Tag Archives: Auschwitz

Honeytraps and birthday calls: Secret file reveals Mossad efforts to net Mengele

Some of the creative methods used by Israel’s Mossad, described in a long-buried secret file documenting the intelligence service’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to capture the notorious Nazi doctor and “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele, were to be released this week by Israeli media, 50 years on.

In the run-up to a full expose on Friday, the mass circulation daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published excerpts in Hebrew from the so-called Meltzer File about break-ins, attempts to wiretap, and even plant a lover to seduce Mengele’s son.

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Sean Spicer Apologizes For Holocaust Remarks

“It was a mistake,” the White House press secretary said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologized Tuesday for his remarks on the Holocaust, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that his comments during a White House press briefing were a “mistake.”

Discussing the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime on Tuesday, Spicer argued that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” (That is false: The Nazis, under Hitler’s leadership, gassed millions of Jewish people in concentration camps.)

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‘Their message is urgent’: the Holocaust survivor and his 7,000 pieces of antisemitic propaganda

When Arthur Langerman was two, his parents were sent to Auschwitz. As his collection of antisemitic works opens in Normandy, he explains his obsession.

The drawing is detailed, dramatic and disgusting. Called The Jew, Universal Enemy, it shows Christ on the cross and churches in flames, overseen by a sinister, red-lipped, voracious face. Philipp Rupprecht, better known as Fips, composed this caricature for the notorious Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer in 1937. He also illustrated a 1938 children’s book Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom), intended to educate young Germans about the Jewish menace.

Rupprecht was sentenced to 10 years hard labour after the war. His work is among 150 pieces of antisemitic propaganda – posters, drawings and objects – on show at the Caen-Normandy Memorial Museum, in an exhibition called Heinous Cartoons 1886-1945: The Antisemitic Corrosion in Europe. They depict sinister, red-faced, obese capitalists smoking cigars on the backs of oppressed workers. They show grotesque communists clamping chains on a suffering Aryan. They portray Jews as rats and vermin. As the dates in the title suggest, the exhibition chronicles how anti-semitism grew at the end of the 19th century and reached a horrible culmination in the Holocaust.

Continue reading ‘Their message is urgent’: the Holocaust survivor and his 7,000 pieces of antisemitic propaganda

Auschwitz survivor spends 71st Valentine’s Day with soldier who rescued her

A Hungarian Jew is preparing to spend her 71st Valentine’s Day with the Scottish soldier who rescued her from Auschwitz.

Edith Steiner was 20 when John Mackay’s commando unit liberated her and a number of other Jewish prisoners from the concentration camp in Poland.

She caught the eye of the then 23-year-old John at a village hall dance to celebrate their liberation but he was too shy to approach her.

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UTA Lands ‘Son of Saul’ Writer-Director Laszlo Nemes

‘Son of Saul,’ the Hungarian helmer’s debut, won the Grand Prix award at Cannes earlier this year.

One of the hottest agency pursuits at Cannes this year has finally made his choice. Laszlo Nemes-Jeles, whose Son of Saul wowed audiences on the Riviera and nabbed the festival’s Grand Prix, has signed with UTA, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Nemes’ achievement was all the more impressive given that Son of Saul, an Auschwitz drama about a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner who tries to arrange a proper burial for the body of a young boy, was his directorial debut.

From left, actor Todd Charmont, director Laszlo Nemes, screenwriter Clara Royer, actors Geza Rohrig, Urs Rechn, and Levente Molnar pose for photographers as they arrive for the screening of the film Saul Fia (Son of Saul) at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
From left, actor Todd Charmont, director Laszlo Nemes, screenwriter Clara Royer, actors Geza Rohrig, Urs Rechn, and Levente Molnar pose for photographers as they arrive for the screening of the film Saul Fia (Son of Saul) at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau) 

As buzz spread around Cannes, the Hungarian-born helmer quickly became one of the festival’s most-desired unsigned talents even before his film won its second-highest honor.

Son of Saul is set to play the Toronto International Film Festival, as it moves on to the fall festival festival circuit prior to its release by Sony Pictures Classics.

Hungary already has announced the film as its official foreign-language submission for the 2016 Academy Awards. Nemes, who was raised in Paris before studying filmmaking at NYU, was previously nominated for best short film at the European Academy Awards.

Cannes: ‘Son of Saul’ Epitomizes Spirit, Ambition of Hungarian Cinema, National Film Fund Chief Says

'Son of Saul' Epitomizes Spirit, Ambition

At the Cannes Film Festival, Hungarian film “Son of Saul” was one of the standout pics, winning acclaim from critics, selling to buyers worldwide, including to Sony Pictures Classics for North America, and winning both the festival’s Grand Prix and the top prize of the international critics’ body, Fipresci.

Laszlo Nemes’ Holocaust drama, which was the only directorial feature debut in Cannes’ competition, and the only pic from Eastern Europe to play in that section, is the source of great pride for Agnes Havas, CEO of the Hungarian National Film Fund, as it was a 100% Hungarian-financed project.

“The film is closest to our spirit,” Havas told Variety.

Nemes and the film’s producers, Gabor Rajna and Gabor Sipos, had gone on a tour of Europe trying to find co-production partners, but were unsuccessful.

Havas’ fund stepped in with 75% of the budget — Euros 1.1 million ($1.2 million) out of a total budget of Euros 1.5 million ($1.63 million) — and the rest came from the Hungarian tax credit, which is also public money.

Havas and the fund’s five-strong decision-making committee had great faith in the project and in Nemes’ talent, she says. His route to directing his first feature was not swift, but the time was well spent.

He moved to Budapest in 2003, and was Bela Tarr’s assistant for two years, working on such films as “The Man from London.” He later studied directing in New York, and helmed three short films, one of which, “With a Little Patience,” competed at the Venice Film Festival.

All three shorts were supported by the Hungarian state. During this period, he was able to hone his craft and identify those who would later join his crew on “Son of Saul.”

The film’s cinematographer, Matyas Erdely, and sound designer, Tamas Zanyi, in particular played a key part in the film’s success.

When Havas attended the premiere screening of the film at Cannes, she was struck by the audience’s response and its effect on the director.

“That was a very uplifting moment for us because there was silence in the hall throughout the screening, and then at the end credits everybody stood up and applauded. Laszlo opened his arms to receive the warm reception,” she says.

She describes Nemes as “a very modest guy,” but adds that he is ambitious when it comes to playing his part in world cinema.

“He could have made a feature earlier, but he, along with his co-writer Clara Royer, put together the structure of the script with meticulous care,” she says.

When Havas met with a delegation from Prague’s FAMU film school, she told them:

“This is your film too. It is the only film from Eastern Europe in competition, and we share a common history — especially in this respect,”

referring to the fact that the Nazis took Jewish people from across Eastern Europe to Auschwitz, where the film is set, and the other death camps. Havas is now focusing on the new projects that have received funding from her organization.

These include Gabor Herendi’s period romantic drama “Kincsem,” which is about a champion racehorse.

The project, which received 97.8 million HUF ($344,000) from the film fund, focuses on a feud between a Hungarian aristocrat, Erno Blaskovich, and an Austrian military man, Otto von Oettingen, and Blaskovich’s tempestuous love affair with von Oettingen’s unruly daughter, Klara.

It is set to begin filming in July. The film is produced by Tamas Hutlassa (“Land of Storms”) and is co-produced by Herendi, who had a box office hit in Hungary with “A Kind of America.”

Another highlight of the slate is Roland Vranik’s “The Citizen,” which is set in modern-day Budapest and deals with the sometimes difficult issue of immigration through a love story told with humor and empathy.

The main protagonist is Wilson, who lost his family in a war in Africa, and fled to Budapest as a political refugee. He now works in a supermarket as a security guard and his one aim in life is to become a Hungarian citizen.

The film is based on a screenplay co-written by Vranik and Ivan Szabo (“Land of Storms”). Vranik’s first film, “Black Brush,” won the main prize at Hungarian Film Week, and his second film, “Transmission,” enjoyed success at film festivals around the world.

“The Citizen” is being produced by Karoly Feher at Popfilm. The fund contributed a production grant of 310 million HUF ($1.09 million).

Lastly, “On Body and Soul” is the latest film from Ildiko Enyedi, who won Cannes’ Camera d’Or for “My 20th Century.”

The romantic melodrama “On Body and Soul” is based “around the duality of sleeping and waking, mind and matter.” Speaking about the project, Enyedi has commented:

“What would happen if you met someone, who dreamed the same as you or, to be more precise, had been meeting you in the same world every night for years? Would you be pleased? Or would you feel that you had been in some way robbed? And what if this specific individual didn’t exactly appeal to you? What if you actually hated that person?”

The film is produced by Andras Muhi and Monika Mecs’ Inforg-M&M Film. The fund contributed 430 million HUF ($1.51 million).

Son of Saul’s astonishing recreation of Auschwitz renews Holocaust debate

László Nemes’s drama of a Sonderkommando’s private grief amidst public horror demurs from the usual spectacles of Holocaust – and ratchets up the aural impressions.

The leading actor in an acclaimed film about prisoners employed in body disposal at the concentration camp has urged for greater understanding of the horrors such men faced

The star of one of Cannes’s most controversial – and acclaimed – movies so far has launched an impassioned defence of the Sonderkommando, the group of concentration camp prisoners who oversaw the deaths of millions in the gas chambers and then disposed of the bodies.

Geza Rohrig and, left, László Nemes, the director of Son of Saul, at the film’s press conference. Photograph: Tristan Fewings/EPA

Géza Röhrig, who makes his screen debut in Son of Saul as a Jewish man forced to perform such tasks, reacted with anger to the suggestion, made by a journalist, that members of the Sonderkommando were “half-victim, half-hangman”.

“There has to be a clarification,” he said. “They are 100% victims. They have not spilled blood or been involved in any sort of killing. They were inducted on arrival under the threat of death.

They had no control of their destinies. They were as victimised as any other prisoners at in Auschwitz.”

Röhrig conceded that such confusion did persist, with even Primo Levi having insisted that the Sonderkommando were in some sense collaborators.

“Of the 20 or so who are still alive many didn’t reveal their work even to their families after the war because they were regarded so negatively. But in 2015, no one should call them part-killer.”

The film, which has attracted a raft of five-star reviews, is also the debut of its 38-year-old director, László Nemes. Set as the Allies approach in October 1944, it unfolds over a day and a half as the prisoners plot a rebellion and Saul comes across the body of a young man to whom he wishes to give a proper burial. Its vivid, handheld shooting style, which gives the horrors of the Holocaust a new immediacy, can be regarded as an attempt to honour the dead in appropriate fashion, as its protagonist does.

Nemes and his co-writer drew inspiration from the testimony of such prisoners written at the time, but said they wanted to avoid “the stuff of books”.

“We didn’t want to stand back from the situation, to establish a historical distance. We can’t put post-war emotions on it. We didn’t want to make a beautiful film full of icons, or for it to be emotional in the conventional sense. Because after several months, these men are empty of conventional emotions.”

Son of Saul

Though many audience members have confessed to finding the film a troubling watch, graphic content is largely kept blurred in the margins of the screen; the camera’s focus remains on its leading man’s face. Likewise the audio mix tones down the terrors.

“A really realistic sound would have heard nothing but people crying because they were dying,” said Nemes. “We tried to be very restrained. Cinema seems more and more keen on giving more and more. I think less is more and the right way was to rely on the imagination of viewers to reconstruct something that cannot be reconstructed. For them to create in the mind the experience of the extermination camp.”

The film is the only Hungarian title in competition. The producers had hoped it would be a co-production but funding bodies in France and Israel turned it down on account of the subject matter’s “riskiness”.

It is expected that the film, which tackles a time in history Jean-Luc Godard famously felt cinema had failed to properly address, will go home with a prominent prize next Sunday evening. Nemes’s direction has taken the lion’s share of praise, but many are also tipping Röhrig, whose traumatised detachment fills almost every frame.

“The expectation was for me to dance in a very small area in a very minimalist way,” he said. “Usually you are able to shine and create moments. Not here.” The actor also said the experience of the shoot had triggered a personal crisis of faith. “As a person who believes in God, I had an experience making this that was very struggling and hard.”

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