DOK Leipzig: Films about hatred of Jews, NS and GDR

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DOK Leipzig: Films about hatred of Jews, NS and GDR

In Leipzig there is currently a lot of talk about anti-Semitism. The reason for this: The German singer Gil Ofarim posted a video on Instagram on October 5, in which he sat in front of the Hotel Westin in Leipzig and said that an employee refused to check-in while he was wearing his necklace with a Star of David. Meanwhile there is testimony against testimony and nobody really understands the case anymore. The fact is that if Ofarim’s accusation turns out to be untrue, it is to be hoped that the debate on anti-Semitism will not be forgotten. Because it was and is real.

This is also shown by the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film (DOK), at which a particularly large number of films about anti-Semitism, Holocaust remembrance and Israel are represented this year. As in 2020, the DOK will take place on site and online. From October 25th to 31st, around 170 films will be shown in the Leipzig cinemas. After the festival week, the opening film and 70 films from the various competitions will be available via stream for two weeks.

A Nazi propaganda film

The retrospective, which could not take place last year, shows under the provocative title The Jews of the Others. Germany divided, guilt divided, images divided GDR and FRG film perspectives on the Holocaust. The oldest film that is shown there, however, still comes from the production facilities of the National Socialists. They are fragments of the propagandistic “documentation” Theresienstadt. A documentary film from the Jewish settlement area about the ghetto in Terezín near Prague. The 17-minute film, which never showed in theaters, was given the cynical name The Führer gives to the Jews a city known. Alluding to this, Frido Mann (grandson of Thomas Mann) also gave his parable about life and death in the Theresienstadt ghetto this title. Anyone who watches the film looks into the faces of lots of people who were murdered just a few weeks and months later. Even before filming, people had to die for the propaganda film; Preparations included the deportation of 7,500 people to Auschwitz in order to keep the ghetto from looking so overcrowded.

This production is not one of the reserved films from the time of National Socialism, i.e. propaganda films that are only published by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation for screenings accompanied by experts. Nonetheless, the DOK decided on a contextualization: Frank Stern, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna, will give an opening lecture, and Harun Farocki’s postponement will be shown after the film, an essayistic visual criticism of the archive images made by the National Socialists from a collection camp for Dutch Jews.

At the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film (DOK), a total of 162 films from 51 countries will be shown from October 25 to 31, 2021. © dpa

Otherwise, the retrospective primarily focuses on remembering in the FRG and GDR, the view of one’s own responsibility and that of the respective neighboring country. The pictures and accusations are mostly black and white. This is how you find out about the GDR documentary Memento von Karlheinz Mund that for his approval the pictures of anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish graves in East Berlin had to be removed ─ similar pictures from West Germany should remain.

A film with the sober title offers an unusually honest look far away from censorship Berlin long shot XIV. 2. d) Almstadtstrasse. It was created in the State Film Documentation, which in the 1970s and 80s produced GDR films not for the cinema but for the archives in order to show later generations life in real socialism. The chilled relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors is depicted here.

The FRG equivalent should be the documentation Educational level of West German students in the 50s in which they display their terrifying ignorance about the past Germany under Hitler and the neighboring country under Ulbricht. Whether the two states are self-critical in these films, who is less interested in their neighbors and who is more likely to blame the other can be seen in the compilations of The Jews of the Others find out.

Homage for (night) dreams

A different kind of memory is the homage this year dedicated to the Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi. His mother fled to Palestine from Nazi German Leipzig as a child, Avi Mograbi was born in Tel Aviv. At the DOK, three of his films are shown, which never come from just one country and are mostly multilingual. Mograbi’s family itself is also international: In Once I Entered a Garden he deals with the Arab side. Together with a Palestinian friend and his daughter, whose mother is Israeli, he goes on a search for the dream of living together.

The counterpart to this is ─ the nightmare The First 54 Years ─ An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation away. It is about the Israeli military occupations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The explanations of the disaffected Mograbi alternate with descriptions by soldiers who work for the NGO Breaking the Silence have arisen.

Can never forget

The opening film of the DOK connects the various elements that run like a coincidental red thread through the program: anti-Semitism, Holocaust remembrance, Israel. On Monday, October 25th, starting at 7 p.m. in CineStar 8, as well as later in other cinemas and free of charge in the main train station, The Rhine flows into the Mediterranean shown. After ten years in Germany, the Israeli filmmaker Offer Avnon is returning to Haifa. It reflects the time in the country where he could “never, not even for a single day” forget the Holocaust.

If you search for #GilOfarim on Twitter, you will find that many people in Germany don’t seem to think of the Holocaust that often, they encounter the singer there with so much hatred. Regardless of whether his accusations against the Westin employee are true or not, the reactions to them show how real anti-Semitism is in Germany.

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