Saturday, January 19, 2019

Who Will Write Our History

Brief post to say I have a think piece up at Tablet about the remarkable new movie Who Will Write Our History. The movie is part dramatization, part documentary, which manages to balance story telling with traditional talking heads. In the piece I argue that WWWOH isn't just essential viewing, it can, and should, make us reevaluate the state of Holocaust education.

Today, as even the youngest generation of survivors reaches old age, anxiety about the disappearance of firsthand testimony has risen, and we’re seeing more public concern about a looming demographic reality: “The youngest survivors are in their mid-70s, with most in their 80s and 90s. In a future no longer beyond the horizon, no one will remain to testify firsthand to Nazi Germany’s systematic effort to exterminate the Jews in the territory it controlled.”  
Some have turned to technology to fight the clock. The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center recently unveiled their New Dimensions in Testimony oral history project, featuring holograms of 15 Holocaust survivors. Each of the 15 participants has gone through a rigorous filming and testimony process, making it possible for museumgoers and students to ‘interact’ with the simulated survivors.
There’s no question that first person survivor testimony will continue to have an important place in contemporary Holocaust education for Jews and non-Jews. But the release of Who Will Write Our History has the potential to effect a sea change in the way we think about Holocaust education. Indeed, I would go so far as to call it the most important Holocaust movie in decades. Who Will Write Our History is the first Holocaust documentary that centers victim stories along with the written and visual materials they created to document their lives.

Of course a 90 minute movie cannot begin to communicate the whole story of the Oyneg Shabes as told by Sam Kassow’s book or the vast treasures of the archive. This beautiful and sensitively done documentary adaptation of Kassow's book is, in a sense, an appetizer, an introduction to the story that is only now finally available to Jews all over the world. We should see it as an invitation to rethink our relationship to the Jews of Poland, not as a faceless mass of victims created between 1939 and 1945, but individuals shaped by life before the war, and who fought to live, and die, with dignity.

Who Will Write Our History is playing now at Quad Cinema and theaters around the country.

No comments:

Post a Comment