Ben Foster in 'The Survivor'
Ben Foster in 'The Survivor' Leo Pinter/HBO

A new movie called “The Survivor” is being released today on Holocaust Memorial Day. The film is based on the life of Harry Haft, a Jew who survived Auschwitz by boxing against fellow Jewish inmates for the pleasure of the German officers of the death camp. Since Arutz Sheva is currently running an article about the film, and since I have not seen the movie myself, I will limit my comments to a statement made by the movie’s star actor, Ben Foster. Mentioning another yet-released film in which he stars, “Emancipation,” which focuses on the saga of slavery in America, he is quoted as saying:

“In much the way that ‘The Survivor’ tackles the horrors and the atrocities and survival (of the Holocaust), this (the film ‘Emancipation’) is following a man escaping work camps in the United States. It was shocking, the parallels… The parallels of what we did in our own country (are) worth examining.”

I beg to differ with this remark. In my humble opinion, placing any other historical atrocity on the same level as the Holocaust is not only inaccurate, it does a great injustice to the incomparable horror of the German war machine which systematically slaughtered six million Jews. This comparison cheapens the hatred and horror which the Jews were forced to endure – while the world turned away in stony silence.

With all due respect to the Blacks in America, and to the travesties they suffered during their years of slavery, work camps are not the same of death camps. Certainly there were many slaves who were killed, but I seriously doubt that the number came to six million who met their death in such an organized and hellish fashion.

Having spent some years in Hollywood, I know that actors are carefully prompted by producers and public relations people before the release of a new film to say things which will attract the widest possible audience. So it is natural that Foster would say something to appeal to the Blacks in America who make up a large share of box-office revenue. My ill feeling is not against him but rather against a general worldwide attempt to “universalize” the Holocaust as if it was just one of a long list of world atrocities which bring shame to mankind, similar to famines which go ignored in Africa, the plight of Sudan refugees, or the ongoing invasion of the Ukraine. As the journalist Ruthie Blum recently wrote in a JNS article:

“The desire to universalize the particular plight of the Jews is nothing new. Nor is it surprising that many Jews are at the forefront of the effort to turn ‘Never Again’ into a slogan that applies to any and all forms of death, destruction and discrimination. For the past few years, even a number of prominent Israelis have joined the endeavor with gusto, not only through false analogies but by using the occasion of Holocaust remembrance to warn the Jewish State about its own dangerous extremists.” I presume that by using the word “extremists” Ruthie is referring to statements made by Leftist politicians about the “settlers” and the Israeli right in general.

This phenomenon of lessening the cataclysmic monstrosity of the Nazi atrocity against the Jews, and the concurrent world silence, by comparing it to other crimes, is nothing else than a new form of insidious anti-Semitism. It seems to me that an outgrowth of this cancer is today’s gala reception of the German Parliament President in the Knesset. As Rabbi Meir Kahane once wrote in his inimical style which always demands deep reflection before we can debate its validity:

“Whatever happened to the Torah command, ‘Remember what Amalek did to you... do not forget’? Every Jew remembers what the Germans did unto us. Indeed, sad to say, the Holocaust has become, for huge numbers of Jews, a major reason for being Jewish. Perhaps the major reason… And, of course, everyone forgets. For one can remember and, at the same time, forget.

"What do we remember? That the ‘Nazis’ (not the Germans) did horrible things to our people and we must always remember the events of the past. But what of the present? What do the sins and crimes of the German past mean for the present? Are the German sins limited to a generation that lived at that time? Is Germany, today, not the Germany of yesterday, so that we are allowed to visit Germany, vacation in Germany, send Israeli children on cultural trips to Germany, to sports events in Germany, even as we welcome German cultural and sports groups to Israel and greet the German President in Israel as the Israeli army band plays the German national anthem. Is this what we mean by the commandment, to ‘remember’?

"To remember is never enough. To remember is the general admonition: Remember what they did to you, things so terrible and horrible. And consequently, do not forget. Do not forget that these are unforgivable sins and that they forever stain and tar and mark the nation itself and all who represent it. Remember the horrors and never forget that they are unforgivable. That is the lesson for us as we contemplate. Remember what the German people did to us and never forget that it is a horror and crime that is permanent and unforgivable.

It may be true that a particular or individual German who was not born at the time, or who was too young to have participated in the horrors, is not to be banned and barred on a personal basis. But, certainly, if he represents, in any capacity, Germany or anything German, he is to be barred and there can be no ties with him in that capacity. That is why a person who may not even be German himself, but who represents that accursed land, is forbidden to be seen in our midst. Because one must always remember and, in addition, never forget.”

Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."