March 29, 2012

Last Week...

An incredible week.....

Tuesday: At Columbia, Claude Lanzmann (with Charlie Rose) discussing his newly published (in English) memoir, The Patagonian Hare. As always, Lanzmann, charming and disarming, took the conversation in his direction.  I first met Claude in Paris in 1998 and have seen him often since then, in Paris, Stockholm, Washington, and New York. We hosted him for a week at the Museum in connection with the 20th anniversary of the release of Shoah.  I'm looking forward to reading this book.

Wednesday: Opening of Filming the Camps: From Hollywood to Nuremberg.

Attending the opening were the Robert M. Morgenthau, Jacques Fredj (Director of the Memorial de la Shoah), Eric de Rothschild (Chairman of the Memorial de la Shoah), and Bernhard Emsellem, a representative of the exhibition funder, the French national Railroad (SNCF). Photo by Melanie Einzig

  An excerpt from my remarks at the opening: 

Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Museum on this earliest of Spring evenings and to the opening of this marvelous exhibition, Filming the Camps: John Ford, George Stevens, Samuel Fuller, from Hollywood to Nuremberg. Before I begin, I would like to offer our condolences to our French colleagues at the Memorial de la Shoah for the tragic loss experienced this past week in Toulouse. While a senseless, grotesque act of violence perpetrated against innocents is a trauma felt by all, it may touch those who dedicate themselves to teaching about and commemorating the history that is the subject of both our Museum and the Memorial de la Shoah with particular resonance. And so we send our thoughts and prayers.  

Our relationship with the Memorial is of longstanding. This exhibition marks the third project on which we have worked with this great institution. This relationship began in 2008 when we hosted the remarkable exhibition, Holocaust by Bullets, about the work of Father Patrick Desbois. It continued and became a kind of counter-intuitive, cross-Atlantic cooperation. Consider that several years ago, we, a Museum in NYC created an exhibition about, a French writer, Irene Nemirovsky, that debuted in America and then later traveled (in modified form) to France. Consider that our colleagues at the Memorial de la Shoah, an institution in Paris, created an exhibition about American filmmakers that debuted in France and then traveled here to America. 

When we speak of our British friends, it is often said that we are divided by our common language, which I understand to mean that we are so comfortable understanding each other’s language that we fail to interpret the differences that force us to look at the world in different ways. When we speak of our French colleagues, I think we can say that we are united by our different languages. We are forced by the challenge of our separate languages to interpret and translate and confront the wonderful differences that define the way we each look at the world and the way we each create exhibitions. We have learned from each other, and the result has been a productive partnership that I hope will continue long into the future.

It is no wonder, I suppose, that this exhibition, rooted, as it is, in the universal language of images should have been developed in France, where Hollywood and its products have been elevated and appreciated perhaps even more than in the United States. We owe the exhibition’s gifted curator Christian Delage our gratitude for building this exhibition with such care and for interpreting for us so deftly the impact and reach of the work of our fellow Americans.

Friday: Visit from the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric

DGM and Grand Mufti of Bosnia (Photo by Caroline Earp)

We received a visit from the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who presented us with a beautiful painting and a facsimile copy of the Sarjevo Hagaddah, the original of which had been saved twice in the past century by Muslems.  Dr. Ceric is a charasmatic leader who addressed the staff and engaged with me in a long conversation as we walked through the Garden of Stones, Voices of Liberty, and the core exhibition.

Dr. Ceric gave me the white flower you can see pinned to my lapel and pictured above.  It is a memorial token for those murdered at Srebrenica in 1995.  The eleven petals recall the date, July 11th, and the green center represents the rebirth of life.  These hand-crocheted flowers were made by the widows and mothers of the murdered men and boys. Both Dr. Ceric and his wife were demonstrably moved by the Garden of Stones. 

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