“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh is one of those books you read and you just don’t forget. You don’t just put it away after one read, you don’t just leave it out of your life. After you’ve read it, like a spell it will keep pulling you back into its charm. I read it for the first time when I was fifteen. I remember it very well because it just so happens I wrote that day down in my diary. Apparently, I was in a moving car and it was the bleak midwinter. My mother was driving and kept telling me to put the book down because apparently it would give me a headache (which to this day I do not understand, I have never had a headache from reading in a moving car, train, bus etc.).
There were some aspects of this documentary that were better done than others. First and foremost we have the portrayal of information. Let us first go through what that information is. The information is simply this: a man who is now living in America after coming from Europe years before was once the ‘Ivan the Terrible’ at the Soribor Death Camp in Poland during the Second World War. This man ‘Ivan the Terrible’ was the one who took the most joy in sending the Jews to their deaths and was considered one of the scariest and harshest guards on site at the time. The suspect is taken to Jerusalem to face trial and is initially sentenced to death by hanging. But, when other pieces of information emerge, he is claimed to be not guilty and sent back to the USA. It is after a further point that he is considered to be a guard at the Treblinka Death Camp but not the ‘Ivan the Terrible’ they are looking for and he is arrested in America and put in prison with due course. During this time, he fakes disability and being too sick to face trial, a farce used by the Nazis during the Nuremberg trials in the 40s. However, he is still sentenced and we are left to make up our own minds about who he is after being given every piece of information about his past, his present and finally - his end.
This documentary really shakes you, but the feeling you also get from it is anger because it is so late for the trial to happen. The overview is this: the now 93 year-old “accountant” of Auschwitz that was responsible for stealing the valuable items from the Jews as they entered the death camp was now on trial after several years. The background tells us the story of what the survivors of Auschwitz thought of this guy and what happened at the failed Nuremberg trials. It also talks about the case of Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka and Soribor and the trials that went ahead in Israel for that some years before. When we know all of this, we can only imagine that the man who was once the “accountant” of Auschwitz is living rather on borrowed time since he would’ve always been in fear of being caught. We get the opinions of others - Jews and non-Jews on what the general consensus is around putting this man on trial. It is very clear that the non-Jewish people don’t care for it and think that the 93 year-old should live in peace. Whereas the Jewish people, understandably do not think this is the case. There are many many opinions during the film in which the speakers state that a man of 93 who committed a crime at 23 or 33 etc. is still a guilty man and that he should not get away with it. Then we get on to the trial itself.
Al Jolson was known as one of the greatest entertainers of his day and is possibly one of the greatest entertainers in history after the likes of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. An incredible singer, Jolson also played the piano, did vaudevillian theatre and dance, performed on screen in film and gave live performances. He really was a man of all talents. But, he was probably most famous for his role in the very first 'talkie' in 1927 playing the lead role in the legendary classic film - "The Jazz Singer" (1927). The storyline of the film is just as famous as the fact it was the first 'talkie' in which a Jewish man is torn between the tradition of his faith due to his strict father who wishes for him to move forward in Judaism, and his love for being a Jazz Singer. The rage of choosing between the two causes rift between the family and ultimately, he leaves home to seek his dream out.
Books are a wonderful thing and I've been reading a lot of them of course. One thing I wanted to discuss shortly was the fact that there are lots of good websites on which you can get really good book recommendations apart from just going on GoodReads.
Never in my life have I seen a documentary that not only carried emotional trauma of the young with it, but also carried the historical trauma of the old as well. Here we have the heartbreaking story of the children of thalidomide and exactly why their cases had gone forgotten even though they wanted answers ever since day one.