Reading List

Reading list #13: Marcel Marceau’s wartime rescues

This is Reading List #13, a selection of recent Holocaust-related news stories and links from around the internet.

The wartime efforts of legendary mime artist Marcel Marceau to save Jewish children from the Nazis is remembered by The Daily Mirror, to coincide with the streaming-release of a film about the subject. The movie Resistance, starring Jesse Eisenberg, was released in cinemas earlier this year. Marceau was initially reluctant to become involved in the rescue effort, but his mime artistry endeared him to the children, who were at risk of deportation from Vichy France, and he then led them to safety in neutral Switzerland in a series f crossing. In later life, he spoke rarely about this, but said, when presented with the Wallenberg Medal for humanitarian work in 2001, “I don’t like to speak about myself because what I did, humbly, during the war was only a small part of what happened to heroes who died through their deeds.”

In an article on his personal blog, well-respected British classical music and radio host Rob Cowan asks “Had I not been Jewish, could I have been a Nazi?” His thoughtful exploration of the idea acknowledges that to many young people who grew up during the Nazi era, ideas we now recognise as deeply racist and repellent may have been very seductive, particularly when expressed by adults with influence over the minds of a younger generation. Rob recounts the anti-German sentiment which his parents expressed in the years after WW2, and the way in which his admiration for a German music teacher challenged this during his teenage years. Reflecting on this years later, he asks himself: “if this sensitive, trusting child, had he been born an Aryan German rather than a Jewish Londoner, could I have swallowed all the toxic Nazi propaganda?”

Historian Mikael Nilsson writes in Haaretz about the ways in which controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson has misrepresented Hitler and Nazism in his lectures and speeches. Nilsson gives many examples which demonstrate Peterson’s mistakes and bogus analysis of the regime, particularly in his discussion of the Holocaust. Peterson has risen to prominence in recent years with widely-watched YouTube content and bestselling books, but his ideas have made him something of an intellectual guru for the alt-right. Nilsson points out, among other things, that Peterson’s commentary on Nazism is littered with basic errors about Nazi Germany, such as his assertion that Hitler did “wonders” for the German economy, or that the Nazi regime was the result of a landslide election victory in 1933.

A Kansas newspaper shared a cartoon online which equated mask-wearing with the Holocaust, according to ABC News. The cartoon (not reproduced in the article) featured a caption reading “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car.” Mask-wearing has become deeply politicised in the US in a way not see in other countries, with many Trump supporters seeing the request to wear a mask as an attack on their freedom. This is also not the first time that critics of America’s efforts to tackle Covid-19 have made offensive and false equivalencies with the Holocaust – comparisons between preventative measures and the infamous Nazi use of the Star of David to identify Jews have been popular with right-wing politicians.

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Inclusion of articles on this list does not necessarily indicate endorsement of opinions expressed within them.

Images in this post are used under the principle of fair use for the purposes of review, education and study, and will be removed at the request of the copyright holder(s).

The header image shows Marcel Marceau in 1974 and is from Wikipedia.

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