PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA, THE: PALEYIMPACT: EYEWITNESS: DOCUMENTING THE HOLOCAUST ON FILM {LONG VERSION}

Summary

One in a series of events and special screenings presented as part of The Paley Center for Media's Paley Impact events. Held in Los Angeles, this evening examines four upcoming or recent projects seeking to document and preserve the stories of the Holocaust.

Host Rene Reyes (vice-president of programming, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks and introduces Greg Schneider (executive vice-president, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany/Claims Conference). Schneider briefly describes the Claims Conference's goals and the importance of preserving Holocaust stories in a time of "denial and waning memory," adding that a recent poll stated that 22 percent of millennials are unfamiliar with the Holocaust.

Veteran journalist and reporter Larry King then takes the stage and introduces a five-minute clip from "Who Will Write Our History," which features reenactments of detailed diary entries written by members of the Oyneg Shabes, a secret group of Jewish prisoners trapped – and slowly starving – in the Warsaw Ghetto. After the clip, King moderates the following panelists: Roberta Grossman (director, writer and producer); Nancy Spielberg (executive producer); Andi Gitow (Director of Strategy, Partnerships and Media, USC Shoah); and Natalie Gold (Holocaust survivor).

The panelists touch on such topics as: Gold's experience losing 82 members of her family in the Holocaust; why genocides can and still do occur in the 21st century; Nancy and her famous director brother Steven as "late bloomers" in terms of understanding their cultural past; how Steven's Oscar-winning 1993 film "Schindler's List," which he resisted making for several years, changed their lives; archival records of 55,000 victim and survivor testimonies; why Gold was unable to obtain significant financial restitution from Germany's government, as she "couldn't prove things" on paper; the importance of letting survivors tell the stories of history; the roughly 70,000-80,000 remaining concentration camp survivors in the United States; the existence of Holocaust deniers, despite ample testimony and records made by the Nazis; the importance of understanding "early warning signs" in order to prevent similar tragedies; Gold's emotional reactions to hearing friends discuss ancestors and family members; disturbing current-day parallels with the years of the Holocaust, including rising anti-Semitism, white supremacist rallies and anti-journalistic accusations of "fake news" (a sentiment espoused by Hitler); acknowledging victims' individuality, as opposed to a faceless statistic like "six million"; why thorough Holocaust education should begin at an earlier age for schoolchildren; the importance of voting in fighting prejudice; and a disturbing story about the imprisoned Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann.

Next, King introduces a clip from "How I Accidentally Became a Spy," which tells the tale of Marthe Cohn, a French Jew who worked with the French Secret Service and used her intelligence and language skills to go undercover with the Nazis, at great personal risk.

After the documentary clip, King interviews the following panelists: Marthe Cohn (film subject, Holocaust survivor and former spy) and her husband Major Cohn; Michael Potter (executive producer); and Elizabeth "Barry" White Ph.D. (senior historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).

The panelists touch on such topics as: the "very interesting and dangerous" experience of being a spy; comparisons to other recent films about "small Jewish women that take on the world," including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and famed sex therapist Ruth Westheimer; Potter's fascination with his neighbor Marthe's secret past, which she kept hidden for 60 years; Major's 62-year marriage to the now almost-99-year-old Marthe; White's background as a German history expert and the challenging experience of working at the Holocaust Museum; how mailing a letter led to Marthe's sister's arrest and eventual murder in a concentration camp; Marthe's fearless reaction to threats and anti-Semitic hate while speaking around the world about her experiences; Potter's visits to Eastern Europe, where he witnessed extensive evidence of Nazi ethnic cleansing; and a harrowing incident in which young Marthe was forced to feign amusement as an S.S. officer described his involvement in various atrocities against camp prisoners.

Reyes then welcomes actress and writer Lisa Edelstein, who introduces a brief clip of "Chasing Portraits," in which Elizabeth Rynecki attempts to track down the many works of art created by her great-grandfather Moshe, a prolific painter and sculptor who was murdered in the Majdanek concentration camp.

After the clip, Edelstein moderates the following panelists: Wesley A. Fisher (Director of Research, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany); E. Randol Schoenberg (genealogist, author and co-founding partner of Burris, Schoenberg & Walden, LLP); and Elizabeth Rynecki (director/writer/producer and great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivor and painter Moshe Rynecki).

The panelists touch on such topics as: Rynecki's "visceral" sense of connection with her deceased ancestor via his artwork; why her father, born during World War II, has long been reluctant to discuss his family's painful past; the 10-year filmmaking process; the many complications and debates surrounding the true ownership of art stolen during the war, including the difficulty of tracing the origins of works created by those who were killed; Rynecki's "mixed feelings" about the rightful place of her great-grandfather's works, some of which are owned by a woman in Israel who has refused to let them be seen; comparisons to the story of Maria Altmann, the survivor who fought to recover Gustav Klimt's famous "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I," who was her aunt; the argument that "art belongs to everybody," regardless of original ownership; and their hopes for the film's potential wide release in the future.

Finally, Edelstein interviews Miriam Tasini (Holocaust survivor and professor, UCLA Medical School); Dan Sturman (director/producer); Gary Gilbert (producer/writer); and Michael Berenbaum (professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University). Their yet-to-be-completed film, "The Liegnitz Plot," follows a Nazi's alleged deathbed confession of burying a potentially priceless stamp collection, stolen from a concentration camp prisoner, within his home in Poland (no clip is shown).

The panelists touch on such topics as: Gilbert's decision to travel abroad and chase down the claim, despite little concrete evidence of the collection's existence; how director Sturman was "roped into" the improbable tale; their belief that the Nazi officer in question, likely a philatelist, stole "the best of the best" stamp collections from "Kanada," the area of Auschwitz in which prisoners' belongings were sorted through and distributed; their use of a "treasure map" photograph suggesting the collection's hidden location; Berenbaum's interest in the unusual "humor and adventure" of the Holocaust-based story, including the Nazi's choice to essentially steal from Hitler; how they found and interviewed the officer's three elderly children, who offered semi-helpful clues; Tasini's indirect involvement with the film as a result of her work with restitution efforts; ongoing questions about the true ownership of vast areas of European property confiscated during and after the war; the filmmakers' "romantic dream" of finding the collection and surprising its owner or heirs with the discovery; and their interest in creating a unique mystery story with a grim historic backdrop.

Note: This summary addresses clips that were only shown at the venue on the day of the event.


Details

  • NETWORK:
  • DATE: 6:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:56:45
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 135837
  • GENRE: Seminars
  • SUBJECT HEADING:
  • SERIES RUN:
  • COMMERCIALS:

Credits

  • Rene Reyes … Host
  • Larry King … Moderator
  • Lisa Edelstein … Moderator
  • Roberta Grossman … Panelist
  • Nancy Spielberg … Panelist
  • Andi Gitow … Panelist
  • Natalie Gold … Panelist
  • Marthe Cohn … Panelist
  • Major Cohn … Panelist
  • Michael Potter … Panelist
  • Elizabeth "Barry" White … Panelist
  • Wesley A. Fisher … Panelist
  • E. Randol Schoenberg … Panelist
  • Elizabeth Rynecki … Panelist
  • Miriam Tasini … Panelist
  • Michael Berenbaum … Panelist
  • Gary Gilbert … Panelist
  • Dan Sturman … Panelist
  • Greg Schneider … Guest
  • Maria Altmann
  • Adele Bloch-Bauer
  • Adolf Eichmann
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Gustav Klimt
  • Moshe Rynecki
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Ruth Westheimer