One-and-a-Half-Cheers for an Amazon Series about Nazi Hunters

March 18 2020

Set in 1977, the television series Hunters depicts a Holocaust survivor (played by Al Pacino) who leads a gang of vigilantes in their quest to stop a plot by former Nazi officials to establish a Fourth Reich in the U.S. Hunters has already attracted much criticism for its saturation with comic-book and B-movie clichés, its myriad inaccuracies, and Pacino’s scenery-chewing. To A.E. Smith, “seeing post-Holocaust family trauma reduced to a series of superhero tropes, listening to bad Yiddish accents and mangled Jewish phrases, . . . and watching a seemingly endless parade of leering Nazis straight from central casting,” can be cringe-inducing. And there are more substantive problems as well:

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum roundly criticized Amazon for the show’s depiction of a twisted game of human chess, in which inmates/chess pieces are shot when they are taken, their bodies stacked up to one side of the playing field-sized board. . . . A sadistic chess game can stand in for an array of horrors, and that was probably the intent of the episode in the show, but surely actual historical events were more dreadful than anything dreamed up in the show’s writing room. The fantasized sadism of this and other scenes does not play well.

Nonetheless, writes Smith, the show also has its strengths:

The whole idea of a cabal of unreconstructed Nazis secretly plotting a violent coup in 1970s America seems—and is—ridiculous. But, in explaining the origins of this fictional conspiracy, Hunters forces us to consider another historical truth that is largely forgotten. After the war, America scooped up [the aerospace engineer] Wernher von Braun and 1,600 other Nazi scientists and engineers, expunging their wartime records and parachuting them into positions of influence in the American scientific establishment, particularly NASA.

Despite Hunters’s revenge fantasies, they all died, peacefully, in bed. . . .

The real problem, the show seems to be suggesting, is not conspiracies of old-time Nazis but the zombie quality of the ideology and its ability to renew itself in every generation. By far, the most chilling character in the entire show is Travis Leich, a young American convert to the Nazi cause. Travis is soft-spoken, well-groomed, articulate, and a stone-cold psycho killer. . . . [I]n its vernacular exploration of the remarkable power of Nazi ideology, Hunters serves as a candy-colored comic-book meditation on our own times—and a warning.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Holocaust, Nazism, Television

 

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion