The Arty Semite

Jewish Films Win German Oscars

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Two Jewish-themed films fared well at the 2013 German Film Awards, known as the Lolas were handed out April 26 in Berlin.

“Hannah Arendt,” famed German director Margarethe von Tratta’s film focusing on four years (1960-1964) in the political theorist’s life, won the Silver Lola for best film. The film deals with the period during which Arendt, a German-Jewish refugee, went to Jerusalem to cover Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann’s trial for The New Yorker. Her articles were followed by the highly controversial “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” in 1963.

The film has enjoyed positive reviews for von Tratta’s direction, and especially for German actress Barbara Sukowa’s portrayal of Arendt, which won her the Lola for best actress.

The Lola for the best film for youth went to “Kaddish for a Friend,” a production in German and Arabic about a 14-year-old boy named Ali who moves from a Palestinian refugee camp to Berlin. There, he tries to gain the acceptance of the local teens by breaking into the apartment of an elderly Russian Jewish war veteran. Ali gets into serious trouble when the other youths vandalize the apartment and Ali gets reported to the police. The only way he can avoid prosecution and deportation is to seek the forgiveness of the Jewish man, his supposed enemy.

Watch the trailer for ‘Kaddish for a Friend’:

Read more


Two Views of Eichmann and Arendt

By Batya Ungar-Sargon

Crossposted from Batya Reads

Courtesy NYJFF

This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival, starting January 9, is heavy on the Holocaust. Two films, however, stand out in conversation with one another. “Hannah Arendt,” directed by Margarethe von Trotta, is a fictionalization of Arendt’s presence at the Eichmann trial. And a new documentary, “The Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” directed by Michael Prazan, attempts to retrieve the Eichmann trial from the clutches of Arendt’s highly controversial book “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” and to reinterpret the event through a different lens.

Arendt famously saw in Eichmann not a monster, but a bureaucrat following orders. She derived the term “the banality of evil” from observing Eichmann and his reactions during the trial. While the prosecution attempted to portray him as a conniving anti-Semite — the force and form behind the Final Solution — Arendt saw Eichmann as a cog in the machine of the Third Reich. She derided the theatrical nature of the trial and was deeply critical of Ben Gurion’s attempts to turn a matter of justice into a platform for nation building. The prosecution insisted on calling survivor after survivor to testify to their suffering in Germany, Poland and France. As far as Arendt was concerned, the question of Nazi atrocities had nothing to do with whether or not Eichmann was guilty of orchestrating the Final Solution.

Read more


Hannah Arendt and the Eichmann Trial

By Deborah Lipstadt

On Wednesday, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries. She is the author of the new book “The Eichmann Trial.” Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


I have spent much of the past few weeks talking about my new book, “The Eichmann Trial.” I don’t want to make this blog entry about the book. (To be blunt, I’d rather have folks read the book.) But something has struck me in the talks and interviews I have conducted.

For so many people the issue of the Eichmann trial remains Hannah Arendt. They seem to have a hard time conceiving of the Eichmann trial independent of Arendt’s “analysis.” I am speaking of who abhor what she said as well as of those who espouse her views.

Read more


This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

Sarah Silverman in ‘Peep World.’
  • Curt Schleier goes to see “Peep World,” where Jews finally attain the dysfunctional status of WASPs.

  • Philologos noses around with exasperation.

  • Michelle Sieff adjudicates Deborah Lipstadt’s arguments with Hannah Arendt in “The Eichmann Trial.”

  • Katherine Clarke looks into Southeastern Europe’s first Holocaust Museum in Skopje, Macedonia.

Read more


Pen Pals Reunited: Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt

By Benjamin Ivry

The friendship between the great kabbalist Gershom Scholem and the political scientist Hannah Arendt famously foundered in the 1960s after a disagreement over Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” an account, of the trial of the Nazi war criminal.

Hannah Arendt honored on a German stamp.

Scholem reproached Arendt for a lack of “ahavath Yisrael,” to which Arendt readily concurred that she lacked “ahavath” for any national or political group per se, a stance which Scholem could not abide. Happily, the collected correspondence of Scholem and Arendt, out on October 11 from Suhrkamp Verlag (Hannah Arendt / Gershom Scholem: Der Briefwechsel, 1939-1964), offers welcome background and amplification of the lengthy relationship between these two brilliant minds.

Read more


The Meaning of Money

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Many moons ago, when I was a graduate student in Jewish history happily spending my days doing little else but reading, one of the most intriguing books I encountered was not Maimonides’ “Guide to the Perplexed,” or “Transactions of the Paris Sanhedrin” or, for that matter, Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” but Werner Sombart’s “The Jews and Economic Life.”

Published in German in 1911, this work sought to account for why, time and again throughout history, the Jews were to be found on one side, and one side only, of the ledger book — the side that placed a premium on money, on matters mercantile, rather than on agriculture and the production of organic matter. How was it, Sombart asked, that the Jews seemed characterologically drawn to capitalism?

Read more


Stefan Zweig: Literary Saint or Suicidal Schmendrik?

By Benjamin Ivry

Almost 70 years after committing suicide in Brazil in 1942, the Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig still divides readers.

Laurence Mintz, in a preface to the reprint of Zweig’s “Balzac, Dickens, Dostoevsky: Master Builders of the Spirit” from Transaction Publishers, points to how Zweig’s suicide, in safety and comfort, seemed a cop-out to many émigré Jews. In a 1943 article, Hannah Arendt scorned Zweig’s position as an “ivory tower esthete” who saw Nazism mainly as an “affront to his personal dignity and privileged way of life.”

Others, however, worship Zweig, like Jean-Jacques Lafaye, whose “Stefan Zweig: a Jewish Aristocrat at Europe’s Center” has just been reissued from Les Éditions Hermann. For Lafaye, Zweig “genuinely possessed an elite spirit, a conscience for humanity.” French Jewish doctor and novelist Laurent Seksik agrees, offering an ardent fictional account from Flammarion, “The Last Days of Stefan Zweig.”

Read more


From the Tribe of Prophets: Swiss Jewish Philosopher Jeanne Hersch at 100

By Benjamin Ivry

Although her centenary is not until July 13, the Swiss Jewish philosopher Jeanne Hersch (1910-2000) is already being remembered as a gimlet-eyed defender of freedom.

Born in Geneva to a Polish Jewish statistics professor and his doctor wife, Hersch studied with the philosopher Karl Jaspers, whose career suffered in Germany after 1933 because his own wife was Jewish. Hersch and a fellow student, Hannah Arendt, were among Jasper’s most devoted disciples. Hersch later taught philosophy and worked at UNESCO, and though she remained less famous than Arendt outside of academic circles, she could make waves.

Read more



Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.