Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

25 February 2006

BBC: The Speech that Shook the Kremlin

This month is the 50th anniversary of one of the most important speeches of the last century, when Nikita Khrushchev revealed Stalin's horrible human rights abuses. BBC 4 (the domestic news network) had fascinating 30-min program on this called "The Speech that Shook the Kremlin," which you can hear on the BBC radio player.

I am always fascinated by how countries come to terms with "truth and reconciliation" about past injustices. Perhaps what is most scary about the program is how many people in Russia today still see Stalin as a hero. I am often critical of our lack of historical understanding, but this is a different level.

When I was in high school one of my best friends was a college student who had fled the USSR. His parents were Russian Jews who lived in Lviv. He introduced me to Russian literature, and told me stories about the fear in Soviet Russia, as well as the excitement of reading Samizdat writing. When I teach about intellectual freedom here I often worry that my students can't imagine this extreme censorship, and just think I am a nut when I talk about slippery slopes to censorship. It is just frustrating when each day's headlines seem to be showing us going that way.

On a somewhat related note, our Amnesty International Student Chapter's next meeting will be this Thursday, 2 March at 4 pm at the Campus Center upper floor.

20 February 2006

<< Resisting Forces >> (2003)

I regretted missing the ALA-SC hike yesterday, today's JACL Day of Remembrance, and many of the films in the Jewish Film Festival this weekend, but did have a productive day because of that...

...and I did manage to sneak in one film. I saw Resisting Forces (2003) by Dutch director Renée Sanders this evening. It was one of many that I wanted to see, but felt doubly that I should attend since the director came here for the preview (and I met her the evening before while correcting papers at a café).

The film deals with the Jews in the Dutch city of Enschede, who helped other Jews to go into hiding. It is not only the typical story of gentile courage acting out true Christian ideals (in this case a local pastor and others), but also how the Jewish Council (Judenrat) helped about 500 Jews from that city (of 1,300 Jews) to survive. This was amazing, compared to the over 80% of Dutch Jewry who did not survive the Holocaust. Sanders uses the diary of someone named Wertheim to tell the story. I wondered if it was a relative. There are many Wertheims and Wertheimers in the Memorbuchs of Auschwitz and other death camps, as well as other family names. I can only imagine history if my ancestors had not come to New York in the 1840s and 1880s.

The director's grandfather -- Gerard Sanders -- was one of the Judenrat members who made a difference. Her talk was a good complement to the film. She commented how there is not so much black and white (heroes and villians) when it comes to how most people acted during the Holocaust, (especially when it comes to judging people) -- but rather there is a lot of grey. I find that very true. The film had some of the optimism and respect for resistance that I saw in Frank Abe's excellent documentary Conscience and the Constitution.

Tonight I have to finish a letter in support of a grant for production of a film on a Nisei Veteran who also made a difference.

I gave Renée some travel suggestions -- don't get me started on where to eat or catch jazz here. She and her friend Veronika also suggested some places Noriko and I should check out this summer in Holland.

After the film I did some work and drank tea at Volcano Joe's. It was not the perfect workplace as they had Open Mike performers. One was really good though, and made it worthwhile. Calvin Murasaki was back home from the Bay Area, and had a very nice sound on electric violin. I hope he can get together with DeShannon Higa or the NewJass Quartet before he goes back to California.