Robin Williams standup for Spielberg during the making of Schindler’s List

 

Last week an article was published from the Jewish Daily Forward discussing the a relationship between Steven Spielberg and Robin Williams during the making of Schindler’s List. As we have discussed in class, Schindler’s List is the Holocaust movie. Fittingly, I have always been a big fan of Robin Williams, so when I saw this article I knew I had to post about it.

Unsurprisingly, the article on The Forward discusses how the making of Schindler’s was emotionally draining for Steven Spielberg, as I’m sure it was for other involved in the process. The author underscores, “Full immersion in the facts of mass genocide for months or years on end is psychological torture, whatever accolades or payment one may receive for it.”

Robin Williams sought to attempt to ease some emotional tension through the employment of comic release. Spielberg describes:

“He would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone. I would laugh hysterically … he’d always hang up on you on the loudest, best laugh you’d give him. Drops the mic, that’s it.”

The author says, “Williams, who Spielberg knew from directing him in the movie “Hook,” was indispensable,” during the process.

I found this article when looking on the Jewish Daily Forward for possible subjects to write blog posts about. 

https://forward.com/schmooze/400080/robin-williams-did-standup-for-spielberg-during-schindlers-list/?attribution=articles-featured-subsection-item-2-headline

Jake Tapper on Stephen Miller: “calling him a Nazi is a bit too far”

Last week Jake Tapper was interviewed on Terry Gross’s NPR show Fresh Air. Tapper is the anchor of The Lead, a news talk show on CNN. His interview with Gross highlighted some of his notable experiences on the show, and other ventures outside of primary career, such as the recent publishing of his new novel.

In the interview some of the key talking points included a conversation between Gross and Tapper concerning their recent respective interviews with James Comey, the former head of the FBI. Another main topic of discussion was interviews Tapper had had with members of the Trump administration, including Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller, notably.

Garnering the most attention was Tapper’s interview Stephen Miller from January. Upon Tapper’s question to Miller concerning Trump’s competency over the “stable genius” tweet, prompted a bombastic tyraid from Miller claiming, ‘fake news’ this,‘fake news’ that, anti-Trump agenda, etc. Not swayed by Miller’s bombardment, Tapper eventually cut him off, and, subsequently, Miller had to be escorted off the premises by security.

 

I listen to this podcast regularly. I was not expecting this particular interview to invoke the Holocaust, but it did. Following this discussion concerning the Miller interview with Gross, Tapper described his prior relationship with Miller as positive. Additionally, Tapper asserted that he had even defend Miller on certain occasions. He described:  

“Yeah. He was a press secretary on Capitol Hill. And until that morning, I had a fine relationship with him. I mean, I have his number. I have his email. I had even defended him a few times on Twitter and places like that when there were things that I thought had gone too far – like calling him a Nazi I think is a bit too far considering that he’s Jewish.”

The term “Nazi” is loosely used in American political discourse for figures on the left and the right. The employment of this term trivializes its meaning as it relates to the Holocaust, and – as Tapper pointed out – employing it as a label for Stephen Miller, who is Jewish – is quite ludicrous.  

https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=605978056

Terry Gross interviews author and son of WWII Rabbi

Last week, Terry Gross interviewed the David Kertzer, the pulitzer prize winner and author of The Pope Who Would Be King. Kertzer’s book discusses pope Pius IX  – who was the pope of the Roman Catholic church in the mid-19th century. Pius was pope during a major transition period in the history of Italy and in the Vatican. As Kertzer discusses, he was the last pope who ruled with king-like power over Rome, prior to the establishment of the modern Italian nation-state in the 1870s.

I listen to Fresh Air regularly. It didn’t cross my mind that this story would relate to the Holocaust – but it did.

A significant portion of Kertzer’s book is dedicated to the treatment of Roman Jewish under papal rule, and, as I found out, the Roman Catholic Popes – over the span of centuries – were responsible for confining Jews to overcrowded and diseased-ridden ghettos in Rome. Later, Kertzer discussed his Jewish identity as the impetus for writing about papal history. When Terry Gross asked if he had personal story or experience that prompted his interest in Rome and the papacy, Kertzer explained:

“Well, there is a personal story here. My father was actually a rabbi. And he was a chaplain to the American troops who landed at Anzio in the beginning of 1944 seeking to liberate Rome, which was then in Nazi hands. And he was with the troops that marched into Rome a few months later in June. And a few days after that, he together with the chief rabbi of Rome conducted the first service in the Great Synagogue of Rome after liberation.

“It was an incredibly dramatic scene because thousands of Jews of Rome had been in hiding. Many, of course, had been carted off to Auschwitz to their murder. So those who remained came out of hiding and looking in the synagogue that evening to see who had survived. And so as I grew up and hearing these stories from my father, this certainly influenced both my love for Italy but also my interest in some of this history.”

I listen to Fresh Air with Terry Gross on a regular basis. I found this interview via podcast.

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/24/605252936/why-pius-ix-might-be-the-most-important-pope-in-modern-church-history

Michelle Wolf invokes the Holocaust at correspondents’ dinner

A few days ago Michelle Wolf shared some jokes at the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner. The varied responses to her words – I think – aptly reflects our current political climate, as reviews have sharply varied from strong affirmations to ardent defamation. Personally, I thought her routine was funny – edgy, but, nonetheless, funny. In two specific jokes she invoked the Holocaust.

While making a joke about Donald Trump she said, “[Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies’ man.’ Which isn’t really fair. He also likes plants.”

Wolf’s point here is that language and titles are coded or softened. She says white nationalists ought to be leveled with Nazis. Her comparison invokes the Holocaust because she levels the two terms on fact that they are both undergirded with racist ideology – Nazism synonymous with Jewish extermination in the Holocaust.

On Democrats she said, “Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor.”

This joke references the success Republicans have had in certain races, despite having candidates like Roy Moore – the alleged child molestor. Here, Wolf connects the absurdity of Moore’s success to the prospect of a Nazi Doctor having successin an election. Using “Nazi Doctor,” I think, may be a reference to Josef Mengele.

I found this video and corresponding articles while scrolling through my facebook newsfeed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2018/04/29/the-harshest-jokes-from-michelle-wolfs-correspondents-dinner-speech/?utm_term=.d57ed331dd56

Anne Frank Reimagined in Philadelphia

 

From February 21st to March 21st a local theatre company in Philadelphia will renvision Anne Frank in their version of a play based on the Diary of Anne Frank.

The play will feature a multiethnic and multiracial cast as the Franks, the Van Daans, and Mr. Dussel (Par. 5). David Bradley, the director of the play, says, “as we bring together the artists we’ve brought together, coming from all their different perspectives, we’re lifting up that capacity of theater to help us step into a story and make connections to it and activate empathy” (Par. 7). This effort seeks to make the story of Anne Frank more relatable and accessible to oppressed groups, while the director and performers maintain that they will stay “true to the original” (par. 6). The creators do not want to “discount that it is a Jewish story,” despite their direct effort to dejuadize and universalize Anne’s experience (par. 16). Viewers should expect to see a reimagination of Anne Frank, which very well may lead to reinterpretations of who she is and how she comes to represent the Holocaust in American memory.

Universalizing Anne Frank has been at the center of class reading, viewing, and discourse over the past couple of weeks. Important questions about memory have arisen from this: is Anne’s story a story that should be reimagined? What occurs when she is univeralized? In the processes of reimagining, does her story become dejuadized, and what effect does this have on remembering the Holocaust? These questions can also be applied to this play that is now being shown in Philadelphia. While the casting of the play is a deliberate effort to connect Anne’s experience to the experiences of minorities in the United States, this effort removes the story from its context  – the perspective of a young Jewish girl hiding in an attic in German occupied Amsterdam during the Holocaust.

How I found this: After our class discussions and lecture from Dr. Baron I was curious to see what new representations of Anne Frank were coming out. After a quick google search – “Anne Frank plays” – I found an article about this new play in Philadelphia from the Jewish publication, Jewish Exponent.

Link: http://jewishexponent.com/2018/02/21/local-productions-reimagine-anne-frank/

 

Oral Testimony on Facebook

On January 27th CNN International posted a three and half minute video titled, “The lie that save Holocaust survivor’s life.” Receiving 53 thousand reactions, 34 thousand shares, and 2.3 million views, this oral testimony is given by a Holocaust survivor named Sonia K.

Growing up in Warsaw, Sonia was 14 when the war broke out. Her mother, father, and brother were murdered by the Nazis, while Sonia and her sister were the only members of the family to survive. When her family arrived at Auschwitz their heads were shaved and their arms were tattooed, she says. While in line to enter the camp, her sister and her lied to the Germans, saying they were shoemakers. The sisters worked in the “shoe commando,” where they disassembled the shoes of murdered Jews. Sonia says, “every time I took a pair of baby shoes, black shoes, brown shoes, my heart stopped.” In 1945, as the the Allies pushed further into Europe, Sonya and her sister were moved to multiple concentration camps and eventually were forced into a death march. In April of 1945, Sonia says, “we were liberated by the Americans. From the thousand people on the death march, I dare say perhaps 100 were left – I’m not sure.” Her concluding remarks: “As a survivor, I say: use all your energy to stamp out anti-Semitism and racism.”

At the forefront of this video is the oral testimony of Sonia. Integrated into this video is primary footage of that corresponds with her story. For example, the viewer sees shoes of murdered Jews when Sonia talks about her labor in the shoe commando, and the viewer sees images of Jews lined up outside of a concentration camp when Sonia discusses her early experiences at Auschwitz. This has the effect of tying together historical images with the stories of survivors, who are still living. Amplifying the emotion felt in her testimony, the creators of this video included dramatic background music – combined with the primary footage and her testimony, this short video feels like a mini-documentary.

Sonia’s testimony is directly related to the interest our class has taken in the Shoah Foundation and oral memory. While the Shoah Foundation reaches a large audience, this short oral testimony from Sonia was circulated on the most widely used social media platform in the world. This – combined with its shortness in length – helped to make Sonia’s story accessible to millions of people.   

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/cnninternational/videos/10156089702519641/

How I found this:

I saw this video on facebook, and thought it was a great thing to include in the blog post. I think a couple of my friends ‘liked’ it, and this is why it showed up on my new feed.

Reddit User: “Add ‘and Hitler’ to the end of a movie’s title. What’s it about now?”

Twenty days ago, the reddit user “red mambo_no6” asked “Add ‘and Hitler’ to the end of a movie’s title. What’s it about now?” This post received 8742 karma points, in addition to 6283 comments.

 

Associating Hitler and a popular movie creates an uncomfortable, yet clever, irony. Hitler is  popularly understood as the archetype of evil – the face of the Holocaust, and of all things un-American and inhumane. By invoking Hitler, the redditor who posted the original question and the thousands of redditors who responded to that question, were also invoking the reasons evil is associated with Hitler – namely, the Holocaust. The responses varied. Some relying on what Hitler symbolizes, by just including his name; while others invoked specific Holocaust imagery, which was both laughed at and called out as insensitive.

One redditor – who received 14.6k karma (the most popular comment on the post) titled his response “Saving Private Ryan and Hitler.” Another redditor commented on this thread saying, “I am conflicted about this film.” The redditor who posted the comment replied, “the brave men depicted in this film were conflicted as well, but they did not let it stop them from completing their mission.” Through this comment, this redditor explicitly refers to the irony in associating Hitler with a popular American WW2 movie. Although they don’t reference the Holocaust, Hitler’s association with it creates this confliction.

In other popular comments the Holocaust is specifically referenced. One redditor responds to the original question posed: “Finding Nemo and Hitler.” On this thread another redditor comments “I’m gonna touch the valve,” while another says, “just keep gassing, just keep gassing, just keep gassing, gassing, gassing.” Indeed insensitive, but highly representative of the irony produced when Hitler is associated with popular film and warm film, such as Finding Nemo.

In class we have discussed how invoking Hitler is invoking the Holocaust. Hitler and the Holocaust do not just exist in the realm of scholarship, but in popular culture – through the way all people act and interact. It exists in our collective memory, and is expressed in daily interaction, like this example on Reddit.  

Link:

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/7u12xx/add_and_hitler_to_the_end_of_a_movies_title_whats/?sort=top

 

How I found this:

I occasionally go on reddit for entertainment or if I have a burning question question on a topic that is not “google-able.” Unsurprisingly, I have found that there are a significant amount of Holocaust references on Reddit.  After searching “Hitler,” this was one of the top results.