Church Official Says Jews at Risk If U.S. Invades Iraq. (World)

By Donovan, Gill | National Catholic Reporter, February 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

Church Official Says Jews at Risk If U.S. Invades Iraq. (World)


Donovan, Gill, National Catholic Reporter


FRANCE: Following the release of a report stating an "improved atmosphere" exists for French Jews, a senior French priest said a U.S. war with Iraq could trigger anti-Semitic attacks in his country. "Compared to the situation two years ago, when there was much more aggression against Jews in France, this report is positive," said Fr. Patrick Debois, head of the French bishops' Commission for Dialogue with Judaism, referring to a report released by France's United Jewish Social Fund and United Jewish Appeal. "But we're frightened a conflict with Iraq could bring a new wave of attacks."

He said anti-Semitism was in with total absorption, off the air. Shocked by the increasing violence around them as the walls of the ghetto are erected, the Szpilmans retain their dignity at each stage, the father dividing an overpriced caramel evenly between them as they are about to be taken to a concentration camp. At the last moment, a Jewish policeman working for the SS throws the pianist to the ground, and tells him to disappear.

Adrien Brody, who as Wladyslav conveys the maximum of emotion with a minimum of dialogue, does not even have time to register surprise; he scurries away like a hunted animal through the abandoned ghetto streets.

The director avoids both sensationalism and sentimentality; some will fault the movie for not making the pianist heroic or revealing his inner thoughts. We understand his fear and hunger easily enough, for the rest Brody has to rely on his deep, sad eyes, and exhaustion on his handsome, aristocratic face. The director's own experience guides the choice of details that convey the shock, resignation, and gradual rebellion within the ghetto, and he follows Szpilman's account of how members of the Resistance took him from one hiding place to another, with one of his would-be rescuers turning out to be a simple opportunist.

The sadism of Nazi guards, though inevitably repetitive, should remind audiences of how intoxicating is the existence of unchallenged physical power. The real-life Wladyslaw Szpilman lived to be 88. In the film , we are immensely relieved by his survival, but Polanski goes out of his way to show that it was simply an ironic fluke. Szpilman's extreme loneliness leaves him almost a cipher; when, just before the Germans are forced to abandon Warsaw, he gets a chance to play on a real piano, it is a desperate assertion of long-repressed inner being. …

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Church Official Says Jews at Risk If U.S. Invades Iraq. (World)
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