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Extracts from the Jun 2003 Journal

Everest of illogicality

On the eve of the Iraq War the serried ranks of luvviedom gathered at a Concert for Peace in London's Theatre Royal. The director of the Globe recited appropriate lines from Shakespeare. Harold Pinter read a poem articulating the Roman precept 'If you want peace prepare for war' - which in the violently peace-addicted playwright's mind means war on America. The evening reached its climax with Dame Judy Dench belting out the title song from Cabaret. [more...]

German insurers reveal names of Holocaust victims

At the end of April 2003 a number of German insurance companies made public the names of 363,232 victims of the Holocaust who were covered by life insurance policies but whose records were previously sealed. The names are available from the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.
A further 16,000 names will become available from the Commission's ongoing research in insurance and state archives across Europe. [more...]

Is there a Jewish shmaltz gene?

Last year, when Prime Minister Sharon (and, through him, Israel) was comprehensively demonised, I attempted a bit of Jewish morale-boosting in an editorial entitled 'The contentious issue of national pride', for which I received more brickbats than bouquets. One reader, who has since quit the AJR, even accused me of 'racism'. [more...]

Science Notebook: More about coffee

A Money Programme on BBC2 examined the 'coffee wars' between Caffe Nero, Coffee Republic, Costa Coffee and Starbucks. Their ubiquitous outlets now offer customers pleasant venues for indulging in many varieties of coffee drinks ranging from black Italian espressos to American-style lattes with frothy milk. The latter is obviously a slimmed-down version of the whipped cream on Kaffee mit Schlag in Central European cafes. [more...]

Art notes

The term 'photogenic' could have been invented for Marilyn Monroe. Blonde bombshell, waif, 50s siren, our lady of sorrows - Marilyn so enraptured the celluloid city that she became her own art form. The muse of her day, she made many photographic reputations and inspired some rather tacky paintings. They are featured in an exhibition at County Hall, where photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Milton H Greene, David Burke and Tom Kelley - he of the famous calendar prints - line up with their tributes. The cartography of her life is exposed: marriages, divorces, celebrity status, early death. Some photographers, like Bert Stern with his ten colour photographs taken just weeks before her death, present her at the peak of her luminous beauty; others expose her bitter loneliness. In his last photographs of her, taken in 1962, George Barnis alone manages to capture a fleeting precognition of Marilyn ageing. But Marilyn, like Diana, survived because she never grew old. One of the better paintings, Daniel Authouart's Adieu Marilyn, shows her lying on a bier, with the numbers 1-12 printed above her. The artefacts around her imply the hand of the pathologist - a potent metaphor for this diva. [more...]

RG's Interface

The Oscars The 2003 Oscars focused on the Holocaust in several ways. The Pianist, based on Wladyslaw Szpylman's autobiography, gathered awards for best director, actor and screenplay. The best foreign-language film Oscar went to Nowhere in Africa, a dramatisation of Stefanie Zweig's autobiographical novel about a German Jewish family who found refuge in Kenya. A no less worthy contender for the award was Prisoners of Paradise, a documentary about Kurt Gerron. The actor, who had played the eponymous cabaret owner in The Blue Angel, was a prisoner in Terezin, where the Nazis tricked him into directing the propaganda film Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt with a promise to save his life. [more...]

'Churchill in Whitehall'

James Taylor, the senior researcher for the internationally acclaimed Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, fascinated members of AJR's Luncheon Club with anecdotes on the late Sir Winston Churchill, an exhibition about whose life is to be opened in Whitehall next year. As the exhibition's Head of Research, James Taylor has the key task of doing justice to the man many regard as the saviour of Britain, if not free Europe and the Western democracies, and certainly as the hero of Jewish refugees who escaped to Britain from Nazi-dominated Europe. [more...]