"Whoever denies the crimes and the genocide of the past paves the way for the murders of the future."
This philosophy has been the basis for the life of this remarkable man who is the subject of this powerful documentary. Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the Holocaust, has dedicated his life to bringing to light the crimes of the Nazi regime, and bringing to justice individuals who committed "crimes against humanity" under that regime. The filmmakers chose their subject in response to the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe in the 1980s. They were given unprecedented access to this pioneer of the human rights movement, despite his hectic schedule, and spent two and a half years filming this biography, as they traveled with Wiesenthal to eight different countries.
The film traces Wiesenthal's life from his childhood in Galicia, Eastern Europe, through his ordeals in Nazi concentration camps to his post-war dedication to keeping alive the memory of those who did not survive the genocide. Wiesenthal's colleagues, friends -- and enemies -- offer insights in numerous interviews, mixed with innovative visual and aural documentary techniques. World-known saxophonist and composer John Zorn created the original soundtrack for the film. Accompanying extensive conversations with Wiesenthal himself are interviews with Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles; U.S.Colonel Richard R. Seibel, liberator of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria; Raul Hilberg, professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont, who was forced by the Nazis to leave Austria in 1939; Attorney Sylvie Corrin-Zyss, whose father survived the death camp at Auschwitz; and many others.
In a world in which, 50 years after World War II and the Holocaust, "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and genocide in Rwanda can still occur, this film is "a work of profound importance and relevance" (Denver International Film Festival 1995), as well as a living tribute to an extraordinary individual.
THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE was cited as "one of the highlights" of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival by critics in the New York Times and New York Magazine.
A film that builds its case with quiet force and intellectual acuity, THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE: SIMON WIESENTHAL is far removed from the sort of standard-issue hagiography that clutters the documentary field.
Skillfully directed by Hannah Heer and Werner Schmiedel, with original music from John Zorn, the '95 documentary puts Wiesenthal at its center less to glorify one man's work than to inquire into the moral imperative of that work.
Wiesenthal, a onetime architect, began his crusade -- "justice, not revenge" -- right after the end of the war, and almost by accident.
The chance discovery of a street sign bearing the words Eichmann & Sons set Wiesenthal on a search that, 15 years later, led to the arrest of one of those most responsible for the "final solution."
Over the years, Wiesenthal has tirelessly pursued other war criminals, lobbied Germany (somewhat successfully) and Austria (far less so) to make amends, and helped to organize human-rights organizations, including the one that bears his name. In the end, what makes Wiesenthal a remarkable citizen of the 20th century is not so much his role as a "Nazi hunter", but his morality. Wiesenthal's sense of righteousness and of keeping the past present has been his greatest answer to the Shoah.
The result is almost like watching a detective story unfold, with Wiesenthal still searching--for murderers, for proof, and for answers about how all this could have happened in the first place.
The documentary THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE: SIMON WIESENTHAL goes beyond the dry earnestness you might expect from a profile of the so-called Nazi hunter.
Getting beyond that simplistic Nazi-hunter tag is one of the things Hannah Heer and Werner Schmiedel's film does well. THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE follows Wiesenthal through Austria, America and several other countries as he crusades to keep the fight for Holocaust justice alive. It not only mixes in details about Wiesenthal's background and World War II concentration-camp experiences, it also illustrates how his drive to track down Nazi war criminals is designed not only to right a past wrong, but also to send a message to those who might commit similar ethnic cleansing atrocities.
Heer, a cinematographer whose past credits include Percy Adlon's Sugarbaby, brings a rich palette of colors to the documentary. And avant-jazz musician John Zorn scored it, so Remembrance supplies more in style than mere talking heads.
It also turns out to be a potent condemnation of the Austrian government's indifference to bringing Nazi criminals to justice in the decades following the war, most dramatically in news clips from the 1970s feud between Wiesenthal and several highranking Austrian leaders who were hiding their pasts. The scandal resulted in the exposure of one war criminal and Wiesenthal's victory in a court case against the chancellor.
The relating of such events, as well as Wiesenthal's talking about tracking down Adolf Eichmann and, later, Anne Frank's arresting officer, are fascinating.
The life and times of Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor and determined seeker of justice, are compellingly presented in Hannah Heer and Werner Schmiedel's feature documentary, showing in morning screenings this weekend at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.
"THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE: SIMON WIESENTHAL" is successful overall in following the career of this much-revered subject and in arguing for public education about the Holocaust as a necessity in the ominous climate of rising neo-Nazism and intolerance in Europe and elsewhere.
Filmed in the early 1990s at several locations including America and his native Austria, Wiesenthal tells many stories of horrible experiences in concentration camps and the "mosaic" hunts for Nazi war criminals in the decades following the war.
The film is briskly paced and covers a lot of ground. There are several narrators, plenty of archival footage and numerous interviews, including one with Richard Seibel, the American Colonel who led the liberation of Mauthausen, a death camp where Wiesenthal barely managed to survive while his mother did not.
"A collector of information," Wiesenthal worked with the United States and countless collaborators in tracking down such criminals as Adolf Eichmann and Karl Silberbauer, the Nazi who arrested diarist Anne Frank and her family. Wiesenthal is a prolific author and passionately explains his love of books ("sometimes more than people"), which he calls the Jewish people's "monuments."
The film effectively includes a brief tour of Los Angeles' Museum of Tolerance and many events and awards ceremonies, such as the Vienna premiere of Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List." But even such a respected figure is nonplussed by the reluctance of Austria's government to convict Nazi criminals in the past two decades, while the basic problem of racism persists in many forms all over the world. Those who ignore the murderers of the past pave the way for the murderers of the future. In Heer and Schmiedel's fine film, Wiesenthal takes on politicians and other targets but is clearly not seeking revenge. Still, his motivation has been "you can only forgive someone for what has happened to yourself, not to others."
Filmmakers Hannah Heer and Werner Schmiedel get beyond the notion of Wiesenthal as avenging angel who helped provide the evidence that led to the capture of Adolf Eichmann and who discovered the man who arrested Anne Frank. Although those stories are recounted, what is more interesting is the indifference which with his efforts are often met by those in authority (...)
THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE is about dealing with the past - and, pointedly, not running away from such issues in the present. (...) filmmakers have created an important document.
Incredible as it may seem, Hannah Heer and Werner Schmiedel's outstanding "THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE - SIMON WIESENTHAL", a festival highlight, is the first feature-length documentary on the man who from his first day of his liberation from Mauthausen concentration camp dedicated his life to bringing Nazi criminals to justice. The film offers a comprehensive survey of Wiesenthal's remarkable life and ongoing work, which includes efforts on behalf of all people deprived of human rights. The point that Wiesenthal makes so well is that while he may forgive his tormentors he cannot do so on behalf of the millions who died in the Holocaust.
THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE is an effective biography, presenting historical fact and contemporary praise for Wiesenthal in a package that is compelling viewing despite the fact that it is in German (with English subtitles). Hannah Heer and Werner Schmiedel, who wrote, directed and produced the film, weave an intricate portrait of Wiesenthal (...) The film is not all homage. It tries to present a factual picture of the results of Wiesenthal's work. The film's opening scene is an example. A cab driver argues that the Holocaust was a physical impossibility and a flasehood. His passenger argues that the Nazis did, indeed, kill six million. In the end, neither is able to convince the other.
Diagonale, Festival of Austrian Film, Salzburg, Austria
Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (New York, Los Angeles, Seattle)
Denver International Film Festival, USA
Sao Paulo International Film Festival, Brasil
Jewish Film Week, Los Angeles, USA
Mumbai (Bombay) International Film Festival, India
Ft Lauderdale International Film Festival, USA
Kind of Blue - Jazz Film Festival (Retrospective John Zorn), Milano, Italy
Filmcasino, Vienna, October 1994
Panel Discussion with Simon Wiesenthal, Julius H. Schoeps (Director of the Jewish Museum Vienna), and film directors Hannah Heer & Werner Schmiedel
Filmhaus Stöbergasse, Vienna, May 1995
Introduction: Dr. Rudolf Scholten, Federal Minister for Education and Arts, and Swanee Hunt, United States Ambassador to Austria.
Panel Discussion with Simon Wiesenthal, Colonel Richard R. Seibel, Hannah Heer, Werner Schmiedel; moderated by Doron Rabinovici
Special Screening at the UN, with Simon Wiesenthal in attendance
Zeughauskino, Berlin: "Jüdische Kulturreihe"
Documentary Film Series at ARRI-Kino, Munich
Written by HANNAH HEER
Directed and Produced by HANNAH HEER & WERNER SCHMIEDEL
Cinematography by HANNAH HEER
Original Music by JOHN ZORN
Edited by WERNER SCHMIEDEL, HANNAH HEER
Sound by WERNER SCHMIEDEL
Narrated by DAGMAR SCHWARZ, GEORG SCHUCHTER, FLORENTIN GROLL
"Michuts Latchum" Poetry/Performed by ORNA ELSTEIN
"Oifn weh stejt a boim" Performed by LENA ROTHSTEIN
Assistant Camera RICHARD ELIANO, JAN WECH, ERIC BANNENBERG, HERMANN LEWETZ,
BIRGIT GUDJONSDOTTIR, UWE JUST, ALON ROSENBLUM, ALON SIGARI
Gaffer CAMERON SMITH, GERO LASNIG, JÖRG MOHR
Grip ORBJÖRN JANSON, THOMAS KLICKA
Additional Sound ROGER PIETSCHMAN, Los Angeles
Location Manager LARISSA CYBENKO, Lviv
Driver JUREK KATCMAN, Lviv
Make-Up CHRISTINE LEUSER
Assistant Editor ELISABETH KLIKA-ANSELMI
Sound Mix ANDREAS GALLE
Film Laboratory Technicolor Lab, New York - Listo Film & Video, Wien
TV-Editors ORF Peter Pawlowsky, Gerhard Klein
Co-Production ORF/RIVER LIGHTS PICTURES, INC.
A/USA 1995 color 99 min
In German, English, French with English subtitles
With special thanks to
SIMON WIESENTHAL, Wien
RABBI MARVIN HIER, THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER, Los Angeles
SYLVIE CORRIN-ZYSS, Paris
INGRID LOMFORS, Göteborg
RAUL HILBERG, Vermont
MARK WEITZMAN, THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER, New York
RICHARD R. SEIBEL, Defiance, Ohio
STANLEY ROBBIN, Long Beach, New York
ZWI WERBLOWSKY, Jerusalem
EPHRAIM ZUROFF, THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER, Jerusalem
ROSA AUSTRAAT, Wien
ALFRED STREIM, Ludwigsburg
RABBI MOSHE-LEIB KOLESNIK, Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine
ROMAN POMIRTSCHYJ, Lviv, Ukraine
RABBI JOSHUA HABERMAN, Washington, DC
SYBIL MILTON, Washington, DC
MICHAEL ELIZUR, Jerusalem
WILLI DREßEN, Ludwigsburg
DOKUMENTATIONSZENTRUM DES BUNDES JÜDISCHER VERFOLGTER DES NAZIREGIMES, Wien
ÖSTERREICHISCHES STAATSARCHIV, Wien
MAUTHAUSEN ARCHIV, Wien
THE MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE, Los Angeles
THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES, Washington, DC
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER, Paris
ANNE FRANKHUIS MUSEUM, Amsterdam
ANNE FRANK FONDS, Basel
BOOK & BIBLIOTHEK, Göteborg
DE STICHTING PRAEMIUM ERASMIANUM, Amsterdam
ZENTRALE STELLE DER LANDESJUSTIZVERWALTUNGEN
ZUR AUFKLÄRUNG VON NS-VERBRECHEN, Ludwigsburg
DOKUMENTATIONSARCHIV DES ÖSTERREICHISCHEN WIDERSTANDES, Wien
YAD VASHEM ARCHIVES, Jerusalem
ISRAELITISCHE KULTUSGEMEINDE WIEN
PAULINE KREISBERG & GERARD J.KREISBERG
JULES HUF, DEBORAH SNYDER, DAVID WINGEATE PIKE, DORON RABINOVICI,
GABRIELE KOHLBAUER-FRITZ, ELI HABER, GEORG HABER, JULIUS H. SCHÖPS (JÜDISCHES MUSEUM WIEN)
John Zorn's MASADA: CHRIS SPEED (clarinet), DAVE DOUGLAS (trumpet), MARK FELDMAN (violin), ERIK FRIEDLANDER (violin cello),
JOHN MEDESKY (piano, organ), GREG COHEN (bass), KENNY WOLLESEN (drums)