Thursday, March 18, 2004

I don't want your blood money...

Thanks to The Yada Blog for pointing out this article, which consists of a recent interview Stephen Spielberg gave to Katie Couric promoting the DVD release of Schindler's List. Among other things they discussed the creation of Spielberg's Shoah Foundation:

Couric: “Shoah means?”

Spielberg: “Catastrophe, annihilation, death by fire, you know? Shoah is another word for Holocaust which is another word for the end of the world by fire, by flame.”

Couric: “I know that you've funded a lot of this effort with the proceeds you made from ‘Schindler's List.’ Did you feel a moral obligation to do that? I mean that you said in a way, ‘I don't want to call it blood money, but…"

Spielberg: “It is blood money. Let’s call it what it is. I didn't take a single dollar from the profits I received from ‘Schindler's List’ because I did consider it blood money. When I first decided to make ‘Schindler's List" I said, if this movie makes any profit, it can't go to me or my family, it has to go out into the world and that's what we try to do here at the Shoah Foundation. We try to teach the facts of the past to prevent another Holocaust in the future.”

The Shoah Foundation, now funded by donations from individuals around the world, collected testimonies from 52,000 survivors -- their memories of their lives before, during and after those darkest times.

Spielberg: “It took about eight years to collect their testimonies from almost 64 countries in 32 languages... I hope they'll be used in schools, in libraries and in Holocaust museums and other museums, repositories all over the world. I hope it'll be used to educate young people as to the ultimate dangers of how far hate can take us… this is a living example and there are still witnesses that are alive that survived it.”

By and large the Holocaust survivors that I know, who I’ve met over the years, don't have that sense of rage and they don't have a sense of revenge. They’re not seeking revenge or a kind of justice, they’re happy to be alive, they’re happy to have given birth to new generations and they just consider their survival a miracle. Some are wracked with guilt that they did in fact survive, others who in their opinion, more worthy of survival, did not. But they've found a way to live their lives and in a sense, survivors who are still alive today and the survivors who are not but who gave their testimony to the Shoah Foundation, each of those survivors became teachers and so in that sense they'll live forever.”

Proof that those survivors, and the Shoah Foundation, are reaching a new generation comes from young people like Nicole Barnes. She and several other high school students worked with the Shoah Foundation to make a video called "Giving Voice" which weaves together first person accounts from Holocaust survivors with a teenage perspective on intolerance and bigotry. "Giving Voice" will be sent to schools across the country to inspire dialogue on these issues.

Spielberg: “I guess the greatest cliché we've ever heard, but the most important words spoken, is, love, you know, love your neighbor and, as you would yourself. It’s a biblical term, it’s important, and it’s embraced by every religion and yet it seems to be a far cry from what we're experiencing today.”

Couric: “Mel Gibson's dad was quoted as saying something that I think many people found quite disturbing. He said, ‘the Germans didn't have enough gas to cremate 6 million people’ and ‘those concentration camps were just work camps,’ completing his thought with, ‘it’s maybe not all fiction, but most of it is,’ referring to the Holocaust. When you read a quote like that or hear about it, it doesn't make you angry when people say things like that?”

Spielberg: “You know it makes me sad, not angry. It makes me sad at people who deny the Holocaust. I’ve learned there are a lot of people that don't want to believe the Holocaust ever happened because it doesn't fit their other beliefs and so they deny it and it makes them sleep better at night to do so. But it makes the Holocaust survivors sleep better at night to know that we've given them a voice. We’ve given 52,000 voices to go off into the world and teach young children the truth about what happened 60 years ago and how to prevent it from happening 60 years from now.”

Couric: “When you look back on your career, and you certainly have a lot of great work ahead of you, I know, but do you hope that people will identify you first and foremost with something like ‘Schindler's List’ and with your work with the Shoah Foundation?”

Spielberg: “Well I think the Shoah Foundation and certainly ‘Schindler's List’ certainly represents more of who I am than what I want to become. Sometimes I’ll hide behind my fantasy films. You know, it’s safer to do that and often it’s more fun to do that. It’s a lot more fun making ‘E.T.’ than it was ‘Schindler's List.’ It was a lot more fun making ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ than it was ‘Saving Private Ryan.” But who I am is more what I did with ‘Schindler's List’ and now with the Shoah Foundation and I’d like people to remember me the way I know myself. We have a thing, we say in Hebrew, tikkun olam which means, the world always needs fixing and we as Jews, we as all people, have a responsibility to help fix things when they're broken and I think ‘Schindler's List’ and the Shoah Foundation does exactly that.”


The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.