Archive for prison camps

Letter: "No more Nazi films... We all know what happened."


12 years a slave films

Films allow us to eavesdrop on others-- past, present, and future. Films pull open the drapes so we can peek in. Films essentially allow us to be peeping Toms on lives imagined and real. They teach us, they inform us, they tug at us, they pull us in, they open our eyes to feelings and events that might have escaped us or that we've avoided.

Sometimes films make it unpleasant for us, and we squirm or cry or cringe or rage. Other times, of course, they sweep us into happy little fantasylands. We flock to the cinema, we are glued to our TVs and mobile devices.

In the Calendar section of my print edition of Sunday Los Angeles Times, there were a few letters responding to an article about a new film to be directed by Angelina Jolie that will debut on Christmas Day, called "Unbroken."

[I]n late 2012, [Jolie] stumbled on a talent agency's log line for "Unbroken," a feature adaptation of the Laura Hillenbrand blockbuster bestseller about the Olympic runner turned World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini, who survived 47 days in a life raft only to be tortured for more than two years as a Japanese prisoner of war.

Two of the three letters were positive, but the one that wasn't caught my eye. The Times doesn't post Calendar letters online, but here it is verbatim:

No more. It's time to stop making movies about Americans like Louis Zamperini who were tortured in Japanese prison camps. It's been almost 70 years since WWII ended. The people who did it are dead. Why make their descendants and an entire nation feel guilty again? The story's been told in print. Let it be. While we're at it, no more Nazi films either. We all know what happened.

Robert Bubnovich


Alrighty then. Where to begin?

It should be safe to assume that, per Mr. Bubnovich, period pieces are worthless, because, hey, those people are dead. Who needs to be reminded of days gone by anyway? Especially if they recount episodes from yesteryear that are unpleasant. Even if they're accurate representations. Especially if they're accurate representations.

So any movie recalling historical events? Pfft! Clearly, they should be history themselves. Why make, say, audiences that watched "Lincoln," "Twelve Years a Slave," The Butler," "Schindler's List," "Sophie's Choice, "Saving Private Ryan," or any other motion picture based on U.S. or world history "feel guilty again," right? "Let it be"!

The last thing we want is for moviegoers to learn anything, to feel anything about what took place before their time, to connect in any way, to feel any emotion whatsoever about major events that changed entire nations, to be reminded that those who came before us could be cruel, monstrous, or just plain stupid, because, guilt!

Ignorance is bliss.

Memo to Robert B: We don't "all know what happened." Just ask Holocaust deniers. And history revisionists. "The story's been told in print." But if you don't read, the story hasn't been told at all. Just ask Fox News [sic] devotees.

And those who do know often need a memory jolt so that they can apply life lessons and knowledge responsibly and avoid the costly mistakes others have made.

Ignoring our past will not make it go away or alleviate guilt, nor will it make our worst memories more palatable.

In short, this, Mr. Bubnovich, does way more harm than good:

lalala I can't hear you hands over ears 2


Where Am I And When?


Satellite Image of Camp 25 in North Korea

Here’s some startling facts gleaned from Hunter Stewart’s article found on HuffPo that got me thinking: Where Am I and When?

The government of this foreign country set up a labor camp housing between 30,000 to 50,000 prisoners, most of whom were suspected of being disloyal to the regime or were related to people who had shown disloyalty.

After a currency devaluation  a food shortage caused a "large number of prisoners" to perish – let’s call it what it was, they were starved to death.

The camp was forced to shut down with an estimated 7,000-8,000 surviving prisoners transferred to other labor camps. Trains holding inmates were seen departing the area at night, heading south.

That still leaves many thousands of prisoners unaccounted for. Their fates are unknown for the time being, as information from inside the so-called Hermit Kingdom often takes years to leak to the outside world, if it gets out at all.

So, where am I and when?

Hold on, here’s one more clue:

(This country’s) leaders have never publicly admitted that the prison labor camps exist, even though as many as 200,000 people are thought to languish inside them, subjected to long hours of coerced labor, malnutrition, beatings, rapes and executions.

Okay. You have enough clues. Time to answer where and when?

Now if your guess was Nazi Germany during the 1940’s, congratulations. You know your history. But you’re only partly right.

This particular set of details is happening right now – 2013 and not in Syria. In North Korea.

We look back now at the Holocaust in horror and rightfully so. It’s going on in North Korea as I write. Where did these thousands of missing people go?

I think we know, but are choosing not to. If we’re considering a “shot across the bow” in Syria, with approximately 1500 innocent people gassed, then what, under the same guidelines, should we be doing in North Korea?

"Never Again" was first used in the Swedish documentary about the Holocaust called "Mein Kampf," directed by Erwin Leiser and produced in 1961.

The narrator's final words, over a general shot of Auschwitz, are, "It must never happen again -- never again."

Are we turning our backs on those fateful words about that blackest of stains on history? Where's the UN on these atrocities? Where's the US and its Syria-like outrage? Where's your anger? We can't police the world. Syria is a civil war. North Korea is a despotic dictatorship. Please use your voice and speak up for those who can't.