighting...") In fact, that's the basic thesis of the "Old Testament"'s Book of Esther, about the loving new wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus and how she reveals to him a plot against both him and her fellow Jews, inspiring him to kill his anti-Semitic vizier, Hamam, and install her cousin, the Jew Mordecai. “Hiroshima My Love” (its English title) became the first film in France’s acclaimed “new wave” of the early '60s, due to its artistic repetition, striking flashbacks and documentary footage, plus big screen story arc and movie stars, not to forget empathy for the enemy. It remains one of the best films, in general, on the moral complexities of war.
A slightly corny shot near the end of the commercially pioneering 'Diary of Anne Frank,' with Shelley Winters as another internee (2nd fr lft), Millie Perkins as Anne (bottom), Richard Beymer, as her love interest Peter (2nd fr rt), and Diane Baker, as her sister, Marlo (rt). photo courtesy G. Stevens
Already focusing on the enemy’s experience, however, was “Hiroshima” (1946), by American war reporter John Hershey (1914-93), based solely on his interviews with Japanese survivors, using a style dubbed “new journalism.” When “Hiroshima” filled an entire issue of the New Yorker, arguably America’s premier intellectual magazine, It's readers were forced to consider both the strategic validity AND basic morality of their air force’s already massive "regular" bombardment (the fire bombing of Tokyo burnt to death almost as many people as the nuclear blasts) as well as their Manhattan “A-Bomb” Project, directed by Jewish-American J. Robert Oppenheimer, with assistance from numerous other European-Jewish scientists. Although Hershey protested the New Journalism label, he expanded on it in his first historical novel, “The Wall” (1950), about the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising—the FIRST major rebellion in Nazi-occupied Europe, using diary-like entry headings and the fiction that his story was edited from notes by a Jewish journalist, much like the historical Emanuel Ringelblum, whose archives were found buried beneath the flattened Warsaw ghetto. Indeed, “The Wall”’s five weeks at number one on the NY Times' bestseller list belies the common claim that little was known in the '50s of the many Jewish uprisings. Alas, “The Wall” had to wait until 1982 and the "Holocaust media surge" to be filmed as a gut-wrenching television movie directed by Jewish-American Robert Markowitz and shot in Poland. Indeed, “The Wall” was honest enough to include scenes of a wealthy Jew, played by Eli Wallach, abandoning his family when he secured an almost-impossible-to-get visa to Palestine; a mini-amusement park just outside the ghetto, which seems like artistic license but actually happened and highlights the absolute insanity of WWII Warsaw; and a moving evocation of the catharsis Jewish fighters felt when they were finally able to return a small portion of the boundless German firepower targeting them. One self-immolating scene has a group of Jews crawling through a sewer, to escape the destroyed ghetto, when a baby starts to cry and they strangle it. The noise could have exposed the group to German soldiers or Polish “shmaltzovics” ("those who get their palms greased"), who hung around the ghetto walls watching for such escapees to blackmail for big money or to denounce for smaller rewards. The movie was slightly diminished, however, by editing out the journalist character and shifting Hershey’s traditional focus on individuals to the drama of rebellion.
Earlier in 1959, the international film-viewing public finally came face-to-face with the unambiguous moral nut of WWII in "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959), which won three Academy Awards (notably for supporting actress Shelley Winters) and was directed by Oakland-native George Stevens, famous for his Oscar-winning “Giant” (1956, with James Dean), albeit with a little more circumspection than that film. Although the book, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl”, was released to little notice in Amsterdam in 1947, after its publication in the US (1952) and adaptation into a Broadway play (1955), which became a hit, it was well on its way to becoming the bestselling, most-translated title of ALL TIME, after “The Bible”—remarkable given it’s the personal musings of a very romantic and quite young woman. “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out,” notes Frank, at the book’s end. “Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really GOOD AT HEART,” (my emphasis). An astute ethicist as well as writer, Frank entertained queer consciousness—pretty precocious for any fourteen year-old, let alone one in hiding during the Holocaust. Frank writes, “I remember that once when I slept with a girl friend I had a strong desire to kiss her and that I did so. I could not help being terribly inquisitive over her body.”
Holocaust Films/Books Chapter 3
Doniphan Blair is a writer, film magazine publisher, designer and filmmaker ('
Our Holocaust Vacation
'), who can be reached
Posted on Mar 03, 2016 - 01:43 AM