Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interval Two - Some "Good" Films

Welcome to Interval Two! This the second of the Interval pages of the blog A Ball for Genia.
These interval pages provide space where you can join  in with your valued comments and opinions.  And you will recall that there are two other sites, besides the blog itself, where you can express your opinion: The Facebook page also titled A Ball for Genia, and the dedicated e-mail address geniaball*at*

First off, we thought you might find it  interesting, kind reader, to review some films and open up a discussion on the films about the Holocaust that may have moved you.  We would love to hear your ideas on this, but first, a review from one of The Group, the one named Thora.

Good is a film based on the stage play by C.P. Taylor (adapted by John Wrathall for the screen) and stars Viggo Mortensen, Jason Issacs, Jodie Whittaker, and also includes Steven Elder.  It was directed by Vincente Amorim and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 8 September 2008.
As I have some inside knowledge of this production, I thought I would share it with you.
Good the film was released in 2008.  It took 10 years to bring this film to the cinema, after a lot of long, hard work and dedication by the producer, Miriam Segal.  The film is based on a hugely popular stage play, by C.P. Taylor, which was originally staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Donmar Warehouse in September 1981, starring Alan Howard.  The play was brought to Broadway after that, and continues to be staged internationally.  I have met people who saw it on stage, and never forgot it.

This is a story that starts in 1933 about a man, in Germany, who is a “good” man, John Halder, a professor of literature at a German University.  His best friend is Maurice Gluckstein, a psychiatrist.  They fought together in WWI in the trenches, for their country.  They laugh about the Nazi Party sometimes over a stein (or two) of beer, and how Hitler is a joke.  They live their sometimes difficult lives with wives, children, incapacitated mothers, lovers.  But of course, there is something bigger than either of them coming, and that will change both of them.

Halder has written a book, a novel, about euthanasia.  This brings him to the attention of the Nazi Party.  From that point on, he is drawn into the regime.  It is a terrible story, whereby he gains something, but loses everything.

I find the acting in this film superb.  There are no caricatures, no stereotypes.  The choice of actor for Halder took many years because the producer had some difficulty in pulling everything together.  But Viggo Mortenson is perfect as Halder.  David Issacs plays Gluckstien, and he was on board from the first, and is also a co-producer.  He is a revelation.  Other characters in the film were on board early, including Steven Elder as Adolph Eichmann.

Viggo Mortenson and Steven Elder as Halder and Eichmann.
Every character in the film is a human being.  Eichmann is a bit of a geek.  Halder is a normal man, as are his wives, first and second.  These are real people, living real lives, and being sucked in to the horrendous outcome of the Nazi regime.  It is a very powerful film, and highly recommended.

And now another exquisite little film to share with you, The Porcelain Unicorn. 
The Philips Parallel Lines: Tell It Your Way film contest invited people to make a short film, no longer than three minutes, that contained these lines as its dialogue:

What’s That?
It’s a Unicorn
Never seen one up close before
Get away, get away
I’m sorry.

The winner, as judged by acclaimed director Ridley Scott, was the little gem that is The Porcelain Unicorn. You can click the name to view it on You Tube.  How writer/director/editor Keegan Wilcox could craft such a perfect film from those six lines is truly insprational.  As overall winner of the Tell It Your Way contest, Keegan Wilcox will now enjoy a potentially career-making opportunity of a week’s work experience at Ridley Scott Associates (RSA) offices, 7 nights’ accommodation, spending money and the new Full HD 3D Cinema 21:9 Platinum series TV from Philips.  We hope he goes on to a long and fulfilling career in filmmaking.

What are your most memorable and moving films about the Holocaust?

Finally, we all know the sad story that was Anne Frank’s.   There have been many excellent re-tellings of her story in film and television, in many languages, over the years, since the publication of her diary.

Anne was a bright spirit:  Here is one of her diary entries —

In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation  consisting of confusion, misery and death.

Episode Three of A Ball for Genia will be published on Monday November 5th. To access the blog, just click on the link at the side where you can see all the blog posts so far.  But please remember, Episode Three won't be viewable until Monday, November 5th!

In Episode Three, we will again meet Genia and Luisa, Maury, Dolek and Sharon (the fighting couple!), Marek, Mrs. Winkelman, and the Rabbi; also Itzhak, the angry man, who is going to direct his anger at the poor, unsuspecting Rabbi!

And again, please don't forget to check into the A Ball For Genia Facebook page where you are invited to tell what you think about the play, and, of course, your reaction to the Holocaust.  And please send us an email with any comments to  Also new:  A Ball For Genia has a Twitter account at @ABallForGenia.  If you are on Twitter, please follow us.

And as always, thank you for your help in enhancing the goal of Holocaust Remembrance.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Episode Two

In Episode 1, we saw how Jareth lured the mob away from Genia and Lusia and how they were found by Wachter and led to his house.  The following action takes place in Wachter’s living room, which is comfortable with worn furnishings. An inwardly opening door on the right, with a peephole, opens onto a quiet avenue that slopes downhill to the city. An adjacent door leads to the kitchen.   Doors on the left and in the back wall on the left open onto other rooms. Between the doors in the back wall is a heavily draped window. 

Now we meet Maury, self-appointed house manager; Dolek and his wife Sharon; Marek the counterfeiter; Mrs. Winkleman, cook and housekeeper; the Rabbi; Itzak the angry man; and Feodor the fiddler.
    It is Friday morning, and Genia, Lusia, Dolek and Sharon are listening to Maurey--

Maury: Good morning!
All:  Good morning.
Maury:  On behalf of Albert Wachter and all who live here, I welcome you. You needn’t be afraid.  You are safe here. 
Lusia:   My husband, Jareth… have you heard anything of my husband?
Maury: Herr Wachter is making inquiries. 
Lusia:  We were bombed out of our hiding place. A mob came after us when they saw  our yellow stars…we tried to hide…Jareth led them away…a man found us, led us here.  [With a sob]  I fear they caught Jareth, and…
Maury:  Herr Wachter will find Jareth!
Dolek:  What I want to know is, well—what sort of a place is this?
Sharon:  Let Maury talk, Dolek. He will tell us in good time.
Dolek: [Angry.] Let me ask a question anyway!
Sharon: You don’t have to flare up at me like that!
Maury:  Please, please.  I will tell you everything you want to know.  The important thing is that you are safe here.  Herr Wachter shelters us—all of us.  There are almost a dozen of us here now.
Dolek:  Jews?
Maury:  Jews.  All of us.
Dolek: What’s his game?  He’s a goy, isn’t he?  Why does he do it?
Maury:  He doesn’t say why and we don’t ask.  He works for the local military commissary where he gets food for us. And he has friends who help. 
Sharon:  We thank him.
Maury: We all do, but say nothing of thanks to him.  Only accept.  His home is a way stop on an underground railway. We don’t usually stay long; normally we’d be gone in a week.  But the Allied Armies are near and it is dangerous to travel, so we stay.
Lusia:  [As Genia tries to sit on her lap.] Not now, Genia.
Sharon:  I’ll take her. Come here, little knaydel.
     Three men enter from the cellar carrying a heavy object and pass through to the kitchen, from which is heard a loud clanking.
Maury: Ah, the part for the water heater. Finally.  As you can see we have a complete society here in this house. We even have a cemetery in the cellar for those who have ah…
[Mrs. Winkelman enters from kitchen.] This is Mrs. Winkleman. Mrs. Winkleman meet Lusia, her daughter Genia, and Dolek and wife Sharon.  Last names can come later.
Mrs. Winkelman:  How do you do.  I cook and keep house, and I could use some help.
Lusia: Oh, I’ll help! And Genia, too.
Sharon:  And I!
Dolek: [Mutters] that’ll be the day!
Sharon: [Stung] I will!
Maury: Please! We have a community here, and it must be peaceful.
   Marek enters and moves onto the door that leads to the cellar. He stops at Maurey’s words.
Maury: Wait, Marek.  I want you all to meet Marek.  [All murmur hellos] 
Marek: [Bobs] Pleased! 
Maury: Marek is famous. Famous? Is that the right word, Marek?
Marek: Better notorious.
Maury:  All right, since you said it.  Marek is notorious for a lifetime career as a counterfeiter and forger.  He is vital to us as he is plying his art in his cellar workshop, complete with printing press.  I want you all to make an appointment with Marek very soon. He will make you identity papers and give you a supply of money. Any questions?
Dolek: Is the money any good?  They re-issued it, you know.
Maury: A hundred percent good. Marek, a sample. [Maury holds up a Gulden to the light, crinkles it.]  The latest issue; better than the real thing.  Thank you, Marek.
Marek:  Thank you, I’m sure.  [Marek produces a rag doll; which he holds behind his arm so that it peaks out at Genia. Genia is fascinated and goes to him.] This little lady heard you were coming and wants to play with you, bubelah.  [Genia takes the doll, cuddles it.] 
Lusia: You are very kind.  Say thank you, Genia.
Genia:  [Curtseys] Thank you.  I shall call her Rivke.  Hello, Rivke.
Maury: [After a fond chuckle.]  Seriously, if this house is ever raided by the Gestapo, it’s every man for himself.  Keep the papers and money near you at all times, packed in a small bag with some food; see Mrs. Winkleman for that. If you hear loud knocking followed by a crash, go out the nearest door and scatter.  With papers and money, you have a chance. No papers…no money…no chance.
Sharon: Is it that serious?
Maury: Maybe you got here easy...  For others—not so easy.  Ask Lusia. And another point—very important! About the front door. Let Mrs. Winkleman answer the door, always, or Herr Wachter.  Only them. If you are in this room when a knock is heard, go immediately into another room, and be silent, no matter what you may hear.  Don’t come out unless called, for our lives depend on it. The world must think that only Herr Wachter and Mrs Winkleman live here. 
      The Rabbi enters.
Rabbi: Sholem Aleichem.  Peace.  It’s wonderful.
Maury: This is our Rabbi—Rabbi Horowitz.
ALL: Aleichem sholem.
Rabbi: I am at your service.  And speaking of Service, this being Friday, Sabbath begins at sundown.
     Itzhak enters from cellar, carrying a wrench.
Itzhak: Yes, it sure does. And we have to be polite…we have to listen to him.
Maury:  This is Itzhak.
Rabbi: Say something, Itzhak. Something kind.
Itzhak:  Something kind…let me think.  Oh, you’re lucky to be here. Outside, you’re dead!
Lusia: [Wailing, echoed by a cry from Genia] Oh-h-h!
Rabbi:  Itzhak!
Itzhak:  Oh, excuse me! Sorry lady…me and my big mouth.  Well, pleased to meet you all.  [Nods shortly; exits to kitchen.]
Rabbi: Be of comfort, Lusia.  As you can see, we have all types here—the radical, the conservative, the orthodox, the unorthodox.  It is a little world of or own making.  And we pray that the Allied armies will soon break through. 
Maury: We all work together in our little shtetl.
Rabbi: Maury is the arranger, the resident goniff. Who makes thing work, run smooth.  He is also a mimic.  Mimic someone, Maury.
Maury: [Mimics the rabbi] And speaking of Service, Sabbath begins every Friday at sundown.
Rabbi: [Applauding] Bravo…better even than myself.  Maury is also a distinguished actor…
Maury: Ready and willing to perform…[in the following rendition, his voice changes from high to low, to thundering, to a whisper as suits the role]…comedy, tragedy, tragical-comedy, drama, melodrama, farce, farcical-comedy, farcical-tragedy…
Rabbi: [Interrupting] …and a fine actor he is. Many times I have seen and heard him in the great classic roles of the Jewish theatre.
Maury: [Bows] You are too kind, Rabbi.
Rabbi: Play a short scene for us now, Maury, let’s say—a scene from the Dybbuk.   
Maury: Ah, the Dybbuk.
Rabbi: Come out, my friends—all of you. [All the occupants of the house enter] We are going to have a scene from the Dybbuk. 
Maury: What scene would you like? 
Rabbi: The scene where Rabbi Azrael casts out the Dybbuk from Leah, the beautiful maiden. The Dybbuk is a wandering spirit of a dead boy who loves Leah. When the Dybbuk speaks, it is the voice of the dead boy. Maury, I’ll be the Dybbuk. I know most of the lines.
Dolek: I know the lines, too—most of them anyway!
Sharon: We—Dolek and I--must have seen The Dybbuk a dozen times.
Maury: First, we set the scene.  The minyan of ten elders is gathered. The black candles are lit, and Rabbi Asrael and the elders are dressed in shrouds…
Rabbi: …the altar is covered with a black cloth. Now Rabbi Asrael speaks!
Maury: [Striking a pose.] It is clear that One of the Great Power stands beside him.
Rabbi: [in a half-whisper] He means that a special demon is supporting The Dybbuk.
Maury:  [Raising his arms in imperious command] Rise up, O Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered before Thee, as smoke is dispersed so let them be scattered…sinful and obstinate soul, with the power of Almighty God and with the sanction of the Holy Scriptures, I, Asrael ben Hadassah, do with these words rend asunder every cord that binds you to the world of living creatures and to the body and soul of the maiden Leah, daughter of Channah…
Rabbi: [As the Dybbuk, he shrieks so loudly as to startle everyone.] Ah! I am lost!
Maury: [Pointing to the front door] Not so loud!
Rabbi: [As himself] Sorry.
Maury: [Again as Rabbi ben Asrael] I pronounce you excommunicate from all Israel…
Rabbi: [As the Dybbuk] Alas, I can fight no more…
Maury: Do you submit?
Rabbi: [In a dead voice] I submit.
Maury: Do you promise to depart of your own free will from the body of the maiden Leah, daughter of Channah, and never return?
Rabbi: I promise!  [As the Rabbi again] And so the Dybbuk is cast out from the body of the beautiful maiden, Leah.  Do I hear applause for Maury?
[All applaud quietly.]
Maury: And applause for you, Rabbi!  [Maury and the Rabbi take their bows.]
Now! Feodor, the Fiddler.  Come forth. 
   A few bars of a muted fiddle are heard offstage playing the early notes of Hava Nagila. Feodor enters. 
Maury:  Feodor! Mute your violin! Now, let us dance—quietly!
   Those who can assemble into dance formation, and dance the Hava Nagila to the muted tones of Feodor’s violin.   Normally a boisterous dance, they move like ghosts.   


Hava nagila

Let's rejoice
Hava nagila

Let's rejoice
Hava nagila ve-nismeḥa

Let's rejoice and  be happy

Hava neranenah

Let's sing
Hava neranenah

Let's sing
Hava neranenah ve-nismeḥa

Let's sing and be happy


Uru, uru aḥim!

Awake, awake, brothers!
Uru aḥim be-lev sameaḥ

Awake brothers with a happy heart

(repeat line four times)

Uru aḥim, uru aḥim!

Awake, brothers, awake, brothers!
Be-lev sameaḥ

With a happy heart

The stage slowly darkens as they sing, and the sound fades out, ending Episode Two

    Now you’ve met the main characters of the little community, who are huddled for protection in the house of Albert Wachter. There are more, of course: Maury said “almost a dozen.” Let them be unnamed for now. 

In the next episode, you will meet Albert Wachter who will bring a ball for Genia as well as a supply of food for all. Also, look forward to Interval Two, which will be published Monday, October 29.  There you will read background information about circumstances that led to refugee status of the people you have met, as well as a film review, and a link to a very special short film. And, don’t forget to check into the A Ball for Genia Facebook pages where you are requested to tell what you think about the play, and of course, your reaction to The Holocaust. Also don’t forget to send us an email, if you like, at geniaball*at* where you can express your comments about the play. 

And for your help in enhancing the goal of Holocaust Remembrance, Thank you!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Interval One

HI! Welcome to Interval One, the first of the Interval pages of the blog A Ball for Genia. The Interval pages provide space where you can join in with your valued comments and opinions, and perhaps engage in a lively discussion! The goal of the whole endeavor is, of course, Holocaust Remembrance. And there are two other sites, besides the blog itself, that covet your comments: the Face Book page A Ball for Genia, and the dedicated e-mail address

Many topics and subjects will be put forward in the near future to encourage your participation. For example, movies such as Good, The Reader, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Conspiracy.

But first, read Bobbie’s story. It is a story that speaks from the heart told by a woman who wishes to be unknown.  Knowing that there are such people as Bobbie in the world gives us hope for the future.

Bobbie’s Story

Where was God when all this was happening?”

 In 1993, I was working in one of the largest Community Centers in Chicago. I was the assistant director of Adult Services. I was asked to "shepherd" a group of Holocaust survivors to Israel. There were 28 in all. I heard their stories, held their hands as they read their family names at the Holocaust Memorial; I sat with some of them in the late hours of the night in hotel lobbies when they couldn't sleep. I saw the names of people like Irene Sendler, who were brave enough to hide and abet escapes for these people.

Some had never had the courage to talk about it even to other family members. The stories I heard could not have been invented. They recognized train cars and spoke of the Warsaw ghetto, of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and the others, where they saw their loved ones taken to gas chambers. It was so draining, and always the question came up, "Where was God when all this was happening"? The only answer I could come up with was, ‘He must have been crying that once again his people were being slaughtered and we don't always know why, and we perhaps someday will know, or not.'

I heard descriptions of the railroad cars, so crowded that children died when people fell on them. I listened to stories of people with whom the Gestapo (police) were friends of the families, and tried to help them, until it became impossible. There were many non-Jews who helped hide them and helped them escape, brave souls who are listed and honored on the Avenue of the Righteous in Tel Aviv.

We have to remember this history to prevent it from happening again. Every once in a while, I think about these people, some of whom are gone now but not forgotten by most of the free world. It still is up to us to pass this along and to make sure our children know the history of this horrific time.

My great nephews, last year in high school, were given permission by the city to create a memorial that stands around the corner from the Dallas Holocaust Museum. It is on the corner of a parking lot because there was no room to put in on the sidewalk. I pray that people walking by will stop and read the names on the stones, and sit on the bench, and just say a prayer for those families who lost loved ones, and for those who survived.

Love and blessings,



A Pledge! No photos of piles of naked corpses and human beings starved to skeletons will be shown on this blog -- most likely you have seen them.   If you wish to refresh your memory open Google, click on images in the heading, and enter HolocaustYou will be invited to view any of over 93,500,000 images, including photographs. 
Many of the photographs had their origin at the request of General Eisenhower, who said to the GI’s who first encountered the horrors: “Take lots of pictures for there’s sure to be some individual who will say it didn’t happen.”  And so, they took lots of pictures.
Frau Ilse Koch was the wife of a commander at Buchenwald.  Perhaps she had time on her hands, as she developed a new hobby:  creating gloves, lamp shades and other accessories. There was a shortage of the usual hobby material, so she used an item readily available in a concentration camp — the skin of prisoners.  She especially sought skin with interesting tattoos, and the unlucky prisoner with an interesting tattoo soon became a usable supply. For the diligence she displayed in her hobby, she became known as The Bitch of Buchenwald.

Episode Two of A Ball for Genia will be published on Monday October 22!

To access the blog, just click on the link in the heading above. But please remember, Episode Two won’t be viewable until Monday, October 22.

In Episode Two, we find Genia, and her mother Lusia, safe in Wachter’ big house.  (Relatively safe, that is, for in those parlous times, no Jew was safe in Europe.) Wachter’s home was a way stop of an underground railway that sends Jews to a safer country such as Switzerland. There are an unusual number of Jews there in the house because the Allied armies are very close, and it is unsafe to leave.  Prepare to meet some of the dwellers there:   Maury; Dolek and his wife Sharon; Marek, the counterfeiter; Mrs Winkleman, cook and housekeeper;  the Rabbi; Itzak, the angry man; and Feodor the fiddler.

See you again then!