RECOMMENDATION > Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski

RECOMMENDATION > Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski

I saw this film at the Massachusetts Fine Arts studio and was captivated from the very beginning. If this film is in a theater near you, I highly recommend that you go. My hope is that this film becomes available to every venue in America during the coming year.

The following from Alexis Soloski of the New York Times is a great review of the film

Remember This’ Review: Finding Strength Amid Moral Failure
David Strathairn is remarkable in a solo show about Jan Karski, who was profoundly changed by what he witnessed during World War II.
By Alexis Soloski

There are catastrophes so terrible that the mind struggles to comprehend them. Here is Jan Karski’s description of his visit in 1942 to a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, during which he saw dead bodies lining the streets and starving women nursing their babies from sunken breasts: “This is not a world,” he observed. “It is not humanity.” But this was humanity. And Karski, an agent of the Polish government in exile during World War II, was tasked with reporting it.

Theater for a New Audience’s “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski,” originally produced by the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, is a dignified and affecting solo show. Starring a masterly David Strathairn, and adapted from Karski’s own words by Clark Young and Derek Goldman, it brings Karski’s recollections to anguished life. With limited instruments — lights, sound, a table, two chairs, a single suit —the play evokes not only the contours of Karski’s own eventful biography, but also the horrors and privations of the war, with a particular emphasis on the failure of Allied governments to acknowledge and intervene in the murder of Europe’s Jews.

A Catholic diplomat recruited by the Polish underground, Karski reported on the changes the Nazis had wrought, entering first the ghetto, and then a transport camp. “I become a tape recorder. A camera,” Strathairn’s Karski says. Later, he elaborates: “I understand my mission. I am not supposed to have any feelings. I am a camera.”

The forerunners to “Remember This” are not necessarily or essentially theatrical. (Though Victor Klemperer’s “I Will Bear Witness,” which played Classic Stage Company two decades ago, is a kind of antecedent.) The more significant influence seems to be documentary film. Karski was featured in two documentaries by Claude Lanzmann, “Shoah” (1985) and “The Karski Report” (2010), though Goldman, the laboratory’s artistic director and the director here, also drew on other documents, including Karski’s 1944 memoir and a 1994 biography. Here there is frequent underscoring — the sound design and original compositions are by Roc Lee — which gives the show a cinematic feel, emphasized by Zach Blane’s evocative lighting.

Whatever its form, “Remember This” serves as a remarkable showcase for Strathairn, who moves fluidly among characters and time periods. He leaps onto a table at one point and off it at others. Throughout, he manages to communicate both Karski’s extraordinary moral strength and his passionate reactions to what he sees. Because Karski has feelings. He is, as Strathairn depicts him, much more than a camera or a stylus — he is a man profoundly changed by what he witnesses.

Strathairn delivers an expert performance, but it is also an unshowy one, never calling attention to itself at the expense of the content. This restraint renders “Remember This” perhaps most affecting and effective in the tension between the coolness and expertise of its form and the hot horror of its subject. It is in the space between these poles that the particular evil of the Holocaust is conveyed and understood, that unimaginable suffering is imagined. Allied leaders — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anthony Eden — wouldn’t be convinced of the truth, despite Karski’s efforts. But we in the audience are, which grants us a squirmy moral superiority, even as the show asks us, gently, to examine what we are doing in our own lives to oppose hate.

This is most likely the lesson the title refers to. And Strathairn’s Karski articulates it this way: “There is no such thing as good nations, bad nations. Each individual has infinite capacity to do good, and infinite capacity to do evil. We have a choice.”

Karski, who became a celebrated professor at Georgetown and received, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, died in 2000, which means that he lived long enough to see Holocaust minimization and outright denial come back into vogue. But this doesn’t seem to have worried him. “These voices are weak,” he says in the play. “They have no future. As I tell my students, we have a future because we are speaking the truth.”

But truth seems to have become an increasingly fungible concept. Faced with our current culture of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda, I wonder what particular advice Karski might have for us now. How would he have recorded this?


Four Suggestions for Leaders

Four Suggestions for Leaders

1. Be Action-oriented

Difficult leadership situations often call for quick, decisive action. Reflection is worthwhile but you must make a decision.

Plenty of candidates for your leadership team will have big ideas, but few will have a proven track record of transforming concepts into tangible solutions. When conducting interviews, be sure to ask for specific examples of each candidate’s ability to act decisively; look for a quick, strategic mind that can develop and implement innovative solutions.Meanwhile, it’s incumbent on you as the CEO to create an environment that encourages action-oriented behavior. This means granting autonomy to your leaders, rewarding them for taking risks, and recognizing their efforts when their bold moves are successful.

2. Be Collaborative

Leadership flourishes when we seek collaboration. Seek out and consider a wide range of perspectives.

Great leaders understand the value of collaboration. They work well with others, consider a wide range of perspectives, and challenge their colleagues respectfully. Even when extenuating circumstances (such as social distancing) drive them into isolation, they still regularly brainstorm with their teammates. They know collaboration yields the best, most innovative ideas.

3. Be Communicative

Communication is key to building trust, ensuring alignment, and boosting companywide morale during a crisis. Your leadership team should be able to clearly express your company’s mission and vision as it adjusts to ongoing changes across the business landscape. The right candidates will possess excellent written and verbal communication skills. Likewise, they should also feel comfortable speaking in front of larger groups, fielding questions, and addressing concerns.

One thing I’m doing right now to keep up with communication is providing frequent Slack updates to my entire company. These are transparent check-ins regarding the state of the business during these rapidly changing times. Taking the company’s pulse in this way isn’t benefiting executives alone — it helps everyone.

4. Be Resilient

All leaders experience adversity throughout their careers—but their ability to conquer challenges and bounce back from failure is what sets them apart.

All entrepreneurs, business leaders, and employees experience adversity throughout their careers—but their ability to conquer challenges and bounce back from failure is what sets them apart. During interviews, ask candidates for specific examples of setbacks they have overcome.

Ultimately, your aim should be to hire leaders who repeatedly exhibit resilience. A leadership team full of resilient individuals can help motivate your company to maintain its energy, enthusiasm, and ingenuity while confronting challenges—even in changing times.

A startup’s CEO is only as strong as his or her supporting cast. Starting on day one, surround yourself with a capable, trustworthy leadership team. Regardless of your company’s age or size, set a high bar when vetting candidates. These are the individuals you will lean on for years to come while navigating challenging scenarios. Approach this team-building task wisely, and you’ll certainly position your company for scaling and prosperity.

This article was originally published on the EO Global Octane Blog.

By wpengine|January 3, 2020|Global|Comments Off on How to Build a Team That Can Navigate Your Business Through Difficult Times

Recommended Books About the Holocaust

Recommended Books About the Holocaust

I certainly hope  that you will  read The Architect of Auschwitz but these are some of the excellent books on the subject that I would recommend:

There are few periods of history darker than the Holocaust, so it is fitting that the world of Holocaust literature would be as vast as it is. Any book on the subject will help you to come to terms with it, which is something that we all need to do, but some books are better than others. The ones listed below will move you in a way that you will not soon forget.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is the archetypal Holocaust novel, in many ways more an experience that you have, rather than a book that you read. Its author, Elie Wiesel, was born in what is now Romania and survived several concentration camps, and in Night, he puts into hauntingly beautiful words all of the terrible events, whether physical, mental, or emotional, that he had to survive. It was partly for this work that Wiesel won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, and it should be required reading not only for people interested in the subject, but for everyone in the world – so that we may not allow such a thing to happen again.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This award-winning young adult novel is more than just a book for children. Told from the perspective of a German girl whose foster family agrees to hide a young Jewish boy – and narrated by the ever-present Death – The Book Thief explores all of the same themes that you expect from a book about the Holocaust – morality, love, and identity. Read in disbelief as the children growing up in such a terrible time struggle to figure out their role to play in it all.

HHhH by Laurent Binet

World War II ravaged not only the Jewish communities in Europe, but also any other places where the Nazis had control. One of these places was the area now known as the Czech Republic, where for about a year, the ruthless Reinhard Heydrich ruled with his ‘iron heart’ (as Hitler said) and iron fist to match, wreaking havoc on Czech and Jewish life and morale. A couple of Czech and Slovak paratroopers however, went on a mission to assassinate him – and this is the story of that event. At the end, you will feel that you know all of the characters. This offers you the history of a little-known event in the war, but in the most personal way.

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Never had a graphic novel felt so much like a punch in the stomach then when Art Spiegelman wrote the Holocaust classic Maus, which explores his family’s – and in particular, his father’s – personal experience during World War II. It is memorable for many reasons, not least among them being that the various nationalities are drawn as different animals – Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and Jews as the mice that give the name to the piece. True artwork on every level, Maus was the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, in 1992.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader looks at the Holocaust from another viewpoint – in retrospect, through the eyes of a former concentration camp guard. Through the book, we learn of the trauma that the nation’s terrible history caused for the people born into post-war Germany, and the ways that the whole country had to work to mend itself. The Reader tells the story of a fraught and complicated personal relationship, and in doing so reveals much bigger historical relationships.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Although many have called it historically inaccurate, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas takes readers to Auschwitz from the perspective of children, a Jewish boy on the inside of the fence and a German boy on the outside, who don’t understand the reality of the situation that they are placed in. They meet when the German boy’s father becomes the Commandant of the camp, and they become very good friends, all while separated by a fence. The terror of the Holocaust becomes all the more apparent when shown through the innocent eyes and minds of children.

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

If you haven’t already cried over the pages of Anne Frank’s diary, go out and get it right now. As you read, you’ll be struck by the heartbreaking ‘everyday’ quality of the life that Anne describes – because knowing that she and her family are hiding for their lives in the years and months before their deaths, it’s incredible that her feelings and the events she describes could be so relatable. Her father, Otto Frank, the only member of her family to survive the war, published her diary in the immediate aftermath of the war, and it has since become a major symbol of Nazi atrocities.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated is in fact three stories – the fictional story of the Jewish town of Trachimbrod centuries before the war, the story of a Jewish shtetl in Poland during the war, and the overarching story that ties the two together, which is Jonathan Safran Foer’s trip to Ukraine to look for his family history. What starts out as lighthearted will eventually move you to tears as the various layers of history are uncovered and Foer discovers more and more about the places where his family once lived. The dead become alive and animated and then are taken away from you again, just as you start hoping that maybe, maybe, this time the story will turn out okay.

If This Is A Man by Primo Levi

Along the same lines as Night and Diary of a Young Girl, If This Is a Man (which in America has the title Survival in Auschwitz) tells another personal story of whatever version of life it was that the prisoners had in Auschwitz. Primo Levi, an Italian-Jewish member of the anti-fascist resistance in Italy, was kept in the camp for almost a year at the end of the war, and the book that he poured his experiences into hinges on the question of whether – and if so, how – people were able to retain their humanity in the face of such evil.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Another story of the Holocaust in retrospect, the title of Sophie’s Choice has entered the English lexicon as an idiom for an impossible choice. In the novel, Sophie, a Polish Catholic, is living in New York City and eventually recounts the terrible choice that she had to make when she first arrived at Auschwitz herself, after being arrested for smuggling food. The choice, which had no possible positive result, would haunt her for the rest of her life, and merely imagining it gives readers a whole new dimension of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Mendelssohn Is On The Roof by Jiri Weil

Mendelssohn Is On The Roof starts innocently enough, with a lighthearted story of a pair of bumbling SS soldiers tasked with removing a statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn from the roof of a concert hall. The book goes on, however, to incorporate the tales of a number of different characters all living in the Nazi-controlled Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, at the end becoming almost unbearably raw and horrific, made all the more so because you remember how you laughed in the beginning. You finish it, though, because you know, as the author did, that the difficulty of the story is exactly what gives it its value.

When Life Calls Out to Us: The Love and Lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl

When Life Calls Out to Us: The Love and Lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl

“The only authorized biography of Victor Frankl, whose life story and reflections have inspired tens of millions. Haddon Klingberg records and preserves the Frankl legacy, with his own eloquent and moving reflections.” — David G. Myers, Hope College, author of The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty.

Written in response to the horrors he experienced and witnessed during the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl’s landmark book, Man’s Search for Meaning, has sold millions of copies and been translated into twenty-seven languages. But although Frankl’s thought and philosophy have been widely analyzed, until now little has been written about his life, and about the deeply loving, intensely spiritual relationship that led him and his wife to dedicate their lives to reducing pain and oppression in the world.

In a book that is at once a wonderful love story and a tribute to two extraordinary people, Haddon Klingberg, Jr., draws on a wealth of anecdotes, told to him by the Frankl’s themselves, to describe their separate early lives and their fifty-two years as husband and wife. Returning to Vienna after spending three years in four different concentration camps, Frankl, whose first wife and family died in the camps, turned to writing as a way of finding some purpose in his life. But it was Elly Schwindt, a woman half his age, who helped him put the pieces of his broken life together. Married in 1947, the Frankl’s created a life of hope and faith, a life committed to proclaiming the oneness of the human family, challenging materialistic values, and encouraging the pursuit of meaning.

When Life Calls Out to Us chronicles a spiritual journey infused with tragedy but sustained by love, wisdom, faith, and humor. Klingberg’s extensive interviews, not available anywhere else, reveal the full richness of the Frankl’s’ lives and beautifully illuminate their enduring contributions toward a better world for all people.

This a marvelous book about Viktor and Elly Frankl.
I recommend it without qualification.

Why we should remember the Holocaust

Why we should remember the Holocaust

Today (Thursday, April 28, 2022) is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah.

Below is an excerpt written in 2020 by a young student from England, reminding us why it is important to remember the Holocaust.

Why we should remember the Holocaust-Written by Johan, Year 10

The world will once again remember the six million Jews who died in the most tragic event in history, the Holocaust. But a lot of people may ask: Why should we remember such a horrible event? Maybe we should be moving on and forget the past? These are probably the reasons why we should be remembering the Holocaust.

The personal stories of this period are probably the most important and inspirational reason why remembering the Holocaust is so important. The most well-known story, as many people know, is the life of Anne Frank, whose diary of the events has become world famous. Holocaust survivors have spoken of the situations where they were taken to a camp and saw family members or friends die. Listening to or reading these stories gives us an insight into the persecution suffered, and remembering these stories means that they are passed down through generations and they will remain to be told forever.

A survivor, Primo Levi said that “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” This quote tells us that the common German people were brainwashed and frightened into believing that the Aryan race was superior which made it easier for the Nazis to gain control and easier to perform the horrific deeds they did. We must remember that not all people in Nazi Germany personally believed what Hitler stood for.

As a global lesson, we must learn the mistakes of the past to prevent and make sure that they never happen again. This is not just about Germany and the Jews in World War Two, but is about how we treat humanity in general. As quoted from another Holocaust survivor, Simon Wiesenthal stated that ‘The Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a human tragedy’. However, there are still examples of genocide after the Holocaust which have not been as much in the spotlight as this has. Some of these examples show us that we have not fully learnt the mistakes of the past, like the genocides in Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia, whether tribal or ethnic.

To conclude, the world is far from perfect despite the lessons learnt from the Holocaust, but education can play a critical role in learning to respect diversity in humans, whether its color, race or religion. From my own experiences visiting a concentration camp in Prague, I believe that we should never reach a low in humanity like the Holocaust ever again. Therefore, the Holocaust and its story shall never be forgotten, and it is important that we all remember it.