‘Factually inaccurate and morally indefensible’: Auschwitz survivor denounces Jonathan Glazer

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‘Factually inaccurate and morally indefensible’: Auschwitz survivor denounces Jonathan Glazer

Film director told by 94-year-old David Schaechter he should be "ashamed" that he linked Auschwitz with Gaza in his Oscar speech.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

David Schaecter and Jonathan Glazer at the Oscars.
David Schaecter and Jonathan Glazer at the Oscars.

A furious Holocaust survivor has written an open letter to film director Jonathan Glazer, denouncing his Oscar night remarks and telling him he “should be ashamed of yourself for using Auschwitz to criticise Israel”.

David Schaecter, a Czech Jew who entered Auschwitz aged just 11, where he survived for three years followed by a year in Buchenwald, is a founder of the American Holocaust Survivors Foundation.

He told Glazer: “I watched in anguish [on] Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony to equate Hamas’s maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defence in the face of Hamas’s ongoing barbarity”.

Describing the filmmaker’s comments as “factually inaccurate and morally indefensible”, Schaecter, now 94, told Glazer: “The ‘occupation’ of which you speak has nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Jewish people’s existence and right to live in the land of Israel predates the Holocaust by hundreds of years”.

He concluded his blistering letter to Jonathan Glazer: “Worse is that you chose to use the Holocaust to validate your personal opinion. You made a Holocaust movie and won an Oscar. And you are Jewish. Good for you. But it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were murdered solely because of their Jewish identity.

“And it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for those of us who personally saw the world stand silent as our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were murdered. We actually had nowhere to go — no possible place of refuge. No country would accept us even though world leaders knew full well that thousands of Jews were being murdered every day. There was no Jewish nation to which we could flee”.

Schaechter, who tried returning to Prague after liberation, moved first to Ireland and then to Northern Ireland and Scotland, finally leaving for America in 1949.

Dr Dave Rich, head of policy at the Community Security Trust, said that while The Zone of Interest was “one of the best films ever made about the Holocaust…in contrast, the acceptance speech by Jonathan Glazer for the film’s Oscar win was trite, superficial and apologetic. As with so many attempts to compare the Holocaust to present day events, it misled where it sought to enlighten. He has been accused of betraying Holocaust victims and survivors; rather, I think he has betrayed his own film”.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, in a statement, said that Nazism “represented a singular evil that resulted in the murder of six million Jews and the persecution and deaths of millions of others for racial and political reasons. Comparing contemporary situations to Nazism is not only offensive to its victims, but it is also inaccurate and misrepresents both Holocaust history and the present. The Holocaust should be remembered, studied, and understood so that we can learn its lessons; it should not be exploited for opportunistic purposes.

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