December 9 1916, Amsterdam, NY–Conditions for Jews in Russia were infamous in the years before the war; their right of free movement was limited and pogroms were increasingly frequent, especially in the Ukraine. Herschel Danielovich and his wife Bryna immigrated to Amsterdam in upstate New York from Chavusy, in modern-day Belarus, in 1910. Their home town was well behind the front line still, but high inflation (often blamed on “Jewish speculation”) made conditions difficult for their remaining relatives there.
On December 9, Herschel and Bryna had their first and only son, Izzy. He would grow up speaking Yiddish at home, worked his way through his youth and college years, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He legally changed his name from Izzy Danielovich to his stage name of Kirk Douglas shortly before entering the Navy in World War II.
After World War II, Kirk Douglas would have a wildly successful career in Hollywood, including a starring appearance in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. He played Colonel Dax, a French regimental commander who reluctantly leads his men into an attack he opposed, then defends three of them in a drumhead court martial when they are charged for cowardice as representatives of a second wave that refused to join the attack after the first were cut down.
The film was based on a similar incident which occurred at the very end of the battles in Champagne in early 1915, in which four corporals were executed by firing squad for refusing to leave their trenches into uninterfered-with German machine gun fire after being inadvertently shelled by their own artillery.
“Colonel Dax, you’re a disappointment to me. You’ve spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men, and you were not angling for Mireau’s command. You are an idealist… and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We’re fighting a war, Dax, a war that we’ve got to win. Those men didn’t fight, so they were shot. You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist that he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong?”
“Because you don’t know the answer to that question. I pity you.”
Wednesday February 17th, 2016:Paths of Glory (1957) - Stanley Kubrick