Next time you reach for those Life & Style and In Touch magazines while in the supermarket checkout line, you might want to keep in mind the dark side to those gossip rags — and it goes beyond Tom Cruise’s defamation suit against them for claims that he abandoned his daughter Suri.
An investigation by entertainment and media news website The Wrap reveals that the publisher of these magazines, Bauer Media Group, deals in Nazi-themed material and pornography (sometimes combining the two). Among Bauer’s publications is Der Landser, a German military adventure magazine with World War II stories told through the eyes of Hitler’s armies. Not surprisingly, it is popular with skinheads and neo-Nazis. German magazine Der Spiegel has called Der Landser “a specialist journal for whitewashing the Wehrmacht.”
Bauer is a huge privately held international media empire with 600 print publications, 300 websites, 50 TV and radio stations, and billions of dollars in annual revenue. It claims to have the highest retail sales of magazines in the United States.
It seems evil people can live a really long time.
Now 107(!) years old and still singing, Hitler’s favorite singer Johannes Heesters recently discovered his native Netherlands still regards him as a traitor. German chancellor Angela Merkel was recently hosting a formal state dinner for the visiting Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and invited Heesters, one of the most prominent Dutch residents in Germany and most famous entertainers there. However, when the Dutch officials noticed his name on the guest list they insisted he be disinvited.
Heesters’s career was made when Hitler fell in love with his performance as the male lead of Franz Lehar’s operetta “The Merry Widow,” going to every performance. Hitler even took to imitating his idol, kissing his hands, showering him with money, automobile, house, food and other goods, mostly appropriated from Jews, and even benefiting from personal cut in his taxes. Heesters claimed to know nothing, for example, about Dachau — until photos surfaced of him there, while his opera company was entertaining the SS to help them relax. He then claimed he might have been there but he was not one of the people who sang for the SS. On a recent television appearance, he actually referred to Hitler as a “really great guy” [ein netter Kerl].
Among the Nazis’ persecuted minorities were Jewish and non-Jewish artists, musicians and writers branded “degenerate” by the regime.
“Radical Departures: The Modernist Experiment,” an exhibition currently showing at the Leo Baeck Institute/Center for Jewish History in New York, gathers together work by these “degenerate” artists, including Georg Stahl, Samson Schames, David Ludwig Bloch and others.
Although compact, the exhibit presents a whistlestop tour through the major European art movements from the turn of the 20th century, taking in German Expressionism and Weimar Modernism, through to the Second World War period, and the Surrealism and Abstract art of the postwar era.
As part of its epic retrospective of Weimar Cinema, “Daydreams and Nightmares,” New York’s Museum of Modern Art will screen Werner Hochbaum’s 1932 film “Razzia in St. Pauli” on January 29 and February 2, an early German sound film long thought lost.
An atmospheric slice-of-life look at the Hamburg underworld of pimps, prostitutes and criminals (many portrayed by extras who actually held such professions), the film was a box office smash. Once the Nazis came to power, however, they banned the film for its uncritical portrayal of small time prostitution and its socialist-smacking glorification of the working class.
Justin Rosenfeld, the film’s producer and owner of Orbis Film, was forced to take on a Nazi co-owner. The company continued to release films until 1938, when Rosenfeld was briefly arrested. He then fled with his family to the United States. Rosenfeld died in Rochester, NY of heart failure in 1947.
To see the splendid new exhibit of caricatures and miniature drawings by Polish-born Jewish illustrator Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), on view until March 27 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, you first have to walk through several galleries of religious paintings devoted to Christian saints, Madonnas with child, and Christ on the cross. Szyk’s pictures also introduce religious themes, but his portraits of martyrs and Jewish heroes are often less reverential than those in the museum’s adjoining rooms.
Szyk has no respect for the tyrants who oppress Jews. In a drawing titled “Valhalla” he satirically portrays Hitler and Mussolini as beer hall waiters serving rowdy Nazi soldiers, one of whom tramples a prostrate Jew. “De profundis,” a more startling 1943 pen and ink response to Nazi cruelty, depicts Christ holding the Ten Commandments atop a pile of war victims, many of them Jewish. A Torah and yarmulkes on bearded heads can be seen among the fallen. Ornately lettered words above the tumbled mass of men, women and children ask: “Cain, where is Abel thy brother?”
View a slideshow of images by Arthur Szyk:
Many years ago, while researching German supporters of Holocaust reparations, I went in search of information on the social-democratic politician Kurt Schumacher. I found what I was looking for, but right next to Schumacher’s listing in an encyclopedia was a surprise: “Scholem, Werner, * 29.12.1895 Berlin, † 17.7.1940 KZ Buchenwald; konfessionslos.”
It was Gershom Scholem’s brother.
In the 1920s, when Gershom was still a little-known scholar working as a librarian, his brother Werner had already achieved international fame — and infamy — as the enfant terrible of German politics. He was elected to the Reichstag twice before he turned 29. When a group of Jewish intellectuals took over the German Communist Party in 1924, Werner joined the Central Committee and became head of the party’s internal organization.
In May 1942, around three months before some 300,000 Jews were sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka, Nazi filmmakers shot 62 minutes of propaganda footage intended to illustrate the inhumanity of their victims. Staged scenes showed rich Jews living in luxurious indifference to the poverty and death around them, purportedly demonstrating their callousness, even toward their own people.
Chances are you’ve seen this footage, though not in its entirety. One of the only film documents to emerge from the Holocaust, bits and pieces of it have been used in nearly every Holocaust documentary ever made. But only recently has a filmmaker undertaken to examine the footage as a whole, as well as the circumstances in which it was produced.
“Mendelssohn, the Nazis and Me,” a recent DVD release from Kultur International Films, reproduces a 2009 BBC TV film by UK-born writer Sheila Hayman about her eminent ancestor, the composer Felix Mendelssohn.
The multi-talented Hayman is author of previous light-hearted novels and documentary scripts about robots, abortions in China, car design and other eclectic subjects. Among the interviewees in “Mendelssohn, the Nazis and Me” is musicologist Jeffrey Sposato, author of the astute “The Price of Assimilation: Felix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition,” (Oxford University Press) which explores the extent to which Mendelssohn adopted an antisemitic viewpoint in works like the oratorio “St. Paul,” in which a villainous chorus of Jews avidly shouts: “Stone him to death!”
The CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Release of a 28 DVD-set, “Hogan’s Heroes: The Komplete Series, Kommandant’s Kollection” reminds us of this early effort to find belated humor in Hitler’s war machine. Writer/director Billy Wilder’s much-admired 1953 film “Stalag 17,” was adapted from a play of the same name by two former POWs, and subtitled: “a comedy melodrama in three acts.” Deleting the melodrama, TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes,” which ran on CBS for 168 episodes from 1965 to 1971, went for outright laughs, successfully or not.
Ambiguously, “Hogan’s Heroes” cast all the principal roles of Nazi soldiers with Jewish actors, notably two Austrian Jews who were refugees from Hitler, Leon Askin (General Burkhalter) and John Banner (Sergeant Schultz). Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), son of the eminent German-Jewish symphony conductor Otto Klemperer, had also fled the Nazis, arriving in Los Angeles in 1935. Was it somehow better to have buffoonish Nazis played by Jewish actors?