There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’
So we must suppose, for example, that as the outrage caused by the US Trump administration’s tough anti-illegal immigration policies highlighted the large number of Muslim countries that ban Jews, so the consequent embarrassment has forced Pakistan to allow Fischel (ne Faisal) Benkhald to register officially as a Jew.
Benkhald (29), born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, describes himself ‘the last Jew in Pakistan’. But it is believed there may be hundreds of Jews who have decided to live secretly in Pakistan due to the steep rise in antisemitism there following the partition from India in 1947.
Benkhald, whose Muslim siblings distance themselves from his activities, has done much to restore the Jewish cemetery in Karachi, where a community of largely Iraqi and Indian immigrants once lived. He says he hopes to travel abroad "to a free country" to study Hebrew and Judaism but until then, he will continue his activism in Pakistan.
There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.
So it must have been a fluke that caused The Guardian newspaper to feature the worst excesses of the Nazi film industry barely hours after it was the subject of a screening and discussion for the Anglo community in Karmiel, Israel.
In her newspaper feature, historian and film-maker Karen Liebreich covered several of the same movies as those discussed during the local event led by US-Israeli Marc Milzman.
Both, for example, highlighted Jud Süss (Süss the Jew), generally considered to be the most dangerously antisemitic film ever produced. It was seen by about 20 million people throughout Europe by 1943 and is thought to have been the direct cause of many pogroms as well having helped to enthuse SS troops and concentration guards to perform their evil work.
It is painfully clear from Liebreich’s interview with the actress, Kristina Söderbaum (whom she dubs ‘the Nazi Marilyn Munroe’) that even aged eighty and many years after the war, Söderbaum harboured the same hypocritical prejudices she held when she had played the story’s ravished heroine, Dorothea Sturm.
In her autobiography the actress said that Jud Süss had “burnt a wound in my soul, and whenever it seems nearly healed over, it is ripped open once more. I know it will never heal. That is my fate, I must live with it.”
However, when interviewed by Liebreich, she claimed the movie was not anti-Jewish; that everyone felt sympathy for the anti-hero and insisted that she had had no choice but to appear in it as it was directed by her husband, Veit Harlan.
Post-war, Harlan was tried (but acquitted) for crimes against humanity. As for Söderbaum, in her autobiography she wrote that Jud Süss “burnt a wound in my soul, and whenever it seems nearly healed over, it is ripped open once more. I know it will never heal. That is my fate, I must live with it.”
And so must we.
© Natalie Wood (23 April 2017)