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Vergangenheitsbewaltigung is roughly translated as “the struggle to overcome the past” – it is a German term coined to describe the process of confronting and working through the Nazi past that has been unfolding since the end of the War. Questions about culpability and blame, suffering and loss, and how to commemorate difficult history dominate this process. Two documentaries, Human Failure ( original title Menschliches Versagen, 91 min. 2008) and Holy Silence (2020), explore questions around how Germany and the Catholic Church have faced up to the Second World War and the Holocaust. Join the Neuberger as we consider the images that have forced retroactive reckonings with the past in Germany and Rome, how the loss of the last witnesses and survivors may influence this unfolding process.
Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming is director of international academic programs for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Mandel Center and author of The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany. Dr. Brown-Fleming’s work has been featured in the Catholic News Service (CNS), Catholic News Agency (CNA), and The Catholic Virginian. She has appeared on Cable News Network (CNN), EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, and several documentaries, including Holy Silence (2019). She is a 2021 Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Contemporary History’s Center for Holocaust Studies in Munich and Berlin.
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Human Failure tells the shameful story of the appropriation of German Jews’ assets during the Third Reich, and how it benefited the average German citizen. Emphasising that it was not the Gestapo who conducted most of the theft, but German tax officials, Human Failure documents civilian participation in the mass robbery of Jews prior to their deportation and death using recently uncovered materials.
Holy Silence examines the Catholic Church’s response to the Holocaust through historic footage, documents, and contemporary interviews. Although Pope Pius XI was a staunch critic of antisemitism in 1930s Germany, his successor, Pius XII, was less vocal. Accusations of inaction and complicity have dogged Pius XII’s historical reputation, to the point of being described as “Hitler’s Pope.” Could Pius XII and the Church have done more to intervene in the Final Solution? This documentary considers several angles on this hotly debated topic.
The COVID-19 era has witnessed an explosion of bigotries, including conspiratorial antisemitism. From accusations that the virus was made in Israel to claims that the virus is a hoax being used by George Soros and a cabal of elites seeking to enslave non-Jews, baseless and hateful conspiracies are being freely circulated online. Antisemitic conspiracy theories have interacted with other hatreds, including anti-Asian and xenophobic bigotry, blending traditional conspiracies with new anxieties. Why the Jews? (70 min. 2018) and Feels Good Man (92 min. 2020) explore both the historical underpinnings of conspiratorial antisemitism, and how social media and memes have been central to their spread.
On December 17, Neuberger staff member Daniel Panneton will present and answer questions on the connections between the rise of meme culture and their usage in spreading antisemitism and Holocaust denial, particularly during the COVID-19 era. He will explore how Holocaust imagery has informed both explicit conspiratorial antisemitism and how anti-mask conspiracies have co-opted Holocaust imagery and antisemitic arguments.
Daniel Panneton is the Acting Manager of Public Programs at the Sarah & Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. He has curated several exhibits, including The Paradox: Free Speech and Holocaust Denial in Canada and The Ward: Representations and Realities, 1890-1940. His work has been published in the Globe & Mail, The Walrus, the Literary Review of Canada, and Spacing.
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Why the Jews? attempts to answer a common question in Holocaust education – why did so many people hate Jews? This documentary interviews academics and public figures such as Shimon Peres, Noam Chomsky, and Dr. Ruth to explore the reasons for both Jewish achievement and anti-Jewish persecution in the past.
Feels Good Man is a documentary about the infamous internet meme Pepe the Frog, and how what began as an innocent web comic evolved into a symbol of the alt-right and antisemites. The documentary follows the creator of Pepe the Frog’s attempts to reclaim control of the character from extremists, and forces audiences to consider whether or not such a symbol could ever be redeemed.
Stay-tuned for more exciting announcements about 2021 films and special guest speakers.