On May 2nd, The Guardian posted about the first ever rock opera dedicated to the Holocaust. Lyricist and second generation member, Jeremy Schonfeld, set out to tell his father’s Holocaust story and of his relation to his father’s story. He says that the rock opera just seemed to capture the full range of the emotional landscape. Here we see that even as we become farther removed from the event, people are still finding new ways to memorialize the Holocaust. The rock opera also highlights the shadow that the Holocaust has cast over future generations. Schonfeld’s piece will debut this week at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, Maryland.
Schonfeld says that he remembers asking his father what he wished the show would contain and he responded that he wished it to have an element of hope. He believed that other than the year he’d spent in a concentration camp, he’d lived a good life. I believe that here, the artist is not responsible for creating a narrative that provides the perfect balance of hope and despair. Here, the only responsibility is to honor his father. This is not a piece that purports to explain the Holocaust in its entirety, only to explain his father’s experience. Although the same may be true of films such as Schindler’s List, which only examines a small part of the full story, but has come to symbolize the entirety of the Holocaust for the American people.
An art collective in Germany has completed a piece where they transported 24 concretes slabs to create an faux Holocaust memorial outside of the home of a right-wing German politician. Their actions are in response to Björn Höcke’s comments that the Berlin Holocaust museum was a “memorial to shame”. The group has also evoked German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s act of falling to his knees in humility at the sight of the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The group is attempting to stimulate a similar response as opposed to the the German right’s attitude that the past has passed and there is no sense dwelling on the misguided actions of the past. While their intentions may be in the right place, creating a shame memorial is highly problematic. The idea of a memorial is maintain and foster the connection to the past and to those lost. These slabs of concrete are meaningless. They have no connection or significance to the millions of people killed during the Holocaust.
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.
Recently I came across an advertisement for a new DLC (Downloadable Content) pack for the newest Call of Duty video game Call of Duty: WWII. The expansion pack (entitled The Resistance) provides players additional maps for gameplay (including the game’s ‘Nazi Zombie’ mode). I personally haven’t given this game much attention but I was intrigued. In the past, I have played previous Call of Duty games and their previous iteration set in World War II also featured a mode where player are able to maintain a safe house against hordes of the undead wearing Swastikas. The idea of having Nazis as the antagonist for this game mode strikes me as interesting, as our conversations in class. I feel like it is almost too removing of the actual context of the Holocaust. Given that these were actual humans who committed actual atrocities, it almost seems a poor choice to depict members of the Third Reich as supernatural monsters. To me, that takes the agency away from the people who committed such awful acts and almost neuters the power that Nazi imagery should have.
Additionally, after investigating the ‘Nazi Zombies’ of the game; I was curious how the game handled the Holocaust aspect of World War 2 (if at all). I was able to find several articles that commented on the game’s depiction of a concentration camp. The game does depict the main characters entering an abandoned shell of a camp. Although it doesn’t go as far as it could with depicting the actual killing camps (the camp in game is described as a labor camp), the American GIs in the game do make a point of documenting the conditions that they see (video below). Given the game’s more ‘approachable’ attempt at depicting the Holocaust (not showing corpses, emancipated prisoners), I feel like this is in line with a more marketable depiction of the atrocities of WWII, without potentially alienaning an audience. I think it is interesting that consumers are more than willing with interacting and portraying the battlefield carnage of WWII but that realism stops at the depictions of the Holocaust.
While on Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, a nonprofit who monitors hate groups in America, I came across an article published on February 07, 2018. The article highlights a renaissance fair where the “King” and “Queen” wore traditional historical garments that were decorated with swastikas and “HH” on the day of their coronation. The “HH” symbol that could be referring Heil Hitler. The Society of Creative Anachronism, the leading organization for such historical fairs, was outraged by the garments.
The swastika and the HH symbols date back to the 2nd and 8th centuries, the time period for such events, before the Nazis appropriated them. Since news broke out about their garments the “king” and “queen” stepped down from their role and have publicly apologized stating that they did not think before wearing the historical garments.
The question remains, can c itizens wear swastikas without contributing to support of Hitler and Neo Nazi’s today? I think not. Even if the swastika was used as a symbol in the 8th ce
ntury, it is being used today as a symbol of hate and anti-Semitism. After Hitler made the swastika the leading symbol of the Nazi and the Third Reich, it can no longer be seen with any other meaning but hate. As we talk about memory of the Holocaust, it is important to remember that symbols Hitler used are still being used today to symbolize hate within this country, therefore no group can sport these symbols without appearing hateful.
According to the Forward on January 26th, remembrance of the Holocaust will be incorporated into the Super Bowl this year. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, where any of the hundreds of thousands of people flying into the city for the game will fly into, is going to display the “Transfer of Memory” art exhibit. According to the exhibit’s website, “Transfer of Memory” tells the story of Holocaust survivors that now live in Minnesota. The exhibit features large colored photos of the survivors with their story written out below it. It will be displayed for the month of January and February in the airport’s terminals.
The intention of the exhibit is to tell the story of the survivors, spread awareness about the Holocaust and its survivors, and serve as a reminder of this horrific event. The “Transfer of Memory” exhibit truly gives a face to the survivors and impacts of the Holocaust even after 72 years have passed.
I think the significance of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport displaying this event is that it shows that the history and stories of the Holocaust are still very relevant and important. For the Holocaust to be remembered in conjunction with the Super Bowl- such a mainstream, American- tradition is a huge effort for mass, significant remembrance to take place. Thousands and thousands of Americans, on their way to see a football game, will be able to take one second to look the faces and read the stories of these survivors.
As we have discussed in class, the Holocaust in recent times is acknowledged in many ways, many times negatively through derogatory jokes or representations. Yet, the “Transfer of Memory” exhibit remembers the Holocaust in an appropriate way, using art and photography to give a visual memorial of the Holocaust. The survivors story’s serve as a historical account of the events and help us understand what the victims went through. I was excited to see that this will take place and that so many people will be exposed to the exhibit. The survivors stories are so meaningful and must be told. It is easy for those who were not affected by, do not study, or are uninformed about the Holocaust to forget about this tragic piece of history or feel disconnected from the victims. The “Transfer of Memory” counters this and will remind Americans that the Holocaust must still be recognized today.