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A New Film about the Holocaust Is a Dramatic Reminder That It Did Happen, JTA, Jan. 19, 1982.

Returning and Redemption
Leon Kahn, of Vancouver, Canada, like many Holocaust survivors, fears that once the survivors will be gone, the murders and atrocities committed by the Nazis will be forgotten.

It is to prevent this from happening that the Simon Wiesenthal Center at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles worked to produce the film, “”Genocide,” which had its world premier before a black tie audience at the Kennedy Center here last night.

There are 64 publications denying the truth of the Holocaust printed in the United States and Canada, Kahn told a press conference following the premier. He said in another 20 years, there would no longer be any survivors alive to bear witness. “My biggest concern is what is going to be,” he said.

Kahn’s own harrowing experience is described in the film by Elizabeth Taylor. He and other members of his family escaped into the woods and hid from the Nazis but he left his mother who refused to leave her aged grandmother. The two women were killed in the gas chambers.

It Was All Real

“I have nightmares when I returned from the studio,” Ms. Taylor, who along with Orson Welles narrated the film, told the audience last night. “The nightmares were real because what you saw (in the film) was real. So many people do not realize that. It (the Holocaust) did exist and it could exist again. It is up to people like you to keep it from happening again.”

Ms. Taylor’s remarks were made at a ceremony following the showing of the film at which she and Welles, who was not present, were presented an award by the Wiesenthal Center for donating their services. It was a painting by Daniel Schwartz, who did the illustrations for the film, of a young Polish Jewish woman as a symbol of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Also receiving this award was the chairman of the evening, Frank Sinatra, who noted that in Germany, the “countrymen of Bach and Beethoven became the custodians of Auschwitz.” He said the world must never again be indifferent to evil committed against others.

The film, which was conceived by the Wiesenthal Center was produced and directed by Schwartzman who also did the screenplay. It was also written by Rabbi Marvin Hier and Martin Gilbert, the British historian of the Holocaust period. The music was composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein.

Ms. Taylor did a masterful job at reading the words of victims and survivors. Welles was the perfect choice as the narrator. “Every word in the film is real,” Hier stressed.

Film Does A Good Job

The film does a good job in presenting the history of pre-World War II European Jewry and then an anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism, albeit in a capsule form. Through the use of actual film clips, still portraits and illustrations, it takes the viewer through every step from the Hitler takeover in Germany to the extermination camps.

Complex issues are dealt with also. The film answers effectively the charge that Jews went to their death like sheep to the slaughter. It describes Jewish resistance without overdoing it. The scenes of the victims of both those who survived and the dead when the camps were liberated will remain long in the memories of viewers. The film does not gloss over the failure of the United States and the allies to bomb the camps. At the end, it is noted that Nazi incidents continue today in the U.S. and abroad.

If there is criticism, it is that the film does not show the Displaced Persons camps after the war and the desire of the Jewish survivors to go to Israel. Israel is hardly mentioned, although to be fair, in describing how the Western nations failed to take in Jews before World War II, Welles notes there was no Israel then.

The film also noted that others besides Jews were murdered by the Nazis, although it stresses that it was the Jews who were the main focus of the Nazi extermination plans.

The heroism of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped save thousands of Hungarian Jews in World War II is also depicted in the film. Simon Wiesenthal, the Vienna-based Nazi-hunter told the audience at the ceremony that the premier was being shown on the 37th anniversary of Wallenberg’s arrest by the Red Army after it liberated Budapest in 1945. Wallenberg, who was made an honorary U.S. citizen recently, is believed to be still alive in a Soviet Prison or labor camp.

Three Outstanding Scenes

Three scenes stand out in this viewer’s mind from the film, in addition to the moving words of the witnesses read by Ms. Taylor. At one point, it is stressed that the Nazis wanted not only to kill Jews but to destroy all remnants of Jewish life. Earlier, in a segment showing the atrocities against Orthodox Jews in one Polish town, the Jews sing in defiance of the Nazis, “We shall outlive them,” a message the Holocaust should carry for all Jewry.

Finally, Wiesenthal is shown at the end of the film putting a message into the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It is- “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Wiesenthal told the press conference that 60 percent of the people alive today in the world were born after World War II. He said the film is needed to “impress” upon the youth what happened. Hier said the Wiesenthal Center is preparing a study guide to help teachers and young people better understand the film.

“Genocide” will open March 14 in New York City for an extended commercial engagement. It will then be shown in Los Angeles and Chicago and then be seen in other cities in the United States and Canada as well as abroad.

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