marathon man (1976)

Plenty of programs will default to Schindler’s List this Yom HaShoah, but I had the misfortune to grow up in a family of Jewish educators – I’ve seen that one episode of Quantum Leap enough times to know there are other ways to go through this day. 

May I offer then a short list of alternative media so that you may never forget.

If, like me, you know there are other Holocaust films out there

Conspiracy (2001) – an HBO/BBC production that centers around the Wannsee Conference, where various officials in the Nazi Party settled down to a buffet lunch to decide the fate of European Jewry.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) – a film that examines the difficulties inherent in pursuing this new breed of crime, that against humanity.

Skokie (1981) – a TV movie about the real-life battle between the heavily-Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois   and the Neo-Nazi party that sought to march down their streets.  (Yes, The Blues Brothers didn’t make that up.)

Marathon Man (1976) – The Dustin Hoffman thriller that finds its real danger in the scene where Olivier’s Szell wanders untouched among the patrons of New York’s diamond district.

The Wave (1981) – another TV movie, this one shows the temptations of group-think and where that might lead.

Paper Clips (2004) – a documentary depicting the efforts of small-town Tennessee school to gather the titular paper clips for their Holocaust memorial.

Pimpernel Smith (1941) – because this piece of British wartime propaganda urged Raoul Wallenberg to do something.

Exodus (1960) – an adaptation of Leon Uris’ most famous work (more from him later) to show that it didn’t end when they opened the gates.

If television is more your style, however, might I suggest –

The Twilight Zone’s “Death’s-Head Revisited” and “He’s Alive” (the former especially, if just for Rod Serling’s monologue)

Band of Brothers’ “Why We Fight”

Mad Men’s “Far Away Places” and “Babylon”

But maybe you don’t have time watch an episode –

- then listen to some Dylan, to some Reed, pop on a Ramones album, to understand the seething incomprehensibility that filled those young artists, that fueled the early punk years –

Or if reading’s more to your speed and people won’t stop pushing The Book Thief in your face, try –

The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi

The Trial of God, by Elie Wiesel

The Last of the Just, by André Schwarz-Bart

Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut

Speed of Light, by Sybil Rosen

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon

The works of Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions if you find yourself with time, “Act of Faith” if you don’t

Read some Hemingway, some Fitzgerald, some Eliot, some Pound, so you understand anti-Semitism didn’t begin and end with one man

And because the day is a commemoration of Jewish resistance, read Uris’ Mila 18.


(This list is by no means exhaustive, you are more than welcome to add your own.)