TJC - The Jewish Channel
Home About Us Schedule Video Subscribe Contact TJC
Join Our Mailing List
Sign up for our Email Newsletter
TJC Blogs
  • The Docent
  • TJC Newsdesk
  • TJC Movies
  • America & World Jewry
  • Feature Films
  • History &
    Remembrance
  • Israel
  • TJC Original Series
  • Row J
  • The Salon
  • Up Close
  • Holy Dazed
  • Inside the Issues
  • Jews of Color
  • Modern Jewish Mom
  • The Portion
  • Rabbis Roundtable
  • Srugim
  • TJC Movie Talk
  • With the Editors
  • Join Our Mailing List
    Sign up for our Email Newsletter
    TJC Blogs
  • The Docent
  • TJC Newsdesk
  • TJC Movies
  • America & World Jewry
  • Feature Films
  • History &
    Remembrance
  • Israel
  • TJC Original Series
  • Row J
  • The Salon
  • Up Close
  • Holy Dazed
  • Inside the Issues
  • Jews of Color
  • Modern Jewish Mom
  • The Portion
  • Rabbis Roundtable
  • Srugim
  • TJC Movie Talk
  • With the Editors

  • Band of Basterds: Jewish Soldiers in Film

    by Christian Niedan

    Audiences will see a group of Jewish-American G.I.’s turn the tables on the Nazis this summer with the release of Inglourious Basterds, the latest film by Quentin Tarantino. The plot sends a strike force — led by Brad Pitt’s “Lt. Aldo Raine” — deep behind enemy lines to kill members of the Third Reich with guns, knives, baseball bats and, well, anything else at hand…

    The film is in the tradition of 1967’s The Dirty Dozen, 1968’s Where Eagles Dare and (of course) 1978’s Inglorious Bastards — all three of which set their story in the midst of World War II, and where the focus was more on rip-roaring action than on what happened when the bullets stopped flying.

    That kind of emphasis on the aftermath occurs in the final episode of Band of Brothers, the 2001 TV miniseries centered on the real-life U.S. 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Stationed in post-war Austria, Cpl. Joseph Liebgott — who is tormented by the atrocities inflicted on fellow Jews — gets tipped to the whereabouts of a former Nazi camp commandant. So, taking two comrades and a jeep, Liebgott sets out for vengeance.

    The moral stakes of Liebgott’s actions were previously explored in executive producer Steven Spielberg’s films Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. In the latter, Jewish Pvt. Stanley Mellish also thirsts for vengeance, but expresses it with a devastatingly simple message…

    Still, as with last year’s Defiance, Inglourious Basterds will be that rare — and in this case, fictional — World War II film that depicts Jews taking up arms against Hitler’s agents, instead of being herded into cattle cars and concentration camps. The collective legacy of those latter images has played a powerful role in the moral conflicts inherent in being part of today’s paradigm of Jewish soldiery: The Israel Defense Forces.

    Among the slew of recent films examining life in Israeli units is Amos Gitai’s 2002 feature Kedma, currently showing on The Jewish Channel. Playing out like a kind of prehistory of the IDF — by way of the Palmach and Haganah which spawned it — the film follows a group of Jewish refugees from war-ravaged Europe who fight their way into British Mandate Palestine. The fight to found the State of Israel sharpens these irregulars into a proper military force, but Gitai also asserts that it led them to reconsider the role of God and religion in a post-Holocaust Jewish nation.

    Kedma is a far grittier look at the 1948 Arab-Israel War than previous depictions like 1960’s Exodus — based on the acclaimed Leon Uris novel — or 1966’s Cast a Giant Shadow. This is due to the modern sensibilities of a director who was heavily influenced by his own time in the IDF. During 1973’s Yom Kippur War, Gitai’s helicopter was shot down over the Golan Heights — an event which is the basis for his 2000 film Kippur

    The legacy of World War II rears up again in a memorable scene from 2008’s Waltz with Bashir, when director Ari Folman recalls how IDF forces allowed Lebanese Phalangist militia to enter the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila during the 1982 Lebanon War — resulting in a spree of reprisal killings over the assassination of Lebanon’s president-elect Bashir Gemayel.

    Folman’s own parents are Holocaust survivors, but an old comrade explains to the director of his nights shooting flares above Sabra and Shatila — and thus providing Phalangists with enough light to complete their massacre — “we were the Nazis.”

    Joseph Cedar — also a veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War — returned there with his 2007 film Beaufort. Setting the scene in 2000, at the very end of the South Lebanon conflict, Cedar focused on the emotional effects of an army in retreat.

    In Beaufort, Liraz Librati commands an IDF unit stationed in an ancient mountaintop castle — a place where the only enemies to be seen are incoming mortars. Stuck with orders to wait on their go-ahead for withdrawal, Librati and his men pass the time by revealing their hopes and fears of life after soldiering…

    Which brings us back to the subject of vengeance. Cedar’s 2000 feature debut, Time of Favor, revolves around a group of West Bank Jewish settlers led by the eloquent but mercurial Rabbi Meltzer.

    Here, martial duty and personal conviction are one and the same — a combustible mixture which the rabbi stirs by militarizing his students. Among them are soldiers Manachem and Pini, who each vie for Meltzer’s daughter. But when the affections of one are spurned, he chooses to interpret Meltzer’s words as reason to commit a terrible act of reprisal…

    February 26, 2009 | Read more Docent posts. No Comments »

    Comments

    No Comments »

    No comments yet.

    RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

    Leave a comment





    © 2008 The Jewish Channel. All rights reserved.

    Warning: include(/nfs/c01/h09/mnt/6196/domains/tjctv.com/html/wp-content/themes/docenttheme/r_sidebardocentblog.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: Permission denied in /nfs/c01/h09/mnt/6196/domains/tjctv.com/html/wp-content/themes/docenttheme/docentsingle.php on line 40

    Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/nfs/c01/h09/mnt/6196/domains/tjctv.com/html/wp-content/themes/docenttheme/r_sidebardocentblog.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php-5.3.29/share/pear') in /nfs/c01/h09/mnt/6196/domains/tjctv.com/html/wp-content/themes/docenttheme/docentsingle.php on line 40