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, "tmasthenes13" <TomBuoyed@...>
Jeremy "Jes" Benstock, a young Jewish master of "empathic satire"
living in the UK, has made a wonderful short film about modern day
Auschwitz. The film made its American debut at the New York Jewish
Film Festival this past January!
It is a ten minute short film called:
"The Holocaust Tourist: Whatever Happened to `Never Again'?"
It is all about the "Disneyfication" of Auschwitz, that is, the
transformation of the actual death camp site into a Disney-style
heritage-theme park, complete with the Judeo-istic kitschy trappings
of bus tourism and essential creature comforts that we in the West
have come to expect from any vacation spot, historical site, or
shopping mall we would visit in the USA.
You can view the film here:
Here is a review:
with an excerpt:
"I didn't want to make a film about the holocaust," says Benstock at
the outset, "but if you're a film-maker and Jewish, it comes with the
It is the nature of `holocaust tourism' that interests -- or perhaps
that should be 'unsettles' -- Benstock. Is it right that tourist shops
have sprung up to cash in on visitors to Auschwitz? The town of Krakow
is a bustling hub of tourism. Holidaymakers eat in Jewish-themed bars
and restaurants before making a `pilgrimage' to the death camp. But is
pilgrimage the right word, or is this just another stop off on the
tourist trail "blazed by Hollywood"?
Here is a 3-minute interview of Jes about his recent work.
There is one incredible scene where Jes had come to Auschwitz for the
60th anniversary celebration of the camp's liberation in 2005. He
wanted to film the holocaust survivors leaving the camp for what would
be their last time. The scene was at night and it was snowing, and
after the ceremony, everyone else but the camp survivors had arranged
transportation out of the camp, but somehow, no one had arranged for
the actual camp survivors to leave!!! So there they were stranded once
again at the Auschwitz camp, stuck in the snow!!!
"Never Again!" had become "Once Again!" Or maybe an astoundingly
absurdist moment of "déjà vu all over again." For the very people who
fought half a century ago to have the camp preserved, well, they get
to be forgotten again!
The two signal events that turned Auschwitz into a "heritage theme
(1) the fall of communism in 1989 and
(2) the filming of "Schindler's List" there in 1992.
Spielberg's movie is as much a part of the history of the camp now as
is any Nazi brick oven used there. Jeremy actually films a tour guide
at the camp eagerly pointing out exactly where Steven
Spielberg had filmed the scenes and even had replicas of the gate
constructed as part of the movie set. So now the Spielberg gate is a
greater attraction than the actual gate!!! "Arbeit macht frei"
Other scenes of hilarious and painful irony include the Jewish-themed
restaurants that serve roast pork; even an Auschwitz Hot Dog Stand!
Then an interview with an old Jewish woodcarver lamenting the
inaccuracies and downright fraudulence of the cheap Jewish-peasant
figurines made to sell to the tourists.
The film got me thinking that this commercial exploitation is just a
normal phenomenon of our modern electronic and technological age.
Strangely enough, it actually feels like a natural and socially
acceptable form of "holocaust denial" that occurs precisely by making
a pilgrimage to the very "Ground Zero" site of the holocaust. Of
course the tourists are not LITERALLY denying that the holocaust
happened; yet in a strange way, they are denying it FIGURATIVELY while
being right there at the camp.
Consider that the actual events were so horrible and gruesome that,
now, out of social etiquette alone, tourists there must deny its
literal cruel reality, lest they either faint, throw up on each other,
or else make continual primal screams of empathic agony. It really
seems to be quite a normal, healthy and necessary numbing down of our
visceral reactions to any gruesome events. Our "mirror neurons" can
only take so much empathy. Then it's overload; the fuse blows and hey,
I'm hungry and I gotta go pee and when do we have to check out of the
So, if you can't forgive, at least forget. But if you can't forget,
make it into a Disneyland theme park!
Maybe next they'll have an all-Jewish touring company performing
"Fiddler on the Roof" at the Auschwitz Theme Park for all the American
"Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match.
Find me a find, catch me a catch
Not to mention the show-stopping number from Mel Brooks'
"Oh, it's Springtime for Hitler and Germany . . . ."
Can "Hogan's Heroes" be far behind?
Here is the website of the Jewish Museum in New York, where
"Holocaust Tourist" opened in January 2007.
"Jes Benstock takes viewers on a whistle-stop tour of kitsch Judaica
in Krakow and tour buses in Auschwitz."
What is greatly ironic --- and I'm sure they planned it that way ---
is that "The Holocaust Tourist" opened as a short for the full length
"gripping documentary" called: "Nuremberg: The Nazis facing their
Crimes," a serious treatment of the trials of 1946.
--- End forwarded message ---