The millions of viewers tuning into the Olympics to watch the incredible athletes perform are also hearing from famous commentators including Johnny Weir, former U.S. Olympic figure skater. Looking past his expertise on Olympic figure skating, as seen in a Forward article, Weir has also claimed to have been in the Holocaust in a former life.
While skimming through the Forward, the headline itself “Johnny Weir Said He Was In The Holocaust In A Past Life” caught my eye. It goes on to talk about how Weir, a Catholic, was obsessed with Holocaust as a child, wears Star of David and other Jewish related necklaces, has danced to music from “Schindler’s List,” and most strikingly claimed that he got his past lives read and was told that he was a “‘Jewish girl from Poland during World War II.'” Commenting on this, he says, “‘I mean, it makes sense if you think about it. Like, what 4-year-old gets into learning about how 6 million people were exterminated?'”
This article left me conflicted as I tried to uncover what type of story this was telling about the Holocaust. This seems like a trivial way to connect to the Holocaust. It seems as though Weir has many connections to Judaism including his recent marriage to a Jewish man and his expressed interest to convert to Judaism, yet to me it is inappropriate to try and connect to the Holocaust while thousands of individuals and their families are still living out its effects everyday. The events of the Holocaust are so unfathomable and tragic that it is trivial to casually claim you were a part of it in a past life. When remembering the Holocaust, it is important to refraining from sensationalizing the tragedy.
Link to the Forward Article: https://forward.com/fast-forward/394143/johnny-weir-said-he-was-in-the-holocaust-in-a-past-life/?attribution=blog-article-listing-1-headline
In an attempt to promote a new law censoring how people speak and write about Poland’s relationship to the Holocaust, Poland has rolled out a series of social media campaigns that seek to change the narrative of Polish compliance with the Nazi regime. Part of the campaign is an advertisement that is being shown as sponsored content on YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
To add to the strangeness, the advertisement is not just being shown in America. The other country it can currently be found in is Israel, meaning that the two countries with the largest Jewish populations in the world are the target audience of the ad. In spite of the falsehoods it presents, the video doesn’t actually violate any of the social media websites’ advertising policies and so it will continue to show on some of the most widely used social media available
In class we have discussed the different approaches to shaping the individual survivors’ narratives, and to me this seems like a slap in the face to anyone who experienced atrocities in Poland or at the hands of Poles. In trying to re-frame the narrative to make their country look better the creators of this law and this advertisement are completely invalidating the experiences of survivors. This feels like gas-lighting on a massive scale, and I can’t even begin to explain how surreal it feels for Jewish people to have something like this pop up as they’re trying to watch distracting YouTube videos.
Here is a link to a Vice article on the subject as well:
Buzzfeed produced a short video where a woman tells the story of how her grandmother survived the Holocaust. This video gives a heartfelt look into the struggles this woman faced and her will to live throughout an impossible situation.
This story describes how her mother fought back against Nazi soldiers. When the Nazis tried to shoot her into the ground, she managed to play dead until she could hide. After the guards found her hiding place they imprisoned her. Leon, her friend, bribed the guard with a diamond he had sewn into his jacket and they let her go.
The production of this story by Buzzfeed is timely with the recent Holocaust remembrance day and it tells a powerful story. It helps to both give remembrance to the holocaust and evokes important individual memories and experience. The format that this video is in makes it accessible to wider audience. This video on Facebook got 1,512,585 views, 8,107 shades, and over 800 comments. Reaching a wider audience, especially in the format of social media, is important to preserving the memory of the holocaust. Social media allows people of all age groups to access and expose them to this material in a way that other mediums can not.
Spielberg’s production company has announced a new WWII film told from a woman’s perspective. He is basing his movie on the book Daughters of the Resistance” by Judy Batalion. Her book focuses on young Jewish women who fought in the resistance against the Nazis. It is based off of first hand accounts written in Yiddish found by the author, who is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. This film will provide a new perspective of the war as many recounts have been told my men in positions of power. I see this film as an important addition to the many Hollywood depictions of WWII as it offers more insight into the lives of resistance fighters and is told from the perspective of a woman.
Many American citizens, especially the younger generation, look to Hollywood for information on WWII and the Holocaust. By having a more personable and relatable representation of something so animalistic and dehumanizing, people are more likely to turn to these aspects of remembrance over ones which lay out the gory details of the Holocaust. Although this can be problematic as movies tend to downplay the realities of the Holocaust.
As explained in the Holocaust Remembrance day Video posted by ATTN, many people haven’t heard of the Holocaust, or deny that it happened. Having Steven Spielberg release another film on the Holocaust can help bring awareness of the Holocaust as it will most likely be very popular when it’s released. In order to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, it’s important that more people talk about it, even through the release of a film.
This article was published on the Forward on February 9, 2018:
The video opens with Shulman quoting a The Atlantic article, reading, “2/3rds of the world either hasn’t heard of the Holocaust or denies that it even happened.” I thought this number had to be incorrect, so I found the article to make sure. What Shulman says is right—only 56% of the world’s population has even heard of the Holocaust.
Shulman makes a statement that the memory of the Holocaust is fading, and at the same time white supremacy is rising. I would argue that the memory for the Holocaust isn’t fading—we see accounts and mentions of the events regularly in media and discussions. What he draws this conclusion on is from The Atlantic article, but that number is talking about the world. The article itself (found here) talks about how the majority of those who don’t know about the events of the Holocaust are in African and Asian countries. A research article I found from Harvard (here) says that 80% of Americans are informed about the Holocaust. The video is certainly geared towards an American audience—the company is American, the host is American, it uses American articles for evidence, and talks about white supremacy in America—so why use data not about the topic on hand? In my opinion this somewhat sensualizes the video, making it less effective, and overall more of an entertain piece more than an informative video (it was made specifically for Facebook after all).
What I do like about the video is a theme that we’ve already discussed: teaching what happened during the holocaust to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. Shulman worries that we may “be headed down the same path”, but I believe that to be dramatic. He verges on comparing white supremacist gatherings to the Holocaust. Sure, Hitler’s movement had to start somewhere, and worrying about the power of white supremacists is valid, but warning people that another Holocaust could happen if we’re not careful in a 3 minute Facebook video seems like a bit much.
ATTN:’s video https://www.facebook.com/attn/videos/1638589509509835/
I would say almost everyone in America knows who Gal Godot is, I mean she is Wonder Woman for heaven’s sake. Something that stirred controversy when she was first cast was the fact that she was Israeli and Jewish herself. This puts the fact that she is remembering the Holocaust in a brand new light. Since she identifies as Jewish, it makes sense that she wants everyone in the world to remember such a horrific time in her people’s history. She wants to bring honor to the victims, however, fleeting they may be currently. I was completely surprised when I stumbled across her post just scrolling through insta because I had no idea that it was a day dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust.
The interesting thing here, is that she is using her station, as someone famous, to impolore her usage of the #WeRemember. She has a much wider reach than a lot of other Jewish people might and she is using that power to promote the remembrance of the Holocaust. You can see from the photo that over one million people liked the post, and in that bunch I know a couple of my friends who are white and American happened to like it as well. This just kind of shows the difference between our cultures, I think. I did not see anyone else posting about it on any of my social media, but someone who was connected to it and from Israel still feels its importance.
On Bill Maher’s talk show, “Real Time”, last night, Maher discussed his favorite subject, Donald Trump. On this particular show Maher also decided to make a Holocaust joke. Maher started by talking about how Melania and Donald Trump’s wedding anniversary was the other day and how Melania was supposed to be on a diplomatic trip with him, but insinuated that because of the allegations of an affair between Trump and an adult film star Melania stayed home. The comedian finished the bit by saying that Melania went to the Holocaust Museum, which she went to on Thursday to honor Holocaust Memorial Day, in order commiserate with the victims. Maher was implying that Melania’s situation of being married to Trump was similar what Holocaust victims, joking that she wrote “I know the feeling” in the guestbook at the entrance.
To me, jokes like this minimize the reality of what Holocaust victims and survivors went through. For someone to say that a woman who made the choice to marry a billionaire and has everything she could ask for is in a similar situation to Holocaust victims because he doesn’t like the person she married isn’t original or funny in my opinion, and even the crowd groans when he says it. As we have discussed in class there are certain situations in which it might be possible to make a joke that has to do with the Holocaust, but I don’t think the context of either the comedian’s relationship to Judaism or the context of the joke makes it work. My concern with jokes like this is that people who see it but don’t know how horrific the Holocaust really was will never take the time to learn what happened, which is exactly how we get wide spread ideas that the Holocaust doesn’t matter or that Jews need to stop talking about it.
I’ve also attached a link to the Washington Examiner article that I first heard about the incident in: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/bill-maher-makes-a-holocaust-joke-about-melania-trumps-marriage/article/2647302