June 22, 2008

Documentary Film

I have just returned from ten days in Germany, where I was working on a documentary film about the search for and prosecution of Nazi war criminals (working Title: Elusive Justice). I have been working with Jonathan Silvers, the film's director, for the past year or so and joined him and the crew (including the very talented cameraman, Bob Caccamise) in Berlin; from there, we traveled to Cologne, Krefeld, and Frankfurt.

Bobby Caccamise, Neal Robin, and Jonathan Silvers in the Courthouse in Cologne

In Berlin, we filmed at the former and current sites of the Berlin Document Center. We interviewed Henry Leide, an expert on East German prosecutions of Nazi war criminals, and Niklas Frank, the son of Hans Frank.

In Cologne, we interviewed Judge Fassbender, who presided over the Kurt Lischka trial, and Peter Finkelgruen, who carried on an eleven-year quest to see Anton Malloth, the murderer of his grandfather, brought to justice.

Judge Fassbender and Petra Krischok, our local producer

Peter Finkelgruen

In Krefeld, we interviewed Ralph Klein, an anti-fascist activist, who carreid out demonstrations two years ago against one Horst Richter, who had been convicted of war crimes, in absentia, by an Italian court and who lives in Germany, without fear, apparently, of the German justice system. We filmed outside of Richter's home, and his wife came out to speak with us, providing a spontaneous and dramatic interview.

Ralph Klein in Krefeld

In Frankfurt, we interviewed Gerhard Wiese, who had been a prosecutor in the Frankurt Auschwitz trial, and is perhaps the only survivng figure from the trial. Sitting in the courtroom, where the trial commenced, Wiese provided details of and reflections about this most important proceeding.

Bobby Caccamise, our cameraman

Gerhard Wiese, prosecutor in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial

This film will tell a crucially important story about the pursuit of justice and the failures and successes of that pursuit. I am very excited to be working on it.

June 5, 2008

Dr. Ruth

Dr. Ruth hoisted aloft at her party

Last night, the Museum was the venue for a remarkable event -- our Trustee, Dr. Ruth Westheimer's 80th birthday party. Ruth and her family hosted their 350+ guests to a night to remember. It was was described by one veteran party-goer as "the best celebration ever."

Dr. Ruth wore a beautiful tangerine-colored silk brocade jacket with silk pants. Surrounded by her beautiful family and all of her friends, she danced the night away to Greg Wall, who played a variety of rock-n-roll, klezmer, and Israeli tunes that inspired festive dancing all night long. From the first hora to the last jazz riff, the events hall practically vibrated with revelers. Fireworks over the Statue of Liberty provided the veritable icing on the cake, created by David Bouley (the cake, not the fireworks), and Ruth and her family were as joyful and loving as you could imagine. In lieu of gifts, Ruth’s guests were asked to make contributions to the Ruth Westheimer Fund for Holocaust Education in memory of Fred Westheimer. More than $60,000 was raised to further the educational mission of the Museum. Others who celebrated with Dr. Ruth include Bob Morgenthau, Manhattan DA and Ruth’s boss at the Museum, Christie Hefner, Debbie Friedman, and the New York City Sports Commissioner Ken Podziba representing Mayor Bloomberg, who had a plaque made for Ruth that declares “The world is a better place with you in it.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I was honored to be asked to deliver some remarks. Here they are (note: for full effect, they should be read aloud with a certain elocution):

It is difficult to talk about Dr. Ruth without thinking about a certain subject, but I promised myself that I would avoid the cliché, that I would try get through my remarks this evening without mentioning “you know what.”

Well, given that restriction, what can you say about Ruth?

• What can you say about this extremely short person who has a giant heart?
• What can you say about this extravagant personality who is modest in so many ways?
• What can you say about this extrovert, who is thoughtful, and deliberative, and even very private?
• What can you say about this extraordinary achiever who takes time and care to speak to everyone?
• What can you say about this exemplar of grandmotherly qualities whose expertise on television risks expurgation by the FCC?
• What can you say about this exile who has found a home in the hearts of so many?

I, for one, can simply say, I love Ruth. I love her for her big and kind and generous heart; for her commitment to important causes (like ours); for the priorities that order her life; for the example she makes for us all about living meaningfully. She is one of my heroes, and I couldn’t be prouder to call her my friend or happier that she chose to celebrate her birthday here in our home. Thank you, Ruth, and Happy Birthday.

(Photo by Melanie Einzig)