US filmmaker Steven Spielberg ‘increasingly alarmed’ by rise of antisemitism

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US filmmaker Steven Spielberg ‘increasingly alarmed’ by rise of antisemitism

“I am increasingly alarmed that we may be condemned to repeat history, to once again have to fight for the very right to be Jewish,” Spielberg said

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg said “the echoes of history are unmistakable in our current climate” as he gave an impassioned speech urging the importance of stopping the rise of antisemitism and extremist views.

The US filmmaker appeared during a ceremony which honoured the USC Shoah Foundation, receiving the University of Southern California (USC) Medallion – its highest honour.

Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation, which gives Holocaust survivors and witnesses the opportunity to preserve their testimonies, in 1994 following the release of his Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List.

“I am increasingly alarmed that we may be condemned to repeat history, to once again have to fight for the very right to be Jewish,” Spielberg said, in a nod to the Israel and Gaza conflict which began in October.

“We can rage against the heinous acts committed by the terrorists of October 7 and also decry the killing of innocent women and children in Gaza.

“This makes us a unique force for good in the world and is why we are here today to celebrate the work of the Shoah Foundation, which is more crucial now than it even was in 1994.

“It is crucial in the wake of the horrific October 7 massacre. It is crucial to the stopping of political violence caused by misinformation, conspiracy theories and ignorance.

“It is crucial because stopping the rise of antisemitism and hate of any kind is critical to the health of our democratic republic and the future of democracy all over the civilised world.”

The more than 55,000 survivors whose testimonies are preserved at the USC Shoah Foundation are only the fourth recipients of the University Medallion, which was last received by US philanthropist Wallis Annenberg in 2017.

During the ceremony which included 30 Holocaust survivors and their families, Spielberg said “the echoes of history are unmistakable in our current climate”.

“The rise of extremist views has created a dangerous environment and radical intolerance (that) leads (to) a society (which) no longer celebrates differences, but instead conspire to demonise those who are different to the point of creating the other,” he said.

“The idea of the other is an idea that poisons discourse and creates a dangerous wedge throughout our communities. Othering rationalises prejudice.

“It encourages the willful denial and distortion of reality to enforce preconceptions. Othering is the kindling that fuels extremism and illiberalism.”

Spielberg said the creation of “the other” is the foundation of fascism and is “an old playbook that has been dusted off and being widely distributed today”.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” he said.

Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation three decades ago after the release of Schindler’s List, which won seven Oscars including for best picture and director for Spielberg.

The director said it became his “mission” to create a permanent record for “the families, for history, for education, and for every future generation”.

“Never again. Never again. Never again,” he repeated.

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