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

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy