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Event Q&A Transcript

Extract from Panel Discussion

JS: It’s an interesting film from that point of view, a lot of Holocaust films started out with the victims, as these terrible things had happened to the victims. As we get further away from the Holocaust and other Holocaust happened around the world, we see that the themes are a bit more generalised in terms of cinema, as we are seeing films have taken another point of view. They have to kind of look at the other side of things.

RB: I think what was interesting about this is the representation, particularly of the Jewish character Maurice, it is clear that he is a victim of Nazism but at the same time he says above all “I’m as German as you are!” Why would I leave the country, why don’t you leave the country”? And in this sense he is not a victim

JS: In your experience is it historically accurate portrayal of what was going on in Berlin in the 30’s? What is good about the film is the way it shows how slowly this sort of thing happened. How gentle, how sneaky regimes are. The character suddenly realised he is in a prison in his own town.

RB: I think in a film point of view that question is central, if you look at this film in a historical way, to what extend is it accurate? That question itself is something that we always ask ourselves about any film that was set in a historical period. How accurate is it, what the research and also its significance. And how are events interpreted?

JS: And another thing, does it matter if it is accurate, does it need to be accurate? How accurate does it have to be? Because essentially it has got to be a film to entertain us now in our perspective from modern days point of view. It is not a documentary it doesn’t need to say that is documentary at all.

RH: No I supposed that there is a tension in that area where all we have really of a survival to a life is memory. The accuracy is relevant while we have them but the film is variedly accurate. As a war veteran, Maurice the central Jewish character actually would be treated very well. We see him in very nice conditions despite the graffiti and the propaganda. So as he served his country in WW1, Hitler had a surprising a very healthy respect for Jewish war veterans because he recognised they did serve their country in the first war. They are the last group of people to be deported; they are not among the first Jews that Hitler was taking away. So in that sense, yes there are issues of accuracy in this film, more to the geography of where it was filmed rather than the actual content of what they are trying to get at. It also links with the T4 program, the euthanasia programme, to the evolution to the final solutions as well, which the two were integral - most people in the final solution cut their teeth for want of a better phrase on the T4 programme.

Question 1 - Do you think the film is trying to show how much the German population as a whole had to compromise their beliefs because of the Nazis?

RH: Yes, we this issue with Nazi Germany, we tend to use to blame the Germans to describe a lot of what was going on. In the period of 1933, 53% of German people did not vote for Hitler. He was never a popular man. And yes I think you’re right, the message is how we change our behaviour to suit what is going. But I also think it is a bit of a reminder of how we should think about challenging that as well. What does it mean to be good?

STUDENT: In a situation like that you can’t necessarily go and follow your own view. Because if he didn’t join the Nazi party, you could not get anywhere, you’re force to.

RH: Yes I think that the film portraits that really well. If you refuse to believe Nazi beliefs, you don’t go anywhere. And there is the question of behaving a certain way to fit in and actually still maintain you beliefs in the middle. Which is I think what the character John is trying to deal with, he doesn’t want to believe in Nazism and behave like a Nazi but has to, to be able to get on. And how does he battle between two? He looses a bit of his morals because he buys into becoming some part of a Nazi.

JS: And it is all political systems. Germans thought, “This lot is going to vote for us, if we say they are going to get tax relive, tax cuts, child benefits, houses” they will vote for us. And you think brilliant; my life is going to be cheaper. But you’re still buying into a political party that believes in killing gypsies, Jews, gays, but you’re better off so there is that temptation there.

Question 2 - Do you think that anything like the Holocaust could happen nowadays?

RH: The Holocaust is perhaps the biggest example of genocide. I am sure you guys have heard of Rwanda in the 1990’s and other, these are examples of other genocides where people have been killed and put in a situation where their rights have been taken away from them. So the answer is yes, it has happened. There is a website called genocidewatch, and shows where in the world there is a possibility of genocides like the Holocaust happening again. And there is quite a worrying place at the moment where potentially it could all happen again. You guys are the people that can stand up and stop that from happening.

Question 3 - Why do you think the Jews didn’t fight back?

RH: The idea that the Jews did not fight back is actually a bit of a myth. In the 1930’s and in the film we were seeing people having their things taken away and having no rights and they never believed it could get any worse. Depending on where you are, you see different people fighting back in different ways. So when we talk about fighting back we think about getting guns and shooting and fighting in terms of battles. In 1944 the Warsaw ghetto was going to close down, and there was a large number of Jewish people there that refused to be taken away. They locked themselves in basements, have been smuggling guns and weapons and they fought back and managed to keep the Nazis from taking the ghetto for about 6 weeks. So we do have lots of examples of Jews fighting back, they didn’t just sit back and take it. But then you can also ask the question of what it is to resist something? For some people they couldn’t necessarily take weapons to fight but you know keeping their religious practices alive could be seen as a form of resistance as someone is trying to stop you from following your faith. It depends on what you mean by resistance and fighting back. The long short answer: Jewish people did fight back and in loads of different ways.

RB: The whole system was very brutal but he did have a chance to leave. There is a scene in The Boy with stripped pyjamas where there is younger boy guard where his father is there and there is a question about his son’s loyalty. To an extent there are choices, there are very difficult ethic dynamics and the ones that we are faced with everyday we kind of don’t really look. So I think it is not comfortable but it is worth barring in mind how we speak up and when we speak out.