«Jewish Observer»
May 2002
5762 Sivan

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Catholic church has sharply criticized the film "Amen" about Holocaust and Vatican by a Jewish director Konstantin Kosta-Gavras. Church representatives have declared the film slanders Pope Piy XII. The film unveils futile attempts by the Jewish community to convince Pope to counteract fascist atrocities.

The film is made after Rudolph Khohnut's play "Governor-General" (1963) dedicated to Vatican's taciturn complicity in genocide against Jews. Those priests trying to oppose it were sent to death with an encouraging silence of the church blinded by anti-Communism. After the war namely Vatican helped prominent Nazis flee to Latin America.

One of the main heroes is a real and mysterious person. Kurt Gerstein, a Catholic, in 1930s had a couple of times been imprisoned by Gestapo. When the war broke out he got reincarnated and entered "SS" units where he, as a talented chemist, was responsible for manufacturing a "Cyclone B" gas to be used, after an official version, to disinfect water under field conditions. A version exists, while joining the "SS" he considered himself a "spy for God", saw his destination in witnessing what was going on. He desperately tried to bring his absolutely unnecessary for anybody truth about gas chambers to a Pope nuncio, to a Swedish embassy, but he failed to.

The only person to keep him - not in reality but in the film - was an imaginary young Jesuit. The latter was killed in a Nazi camp, and Gerstein was taken prisoner by the allies. They studied his report on death camps and either gave him an opportunity or helped him get hanged in the French prison Cherche-Midi. His rehabilitation dragged on for years.

A film poster depicts a Christian cross interlaced with swastika, which has also caused protests by a Catholic world.

It's noteworthy, Bishop Rudolph Hammershmidt has said he is ready to recognize Church's mistakes during the war-time. "Representatives of the Catholic Church used to make mistakes, but a film poster offends honour and dignity of Catholics", - declared he.

It's true, the film could have merely become most scandalous at the Berlin film festival. According to Ulrich Tukur, "the director intended to insult nobody. This is our history and we should remember it. The film was shot namely for this sake, not to shock audience as many think".

Director Kosta-Gavras was even more surprised by the Church reaction. "I absolutely fail to understand the stance of Catholic Church in this case. The priests getting acquainted with the film found nothing offensive in it but a poster, in their opinion, humiliates the Church. A poster is a poster to symbolically reflect film content. If the film is good, how can the poster be bad?"

We shall remind that over many years Jewish communities request Vatican to unveil wartime achieves to clear up once and forever whether Pope Piy XII collaborated with Nazi Germany.

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