ALARMING TENDENCY OF PLAYING WITH THE THEME OF THE HOLOCAUST
The TRAP OF TRAVESTY: SHOAH AS A SHOW-SUBJECT
by Dr INNA ROGATCHI (C)
I thought initially that if one would have a nerve to watch the sick entertaining video from the Russian popular TV musical skating show – the link is here – https://www.1tv.ru/shows/lednikovyy-period-2016/vystupleniya/tatyana-navka-i-andrey-burkovskiy-beautiful-that-way-lednikovyy-period-fragment-vypuska-ot-26-11-2016 , it might be unnecessary to write any comment on that disgust.
But hearing on some reactions, both in Russia and outside, I decided to express myself on the subject once again. It seems that the theme of the Holocaust travesty is getting more and more actual, alarmingly.
Here you are shocked to watch a masquerade on the theme Shoah. And you are fighting your body to sustain the observation of all kinds of skating movements – legs spread, bottom up, mighty whirling, acrobatics, jumps, glued smiles, all those movements, in brand new camp prisoners’ robes, sort of, with a nice Russian braid – what braid? if you are trying so hard to make up your mug that deep grey, to show a suffering, you had to performed shaved, baby. And of course, yellow stars, there and there, so nicely sewn in, so visible.
Skating, they were improvising in their own means after widely accepted Life Is Beautiful movie – some of their defenders are emphasising. “Why people can like the movie, but cannot like the dance?” – I’ve read some comment.
Firstly, not everyone liked the movie. Far from that. The heavily Hollywood-ised Italian film, Life Is Beautiful is the one of the least Italian movies, as many Italians would tell you, and is a very serious flop in many ways , as many other people would add to that. That film, Oscar-awarded or not, is just profoundly tasteless, and false in many ways. Among my very many friends and acquaintances all over the world, there is only one person who actually liked that silly effort to tell about the Holocaust in the way Life Is Beautiful approached it; and the man had had a very strange sense a humour, to put it mildly.
And of course, you do speak and show the Holocaust in arts and literature. But you are doing it with taste and decency. You also do choose the genres. What next now?- people are asking being shocked by the Russian skating dance exercise. – Shoah musical?.. That exactly is the point.
If there is a need to explain that you are not dancing on bones, there is something very wrong with the people’s bringing up and education. Judging by the reaction both in Russia and outside it which is mostly healthy and outraged, the case is not crossed the point of no return. The most of the reaction was furious and justly so.
“Why didn’t you rehearse for couple of month by starving yourself?” – people bombed the tasteless, tactless and brainless dancers with fierce critic. – “And what’s grande finale? A gas chamber?” – are the reactions.
But there are also those who is trying to defend the well-known Russian ice-dancers in their outrageous games. Nobody else, but the chairman of the Russian Holocaust Foundation Alla Gerber said that in her opinion, what is unacceptable it is a smirk and joking about the Holocaust. “As far, as those things not present, it should be OK”, – she concluded publicly. I wonder how the statement might change unless the dancer would not be the wife of the Russian President’s spokesman; if the dancer would be a mortal from the point of view of Ms Gerber. One is not supporting the legacy of the Shoah victims being so pathetically servile towards the authorities, in any country, for this matter.
Another defenders tried hard to find the excuse in being ecstatic over the fact that ‘after decades of neglect, the Russian official TV has decided to single out the Jewish suffering during the Holocaust’. Please. After decades of neglect, the Jewish life in Russia is thriving, and there is no need whatsoever to thank their state TV channel of being so utterly nice as to remember Jews and the Shoah, –this is done in such appalling , unbearable way.
This is exactly the direct outcome of the decades of neglect that the Russian dancers are allowed themselves to perform Shoah, in the first place. They just had no clue what could be possibly wrong with their performance – and this is alarming sign of ignorance and insensitivity. In a brutal country ignorance and insensitivity could turn into grotesque easier and quicker – and it is exactly what we just saw during that terrible eight-minute exercise.
Let be fair – the critique of the awful episode from the Russian public is mighty. It means that the public there, as usually is the case, is healthier and better than some of its elements. The problem here, as I can see it, is not only with the brainless and outrageous dancers, but also with all those people on the Russia’s state TV channel who has decided that it is ‘cool’ to air and broadcast this sick giggling around the Holocaust, and to award it with the highest possible rates – oh, yes, it was a contest. Shame on them all. Many people for whom this escapade brought a real suffering, as to myself and many of my friends, are thinking on suing the Russian First TV Channel now, on the ground on insult and moral damages. That would be very appropriate thing to do.
It is also understood that there has been launched the official protests to the Russian Embassies in several countries from a number of organisations who are protesting the show and the disgrace towards the Holocaust victims and members of their families.
What worries me it is the tendency. The tendency of ‘afresh’ look onto the Shoah, the adopted permissibility to play , to experiment with the memory of the most terrible crime and horror committed against humanity. Within the period of two years by now, this is the fourth instance when I and my colleagues had to mobilise the world to guard this memory, and to guard also our own dignity.
Those jokes and games, those dances and jumps, that falsehood and perversion are continuing the Nazi business as they dreamt it would be continued in the case they would win. They’ve lost, but they were not punished enough. They’ve lost, but in some important countries – such as Soviet Union – there had been decades before the truth about the Shoah has transpired. They’ve lost, but in other important countries – as Poland, and the others, as Estonia – today it is possible to joke and to play and to experiment on the Holocaust and its victims.
The Life was not Beautiful during the Darkness of the Holocaust. The concept is pervert, and the price paid during the Holocaust is not allow those funny paradoxes. It is really that simple and straightforward. And one has to have enough modesty to handle the theme when one wants to come public on that. Every smile during that time was coming from and disappearing into the pain, fear, chill, bullet, and gas. Life was completely and totally de-humanised during those years. Enough of those sick jokes already.
Simon Wiesenthal has told to me in the mid-1990s: “By mid-1960s, I have realised that Germans lost the war, but we have lost post-war period”. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau back in 2014 has told to me and my husband: “Sometimes, I really think that we learned nothing from the Holocaust. Nothing”. Those were chilling statements by the legendary people who know what they were and are talking about very well indeed, and who both have had the most painful knowledge of the Holocaust first-hand, becoming both completely orphaned and living with their indescribable trauma the most decent and meaningful lives, as did many survivors of the Hell on Earth brought to the world by the Nazis and all those who did not stop and who were happy to help them.
I still am thinking about those lines by Simon Wiesenthal and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau ever since I’ve heard it from them. With jokes and idiotic dances about the Holocaust, I do see the point of my dear friends and teachers chillingly clear. And I will fight this and any other sacrilege of the Shoah at any centimetre of its way. I am doing it in memory of my own family members murdered in the Shoah, and every single one from the six millions.
Dr Inna Rogatchi
Dr Inna Rogatchi is writer, scholar and film-maker. She is the President of The Rogatchi Foundation. Inna Rogatchi is the author of the internationally acclaimed The Lessons of Survival film on Simon Wiesenthal. Her forthcoming book is on the Legacy of the Post-Holocaust.