Friday, July 5, 2024

Green Border 2023 Agnieszka Holland's New Film


Green Border
A new film about Europe's migrant crisis is making headlines


Green Border, in Polish, Zielona Granica, is a 2023 feature film. The film depicts the Belarus – European Union Border Crisis that began in 2021 and continues today. Polish film industry veteran, 75-year-old Agnieszka Holland, directed Green Border, co-produced it, and co-wrote the script. Polish government officials condemned the film. Holland has received death threats and she requires security. Green Border champions activists who provide food, medicine, foot massages, and legal advice to migrants. This reviewer believes that Green Border is well-made and well-meaning but incorrect.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Treasure 2024 Lena Dunham Stephen Fry


Treasure 2024
 Lena Dunam's Auschwitz tour does more harm than good.


Treasure is a tragicomedy starring Lena Dunham, the 38-year-old behind the HBO phenom, Girls (2012 – 2017). Her co-star is Stephen Fry, a 66-year-old English comedian. Treasure opened in the U.S. on June 14, 2024.


Treasure takes place in February, 1991. Ruth Rothwax travels with her father, Edek, to Auschwitz, where he and his wife had been prisoners. Their chauffeur is Stefan (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a cabbie. The film ends with Ruth and Edek hugging, crying, and apologizing for past failures to express love. Finally, Ruth and Edek unearth actual, buried treasure.

"Holocaust Death Toll on English Channel Island Is Raised by Hundreds" New York Times


Holocaust Death Toll on English Channel Island Is Raised by Hundreds

A panel of academics said it found more conclusive evidence of how many people were killed during the Nazi occupation of Alderney, one of the Channel Islands in British territory.

A panel of historians examining the Nazi occupation of the island of Alderney during World War II settled on a range of deaths that surpassed a previous estimate. It also documented the lack of prosecution after the war.

By Claire Moses

May 22, 2024

A long-running debate about a small part of Britain's Holocaust history has been settled.

A panel of historians tasked with investigating the death toll in Alderney, a British Crown Dependency and one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel, has adjusted the island's historical record, adding several hundred people to an official count from the 1940s.

Lord Eric Pickles, Britain's special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, announced last July that a panel of experts would try to settle the — at times heated — debate. On Wednesday, he presented the findings with members of the panel in a packed room at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The panel did not come to an exact number. It concluded that the likely range of deaths was between 641 and 1,027, with a maximum number of 1,134 people. A previous estimate had put the number of deaths below 400.

The panel also answered the question of how many forced laborers and prisoners — the vast majority of whom were men — were on the island during the occupation between 1940 and 1945, concluding that there were between 7,608 and 7,812 people. Most of them were forced laborers from the Soviet Union. That number also included 594 Jewish prisoners from France.

 "We are absolutely confident about these numbers," Mr. Pickles said. "The truth can never harm us.

Although the panel's original remit had been to focus solely on the numbers, that turned out not to be enough, Mr. Pickles said. Over the last nine months, the panel widened its scope and investigated the question of why Britain never held any of the Nazi perpetrators responsible for mistreatment that included beatings, shootings, malnutrition and horrific working conditions...

Read full article here 

Friday, May 10, 2024

George Takei, Candace Owens, and the Keffiyeh

 George Takei, Candace Owens, and the Keffiyeh
Social media reveals the power of the West's new religion

The West has retreated from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Atheists and Marxists demonize that tradition. Their new worldview is not an absence of religion; humans cannot live without religion. All humans believe in dogma; practice rituals; quote scripture; embrace a tribe; elevate teachers, healers, and saviors; model themselves after saints; interpret patterns from apparent chaos; and insist on a larger meaning.

A new religion practiced by many in the West is distinguished by several features. Genesis and Talmudic commentary insist that we are all equally made in the image of God; and we all equally descend, literally or spiritually, from the first couple, Adam and Eve. That is, the Judeo-Christian God did not create better or worse versions of humanity. In Christianity, all humans are flawed because all humans have free will and use that free will to choose away from God. Thus, we are all responsible for the problem of evil. All humans are in need of the salvation offered by Jesus. All humans benefit from humble self-reflection, confession, and repentance. Through God's grace, we are all capable of manifesting God's love in a broken world, no matter how low we have fallen.

In the West's new religion, equality is rejected. Some are good and some are bad based on their ethnicity, sex, or skin color. Guilt, shame, and the problem of evil are assigned to the West. Beneficence is found as far from the West as possible. Non-whites are better than whites. Jews are better than Christians and Muslims are better than both. Human value is relative and depends on context. A black Christian is of greater value than a white Christian and of less value than a white Muslim. Islam is prioritized because it is recognized as a greater threat to the West.

Those influenced by this new faith view moral questions through the lens of relativism. Relativism is applied selectively. Relativism is used, for example through whataboutism, to excuse atrocities committed by Muslims. "Sure, the Muslim Conquest of India is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of eighty million people, but what about the Europeans killing Native Americans?" Leftist relativism, which appears to be a flexible system that encourages open-minded tolerance of human failing, is in fact rigidly intolerant. Leftist Atheists never use relativism to relativize the West's failings. Followers of the Church of the Anti-West never say, "Sure, the arrival of Europeans in the Americas resulted in the deaths of Native Americans, but what about the Muslim Conquest of India that is estimated to have killed eighty million people?"

Atrocities committed by non-whites are often attributed to whites. The Rwandan genocide is all the fault of the white man. "The Rwandan Genocide must first be seen as the product of Belgian colonialism," insists the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In contrast, the same institution's page devoted to the Armenian Genocide never mentions the word "Muslim" and mentions "Islam" only once – as a great monotheistic religion, but not as a factor in the genocide of Christian Armenians, as well as Christian Greeks and Assyrians, by Turkish Muslims.

The Hindu caste system, one of the worst human rights abuses in history, is rooted in the myth of Purusha in the Rig Veda, composed over three thousand years ago. Anti-Western voices, though, blame the Hindu caste system on British colonialism. Again, the reverse process never takes place. No one points out that, for example, whites in North America committed atrocities against Native Americans after the whites' loved ones were kidnapped, killed, or tortured by Native Americans. Similarly, if you mention antisemitism, you must pair it with "Islamophobia." You can, though, mention Islamophobia without mentioning antisemitism.

The Church of the Anti-West renders judgment taboo. One must not judge – non-Westerners. Cannibalism, clitoridectomy, tribal warfare, child marriage, honor killing, and, perhaps most ironic of all, unquestioning adherence to irrational dogma, are all excused with "don't judge," and, of course, with relativism. I've been told numerous times that clitoridectomy is comparable to the Catholic confirmation ceremony.

The Judeo-Christian tradition addresses the problem of evil with the process of confession, repentance, and reintegration. The Old Testament king David sinned grievously, murdering Uriah to gain sexual access to Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David. David confessed, was punished, repented, and was reintegrated. The new religion rejects confession, repentance, and reintegration for whites and for the West. Muslim terrorists can be received back into society. White men must always remain outside the circle of community.

I had three encounters recently on social media that demonstrated these features of the West's new religion. I title these encounters "The Keffiyeh and the Rainbow," "George Takei and Japanese Internment," and "Candace Owens and Catholicism."

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

"Shocked, Shocked" Jews Blame Poles for the Holocaust: New Poll


My book, Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype explores the image of Poles and other Eastern European, peasant-descent, Christian populations as the world's worst antisemites. 

A recent poll, as reported in the Times of Israel, provides new verification of one of the main points of Bieganski. 

From the Times of Israel article

Asked whether “the Polish people [are] responsible for their Jewish neighbors being destroyed in the Holocaust,” 47% of Israelis replied: “Yes, exactly like the Germans,” and another 25% said “only partly.” Only 11% of Israelis surveyed said that the Polish nation was also a victim of the Holocaust, and another 18 gave no answer.

Full article is here  

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Irena's Vow 2023 Film Review


Irena's Vow

A new film dramatizes the life of an almost unbelievable heroine

Irena's Vow is a 2023 film dramatizing the World War II heroism of a young Polish nursing student, Irena Gut. Irena's Vow is a two-hour, color film. It was shot in Poland. The film is in English. It received a limited US release in April, 2024. Irena's Vow has an 86% professional reviewer rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 93% fan reviewer rating. Veteran reviewer Rex Reed calls Irena's Vow "One of the most astounding holocaust stories." He says, "It’s true, if fantastic." The film is "anchored by the powerful, heartfelt performance of Sophie Nelisse as an innocent girl whose integrity and resolve turns her into a woman of maturity and strength." Roman Haller, a Holocaust survivor, says, "It is a very great film. I expected a good film, but it is even more than I expected. … I saw my mother. I saw my father. I saw Irena … She was like a mother to me … I want to tell you there were people like that."

Dr. Glenn R. Schiraldi wrote the 2007 book, World War II Survivors: Lessons in Resilience. He devoted a chapter to Irena Gut Opdyke. She was, he writes, "a diminutive, elegant woman with warm, radiant blue eyes and delicate features. She is one of the kindest, most loving women I have encountered. She reminds one of Mother Teresa. As she spoke, I often found myself choking back tears."

Dan Gordon is a veteran screenwriter and also a former captain in the Israeli Defense Forces. Gordon says, "About 25 years ago, I was driving to my home in Los Angeles and listening to the radio. I heard a woman, Irene Gut Opdyke, telling her story. When I got home, I sat in the car in the driveway for another hour and a half, because I couldn’t stop listening." He worked for years to get the film made.

Director Louise Archambault is a French Canadian. When she first viewed the script, she says, her reaction was "Wow. What an amazing woman. If that script had been fiction, I would have refused it" because no one would believe it. But, "I fell in love with that character." Irena's story is "relevant. We want to tell that story today in 2024." Even though many films have been made about WW II, we haven't seen, Archambault says, WW II from the eyes of a young Polish Catholic girl forced by Nazis to work for them. Approximately 1.5 million Poles were forced to work for Nazi Germany, often under slave labor conditions and at the cost of their health and their lives.

Because Archambault had a relatively meager budget of five million dollars and only twenty-nine days for shooting, she developed an intimate, rather than epic style. Irena's Vow isn't Saving Private Ryan; the deaths we see are of individuals; they are murdered in a sickeningly intimate way. Yes, there is horror in the story, but there is also genuine "love, hope, and light." Archambault benefited from filming Polish actors, with a Polish crew, in Poland. They all know the history, she said; their grandparents lived it. They brought their personal experiences to the film. Also, "I put my energy on character, on human behavior."

Events in Poland contributed to the set's atmosphere. Refugees from Ukraine were arriving with their belongings in their hands and on their backs. "Every day we were reminded that war was going on next door." There was a "big van" with "big guys" on the set necessary for insurance purposes. "If shooting starts here" – shooting with bullets not with cameras – "we need to get everyone out of here."

Given how good this movie is, and how remarkable Irena's story is, one has to wonder why the film has received so little publicity and such a limited release. I have my suspicions as to what cultural trends may have sidelined Irena's Vow. More on that, below.

Monday, April 22, 2024

UK Jew Detained by Police for Being "Openly Jewish." Gideon Falter


The UK surrendered to jihad a while back. Witness the grooming gang scandals. Mostly but not exclusively Muslim males organized rape gangs for vulnerable young British girls. Police, social workers, teachers, taxi drivers, etc, knew about these gangs and did nothing because, as many said later, they were afraid of being called "racist" for identifying Muslim perpetrators. 

Hatun Tash is a Turkish-born former Muslim convert to Christianity. Muslims harass, threaten, bully, and rough up Hatun Tash regularly. Police stand by and do nothing. A man stabbed Hatun Tash repeatedly. He has never been arrested. Rather, UK police arrested Hatun Tash for saying things that Muslims don't like. 

Now Gideon Falter, a  UK Jew, was detained by police. The police say they detained him in order to keep him safe from harm. Evidently, the British surrender to jihad imperils Jews. 

If you think Jews are the only ones being so imperiled, you are mistaken. 

Read more about Gideon Salter in the Times of Israel here

Sunday, April 21, 2024


 Wikipedia reports, 

 Some 25,000 Polish underground fighters, including 300 top Home Army officers, were captured by NKVD units and SMERSH operational groups in the fall of 1944. They suffered mass deportations to the gulags.

Is this accurate? If it is not accurate, what are the real numbers, and what is the source of the numbers? 

Thank you in advance. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Polish "Slave" / "Forced" Laborers under Nazi Occupation

Liberated forced laborer
A doctor of the U.S. Army examines a former forced labourer from Russia who was ill with tuberculosis. The Americans had discovered the sick forced labourers in a barrack yard in Dortmund. Dortmund, 30 April 1945.

Female forced labourers from the Soviet Union on their arrival at the Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942. Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

Author, translator, and historian Filip Mazurczak responded to my Facebook mention of the terms "forced laborer" and "slave laborer" to refer to Poles and others forced to work for Nazis during WW II. I found his response so interesting I requested and received permission to repost it here.

Filip Mazurczak writes:

I use the two terms interchangeably. During the war, 1.5 million Poles were sent to Germany to work as slave laborers. They lived in barracks, and running away from them carried grave punishments, including death. And in German occupied Poland, there were many forced labor camps for both Jews and non-Jewish Poles. The difference was that Jews, if they were not killed in the labor camps, were then shipped off to concentration and extermination camp and killed. Non-Jewish Poles, however, did have a chance of surviving them, although many were shot for resistance or died of hunger and disease amidst the appalling sanitary conditions.

Today, in fact, when writing my dissertation, I dealt with how the underground press in Krakow wrote about the Szebnie forced labor camp. Szebnie is in Sub-Carpathian, 10 km outside Jasło and 42 outside Rzeszów. Maybe a history of this camp can be useful. The camp was originally established for Soviet POWs; the intention was to starve them to death. Locals were strictly banned from coming into contact with inmates, but some of them did bring the POWs food. Almost all of the Soviets died of starvation or typhus and dysentery. There were epidemics of these diseases among the Soviet POWs thanks to the terrible hygiene standards: they were given one uniform each and both worked and slept in it, and they were not given the opportunity to bathe. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Soviet POWs are estimated to have died in Szebnie. During the war, more than 3 million Soviet POWs died in German captivity. This is one of the great tragedies of the war, yet it is IMO relatively unknown.

In 1942, having killed most the Soviet POWs, the Germans turned Szebnie into a forced labor camp for Poles and Jews. I couldn't find what kind of labor they engaged in exactly. Some of the non-Jewish Poles at Szebnie were killed, but the Germans' intention was to eventually kill all the Jews. Many of them were shot on the roads outside the camp near houses, so there were many local witnesses. According to some testimonies, after the executions streams of human blood flowed to the nearby villages. The killed prisoners were buried in mass graves or incinerated; later, the soil was plowed to get rid of traces of human ashes and cover up the crime. The remaining Jews were later all deported to KL Plaszow or Belzec, where they were killed.

There were thousands of forced labor camps in occupied Poland, but Szebnie was one of the most brutal. In total, 10,000 Soviet POWs, Jews, and Poles were killed there. I also just read a lot about it today, so it's fresh on my mind. While non-Jewish Poles could realistically survive slave labor, able-bodied Jews were exploited for slave labor and, if they didn't survive, would eventually be killed.

In Kraków, where I live, there was a forced labor camp named Liban. "Liban" is Lebanon in Polish, but the camp doesn't have anything to do with the Middle Eastern country. For a long time, I wondered about the name origin, but eventually I read somewhere that Liban was the family name of the industrialists who owned the quarry there. During the war, the Germans used 2,000 Poles and Ukrainians as slave labor there. Many were killed for insubordination or attempting to escape or died because of the horrible conditions, and there is a mass grave with a monument with the Polish eagle to commemorate them.

Interestingly, the scenes at KL Plaszow in the movie "Schindler's List" were shot at Liban. A whole concentration camp set was built, and some of the set remains. If you're curious about why it wasn't shot at Plaszow, which is literally next to Liban, the fact is that literally nothing is left of KL Plaszow today. In 1944, as the Red Army was advancing westwards, the Germans forced the inmates of KL Plaszow to destroy the camp infrastructure to cover up the evidence. There is not a single barrack left. All that remains is the "Gray House," which is where the staff of KL Plaszow lived. There are also several monuments: the biggest is a socialist realist tribute to the victims of fascism built in the 1960s that's visible when you go to Wieliczka or the Bonarka shopping mall and smaller monuments to Hungarian Jews killed there, Polish Jewish victims, and several dozen members of Poland's "Blue" police who were shot in Plaszow for being agents of the Polish underground. There is also a big cross with a crown of thorns erected at the main place where the camp's most notorious SS-man, Albert Hujar (like many of the most sadistic SS-men, he was from Austria, which gave the Reich a disproportionate number of camp commandants and guards, including KL Plaszow's commandant Amon Goeth, famous for shooting at prisoners from the villa of his balcony for target practice) carried out shootings. 

The problem is that what used to be KL Plaszow is now a green space, and a very pleasant one. In the spring and summer, you will see many couples holding hands, people walking their dogs, and families with baby strollers walking there, on the very ground where thousands of Poles and Jews were mistreated and killed. There are signs that say that this is the site of the martyrdom to thousands and to show the proper respect, but people still have picnics there and drunks litter the former concentration camp with bottles. If there is nothing left of the infrastructure, it's kind of difficult for people to treat this as something other than a park. Fortunately, there are plans to build a museum there, but this decision is decades late.

I found an interesting article (in Polish) about the forced labor camp in Szebnie. I found out some of the kinds of work the inmates were forced to do: picking beets, working in a nearby oil refinery, and asphalting roads. As punishments, inmates were forced to do pointless but backbreaking labor such as lifting heavy furniture. The article also quotes Edwin Biberstein-Opoczyński (who was Jewish, since his testimony comes from the 301 archive collection from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, where the testimonies of Holocaust survivors are collected), a physician who survived Szebnie, as saying that Polish-Jewish relations in the camp were "very good." The non-Jewish Polish inmates were treated slightly better and were allowed to receive packages; the Poles often shared their packages with the Jewish inmates. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

MAGA Antisemitism; Candace Owens' Dog Whistle Gets Louder


Image source the New Yorker

MAGA antisemitism part two.


As previously mentioned, as my book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype makes clear, you can't understand antisemitism in Poland unless you understand antisemitism period. If you want to understand how accusations of antisemitism against Poles are treated in the West, you have to understand how accusations of antisemitism against any group, for example blacks or Trump supporters or black Trump supporters are treated in the West.


In a previous post entitled "Candace Owens, Antisemitism, and American Conservatism," I talked about Candace Owens' antisemitism. Since that post, Candace Owens has posted a new post that I would like to discuss here.


On April 2, 2024, Candace Owens tweeted, "President Zelensky sure is behaving like a Bolshevist. How many more Christians will he conscript to death?"


Here Candace Owens is repeating a very ugly and deadly antisemitic trope.


It goes like this.


First, this trope is a reaction against the reality of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was very, very bad and very ugly. Witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, even in just a newsreel or a book or a museum, made many antisemites think twice about their beliefs. Wow, this is where hate leads, they realized. Six million innocent and defenseless men, women, and children murdered just because of their identity. Bad!


To keep antisemitism alive in the face of such horror, antisemites came up with a counter narrative. In this counter narrative, which is not true, and this is the idea of antisemites, as they would put it, "Communism is Jewish. Communists murdered Christians. This murder took more lives than the Holocaust. So this Communist massacre of Christians cancels out any respect due to the Holocaust."


This narrative is false. Yes, at times and in places – but not at all times and not in all places – Communism was disproportionately Jewish. But most Communists were never Jews, and most Jews were never Communists.


Remember, Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the KGB, was once a Polish Catholic nobleman. Joseph Stalin received a scholarship to study at a seminary to be an Russian Orthodox priest. Lenin's devout father had him baptized. Mao, who murdered more than Stalin, was not Jewish. The Khmer Rouge, whose genocide took the lives of 21% of the entire population of Cambodia, were not Jewish.


Marx was of Jewish ancestry, but there were Communist thinkers and doers before Marx. So, no, Communism is not Jewish.


"Communists murdered Christians" is only partially true. Communists murdered Jews. Communists murdered Muslims – see for example, here. The Khmer Rouge persecuted Buddhists. In short, Communists persecute anyone who has an identity that might interfere with Communist power. And sometimes Communists persecuted people just because they are in the way of some Communist boondoggle. Bieganski cites an article that talks about Communists in Poland oppressing windmill operators. Why windmill operators? Why not? People who wear glasses, people who collect stamps – all have been persecuted by Communists.


Yes, Communists murdered Christians. Communists murdered a lot of others, too.


There's one more antisemitic trope in Owens' tweet. "President Zelensky sure is behaving like a Bolshevist. How many more Christians will he conscript to death?"


Owens' tweet relies on an understanding of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky as not Ukrainian. As an outsider. As a deadly force. As an enemy of Christians. Why does Owens understand Volodymyr Zelensky that way? Because, in the mind of an antisemite, Zelensky is Jewish, and, therefore, he is an outsider, he is a deadly force, he is Communism personified, he is an enemy of Christians. This is a sick, evil, false and dangerous antisemitic trope. Owens should be required to renounce it, or to be excluded from decent society.


Why do I associate Owens' tweet with MAGA? Because antisemitism has been a feature of MAGA. Because any visit to online discussion boards reveals that the Venn diagram that shows overlapping populations shows that many of the folks who believe the above antisemitic trope are also Trump supporters, although they feel that Trump has not gone far enough.


No, not all Trump supporters are antisemites. Probably most Trump voters are not antisemites. And yes, there is plenty of antisemitism on the left, in the Democratic Party, in Christianity, etc. This post addresses one slice of antisemitism, that is, a kind of antisemitism found among some, not all, Trump supporters.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

An Irish Movie and a Lesson for Poles

Happy Easter. 

On March 15, 2024, the New York Times published an article. 

Back in 1927, MGM released "The Callahans and the Murphys," a comedy that relied for humor on negative stereotypes of Irish people. 

According to the NYT article, Irish people protested AND THE MOVIE DISAPPEARED FOREVER. 

You can read the full Times article here.

The lesson for Poles is obvious. If you don't like how media depicts you, unite, organize, and change things. 

At least partly because Poles have not done that effectively, negative stereotypes persist.  

Below is an excerpt from the article. 

Several Irish American organizations lodged complaints about the depiction of Irish life as one long, intoxicated slugfest. MGM blithely defended the film as good-natured fun, only to realize that an intractable Hibernian grudge was taking hold, as this internal studio telegram  reflects:


Worried about its investment, MGM made several cuts and changes to stem the growing outrage among the country’s Irish Catholics — who, it should be noted, already felt under attack by a resurgent and powerful Ku Klux Klan that mocked their faith and questioned their patriotism.


Friday, March 29, 2024

Jon Stewart's Daily Show Polish Joke Was Not Anti-Polish


In February, 2024, Jon Stewart, after returning to the Daily Show, told a Polish joke.
Some, not many, Polish people protested.


Their protest is wrongheaded.


Jon Stewart is a comedian. One does not take at face value what comedians telling jokes say.


In the same show, Stewart said he would welcome tutoring in how to be a successful media figure from Tucker Carlson. He calls Carlson "sensei" and "master." Stewart hates Tucker Carlson. He is saying one thing. He means something else. That kind of communication is typical for comedy.


Stewart is in fact identifying Tucker Carlson as a menace. He criticizes Carlson for not resisting Vladimir Putin saying that "World War II was Poland's fault because they forced Nazi Germany to invade."


Clearly, Stewart is horrified by Carlson's refusal to take on an evil man who is threatening Poland and currently attacking Ukraine.


Putin, interviewed by Carlson, says, "Hitler asked for Gdansk amicably but they refused." Carlson nods and says, "Of course."


Carlson's position is grotesque. THAT is what Jon Stewart is criticizing.


Stewart insists that it is absurd to say that Poland started World War II. "Poland's navy had submarines with screen doors." That is a Polish joke. It is ridiculous and passé. Stewart is saying that Carlson's agreeing with Putin's statement is as ridiculous as an outdated and not very funny Polish joke. Stewart is not endorsing the Polish joke.


In case there are some who don't understand what Stewart is doing, he breaks from his normal delivery and provides historical context to the history of Polish jokes. He is making clear that he is not endorsing Polish jokes. He is mocking Tucker Carlson's absurdity.


"Poles are as smart as anyone and did not deserve to be invaded by the Germans," he explains.


Minutes later, Stewart makes an Italian joke. He's not endorsing Italian jokes. He's continuing his criticism of Tucker Carlson's absurdities, as Carlson praises a Moscow subway station and a supermarket, two sites that do not in any way reflect the lives of average Russians, many of whom don't even have indoor plumbing.


By the way, some Poles protesting against Jon Stewart's performance make sure to identify him by his birth name, "Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz." They do this to emphasize that Jon Stewart is Jewish. In this instance, that emphasis is antisemitic. It doesn't matter what ethnicity someone is in this circumstance. Stewart was not being anti-Polish in his February Daily Show performance. Many of us got that, and most Polish people did not protest.

"Moving Past Pierogi: The New Face of Polish Cuisine" Saveur

Saveur published "Moving Past Pierogi: The New Face of Polish Cuisine" on March 22, 2024. 

Saveur reports, 

"When someone says 'Polish food,' what dishes come to mind? If you’ve conjured up images of hearty gołąbki, kiełbasa, and bigos, you’re not alone—as proven by one look at the 71,000-strong Facebook group I Love My Polish Heritage. But back in Poland, people’s eating habits are changing rapidly, and today those traditional dishes are more the exception than the rule. 'Polish people don’t eat pierogi with farmer’s cheese and potatoes, or cabbage rolls, or schabowy much anymore. These dishes do appear on our plates but don’t dominate our diets,' says Michał Korkosz, author of Fresh from Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country, and Polish’d: Modern Vegetarian Cooking from Global Poland. What’s more, meat-and-potatoes is certainly not what’s currently being served in Warsaw’s top restaurants, where a quiet revolution is taking place."

This interesting article includes a bit of history of Polish cuisine along with commentary on how Polish cuisine has changed in recent years. 

Thank you to Piotr for sending this in. 😀

La Presse, a Montreal Daily, Publishes Antisemitic Cartoon of Netanyahu


La Presse, a Montreal daily, published the above antisemitic cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu. I wonder if they have ever published a comparable cartoon of a Muslim terrorist mass murderer? 

La Presse depicted a Jew as a vampire. Vampires drink blood. The blood libel has been used as an excuse to kill Jews for hundreds of years. La Presse is shameful. 

Reports are that La Presse has removed the cartoon. 

Candace Owens, Antisemitism, and American Conservatism


My book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype shows that one cannot understand antisemitism in Poland or Eastern Europe without also understanding antisemitism anywhere else. Singling Poles or other Eastern Europeans out as "the world's worst anti-Semites" distorts rather than clarifies. It is morally corrupt, and it is cowardly. Demonizing Eastern Europeans harms, not helps, any efforts to address antisemitism. If we want to resist antisemitism, we must begin in our own backyards, and then address the rest of the world. Antisemites worldwide tend to have more in common than not.


The Candace Owens antisemitism scandal highlights a problem on the American right. Under Trump, the right abandoned traditional values like intact families, personal responsibility, and lower taxes. The right embraced a convicted rapist, business cheat, and foul-mouthed bully. In its support for a demagogue, the right opened the door to horrors, including misogyny, xenophobia, and antisemitism. Of course there is antisemitism on the left, but under Trump, antisemitism on the right is becoming more prominent. Candace Owens is just one manifestation of that.

One Life and Nicky's Family: Two Films Dramatize WW II Rescue of Refugees from Prague


One Life and Nicky's Family
Two films depict the rescue of over six hundred children from Nazis


The 2023 biopic One Life concludes with a very moving scene. An elderly man is surprised by a televised celebration of heroic deeds he performed when he was young. I could not resist the scene's power. I cried. I made sniffling sounds. I didn't even try to apply the emotional brakes.


If only the rest of the movie were as good as that final scene.


One Life dramatizes the life of Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE. When he was 29 years old, Winton participated in an effort to save Jewish children from oncoming Nazis. His heroism warrants an uplifting, inspirational, unforgettable film. I was worried when I saw that One Life would be released in the US on March 15. Early March is part of the "dump months" when movies that haven't tested well are released.


One Life is not a bad movie. It's just not good enough. I'd give it a six out of ten, but, given that the subject matter is so important and so appealing, I will nudge that up to a seven. Nicky Winton deserves an eleven out of ten.


As I left the theater, I asked, "Who was Nicholas Winton? Why did he perform these heroic acts? How did he perform them?" One Life didn't answer those questions for me. I spent hours reading about Winton. I stumbled across a movie I'd never heard of before. Nicky's Family is a 2011, English language, Czech and Slovak documentary. It is currently streaming for free. Nicky's Family moved me deeply, answered my questions, and worked for me.

Friday, March 8, 2024

The Boys in the Boat, The Peasants, and The Zone of Interest: Three Terrific New Films

 The Peasants is the single most beautiful film I've ever seen. The Zone of Interest is a Holocaust film. Both were shot, at least in part, in Poland. The Boys in the Boat tells a World War II story. 

The Boys in the Boat, The Peasants, and The Zone of Interest:
Three great films best seen in a theater


Friend, I beg of you. Go to a theater and see three great movies sometime soon: The Boys in the Boat, The Peasants, and The Zone of Interest.  


Leopold Staff, a Polish poet who survived the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, said that "Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all." Movies are democratic. They are accessible and they are communal. It's fashionable to declare one's superiority by sneering at popular culture. It's harder to sneer when you remember that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fearless counter-jihadi, was inspired by Nancy Drew novels, and that Top Gun and Saving Private Ryan drove military recruitment. Politics is downstream from culture. The culture we support with our ticket-buying dollars is as important as the candidates we support with our votes.


We get something from publicly watching a movie together with our fellow citizens. The Major and the Minor is a 1942 screwball comedy. I'd watched it a couple of times at home, alone, on a small TV screen before seeing it for the first time in a jam-packed, Greenwich Village art house theater. In that crowd of rollicking laughter, I suddenly realized what a very naughty movie The Major and the Minor is. Its double entendres had flown right over my head. While watching Gone with the Wind, a loud and spontaneous sigh erupted when the camera zoomed in on Rhett Butler's handsome face (see here). Gathering in the ladies room after a movie like that is a genre of psychotherapy. While washing your hands you ask complete strangers, "Do you think Scarlett and Rhett ever got back together?" You comfort and enlighten each other and the world is warmer, more connected, less lonely and tense. Mel Gibson's The Passion depicts Christ's torture, crucifixion, and death in grisly detail. Three Muslim guys took seats directly behind me. They were joking sarcastically. Clearly, they were in the theater to mock. After the film ended, I turned around to check on them. One was doubled over, distraught. His companions were rubbing his back and speaking softly to him.


The loss of public movie-going erodes not just community, but also art. Ali's well is a famous, eight-minute scene in Lawrence of Arabia. Most of what we see is a completely flat, lifeless, tan desert landscape against a blue sky unbroken by any cloud. Two men draw water from a desert well. A tiny dot appears on the horizon. Slowly we realize that that dot is a man approaching on a camel. He shoots one of the men to death. As we wait, and wait, and wait for the approaching man  to arrive, we experience a fraction of the desert: the emptiness, the boredom, the terror, the sudden and irrational violence, the value system so very different from our own. That scene could never move us in the same way on a small screen. And, when we are watching alone on a small screen, we can fast forward through the parts we don't like, like, say, the grim depictions of the Holocaust in Schindler's List.


My students, trained on media that rushes and delivers jolts of violence and sex aimed at the lizard brain's reward-squirting mechanisms, lack the ability to sit through a scene like Ali's well. They also have trouble sitting through a complex lecture on current events, or a long story of personal struggle told by a friend. Movies, like all art, have the potential to train us to be our best selves.


The Boys in the Boat, The Peasants, and The Zone of Interest are three very different films, but they are all innovative, in different ways. Peasants is so innovative another movie like it may never be made again. Zone rewrote how the Holocaust will be treated in film, and how it will be understood. Boys is rebellious, counter-cultural filmmaking in ways I'll detail below. All three films have much to say about our current politico-cultural landscape. Each addresses community. Each, given their visual and auditory artistry and impact, should be seen in a theater.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Zone of Interest: Movie Review


The Zone of Interest 2023
A Masterpiece from a TV Commercial Director


Friend, please do something for me. Put this article aside and find the nearest theater showing The Zone of Interest. Walk into the theater knowing as little as possible about it. Then return to this article so we can exchange notes. I need to talk about this movie with others.


The Zone of Interest is going to generate a great deal of talk. There will be debates and podcasts. There will be university courses and peer-reviewed scholarly articles. There will be a backlash industry pooh-poohing every accolade the film receives. If you wait too long, your chance to have your own experience of the film may slip out of your hands. You may feel, "The Zone of Interest is its own industry. Seeing it would be too much like homework. I'd prefer the latest superhero movie."


You may be thinking, "Another Holocaust film. They're just are fishing for an Academy Award! Why can't we have movies about other atrocities? And I don't like watching people being tortured."


First, there is no torture, and almost no violence, in this movie. I cry at movies and I didn't cry while watching Zone. Days later, while merely thinking about it, I cried. I had nightmares. Even in my nightmares, there was no blood. There were merely well-groomed, clean people behaving in accord with their value system, their character, and their mental defenses. And we need Holocaust movies because the Holocaust was a big deal. And we can have movies about other atrocities, too, like Twelve Years a Slave and Killers of the Flower Moon.


Zone is universal and timeless, like W. H. Auden's poem "Shield of Achilles," which uses Jesus' crucifixion and Achilles' shield to discuss twentieth-century atrocity. Both Auden's poem and Zone say as much about slavery or the Cambodian Killing Fields or the Gulag as films directly addressing those topics.


I recommend Zone to every thinking adult. I say "thinking" because a subset of viewers are not getting this movie. There are some negative fan reviews online. These say that the film is "boring." "Nothing happens," they complain. "There is no plot." Bless their hearts.


Thinking adults are capable of observing. "To observe" implies an increase in cognitive activity from "to watch." If you know how to observe, you will get Zone.


Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, winner of four Academy Awards, said, that Zone is "probably the most important film of this century, both from the standpoint of his cinematic approach and the complexity of its theme." And if you are thinking, "Oh, this movie sounds too artsy-fartsy. I like more direct fare," don't let that stop you. Glazer got his start in that most democratic of forms, the TV commercial, where he depicted drinking a Guiness beer as tantamount to being a white stallion emerging from ocean surf. Glazer knows how to create images that penetrate to your lizard brain. He wields that magic here, not to sell beer, but to bring you closer to yourself, your own lowest fears and highest prayers.


In the article, below, I will summarize the plot, and then discuss the filmmaker, his approach, and the history he addresses.