In order to succeed, satire and parody require a common understanding of what is being satirized. If the audience doesn’t have this, satire quickly degenerates into flat-tire. Sadly, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, most Americans have little idea of the history of World War II and the extent of brutality that tortured and murdered six million Jews, one million of whom were children.
The elite private school Fieldston in Riverdale which has a significant population of Jewish students has had two episodes of anti-semiitism, the first featuring swastikas that appeared in hallways and classrooms in 2015. The school initially explained the swastika as an ancient symbol of peace without mentioning the word Holocaust, and only after objections from parents, did the school call an assembly to refer to the symbol in connection with the murder of six million Jews. In October 2019, a Muslim speaker from Columbia Law School spoke at Fieldston and compared the Israeli survivors of the Holocaust to Nazis, accusing them of similar violence against Palestinians It took a month before the school responded simply by reaffirming their firmly held values without specifying what these are or condemning the outrageous comparison.
The academic response to Israel Apartheid Week on campuses across the U.S. is another example of refusal to deal with the dangers of anti-semitism No other minority would be continually pilloried in this way on any American campus but objections to turning Jewish students into pariahs have been sporadic at best, and the accompanying BDS movement, directed solely at Israel, has been supported by many campus groups including faculty.
Now for JoJo Rabbit, a film about a ten year old boy infatuated with Hitler and thrilled to be a part of Hitler Youth. Hitler appears to the boy, remaining invisible to everyone else, and the two have lively exchanges about Nazis, Jews and the need to kill them whenever possible. Oddly enough in a movie that takes place during the war, there is no mention of ghettos, concentration camps or mass shootings into pits dug by the victims. The only Jew we see is a lovely young girl who is being hidden in the attic of JoJo’s house by his mother, a sympathetic Scarlett Johansson who pays for her kind empathy later in the film. Jews who were hiding during the war lived in sewers, underground cellars, sometimes on a closet shelf for prolonged periods of time None of this is revealed or mentioned in this movie. Ironically, the only military violence we see is that of the Russian and American liberators who destroy JoJo’s town with armor, machine guns and mass explosions. If asked to review this movie, it wouldn’t be strange if a student reported that WW II was about the mass destruction of Germany.
What would the reaction of Hollywood and the Left be to a movie about illegal immigrant children who were being kept in “cages” if only one was shown in a comfortable waiting room and the only violence was that of the long lines of raucous adult immigrants storming the border fences? Would this pass as an acceptable subject for satire and would the above theoretical description be considered appropriate?
JoJo Rabbit ends with a quote from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
The Squad and Black Lives Matter would never allow that quote to be affixed to their contemporary complaints. To our eternal shame, it has become acceptable when it comes to the indescribable horror of the Holocaust.
JoJo Rabbit has been nominated for six Academy Awards incuding Best Picture of the Year.
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