Night Will Fall: Watch The Actual “Hitchcock Holocaust Film” Online

By all accounts, the documentary Night Will Fall is an excellent piece of work. It chronicles the production–and suppression–of a vivid and gruesome documentary about the Nazi death camps shot in April 1945.

The marquee name attached to it is Alfred Hitchcock, even though Hitch’s exact contribution is unclear. He was brought in to supervise the production and had some input into the filming at the camps, but while he was working on the editing and the script the British government pulled the plug. Was it a loss of nerve? The horrifying nature of the material? Or just plain old antisemitism? Those are some of the questions Night Will Fall tackles.

Here’s the trailer:

Yet, in many of the articles I’ve read about the film, there’s no mention at all of a singular fact: the film was actually “made” 30 years ago and broadcast on PBS Frontline. They dug up a surviving script, got hold of five of the original six reels of footage, edited it together, and got Trevor Howard to narrate it.

And you can watch that film–called Memories of the Camps–right now, online.

Here’s how PBS describes it:

As the film’s history shows, it was a project that was supervised by the British Ministry of Information and the American Office of War Information. And during that summer of 1945 some of the documentary editing was done under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock.

“At the time we found the film, it was not entirely clear what role Hitchcock played in its development,” says David Fanning, executive producer of FRONTLINE. “Moreover, one reel of the original six, shot by the Russians, was missing. There was a typed script intact — undated and unsigned — but it had never been recorded.”

FRONTLINE took the film, added the script and asked the late British actor, Trevor Howard, to record it. The aim was to present the film unedited, as close as possible to what the producers intended in 1945.

“Memory of the Camps” includes scenes from Dachau, Buchenwald, Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps whose names are not as well known. Some of the horrors documented took place literally moments before the Allied troops arrived, as the Germans hurried to cover the evidence of what they had done.

Twenty years after its first broadcast on FRONTLINE, “Memory of the Camps” remains one of the most definitive and unforgettable records of the 20th century’s darkest hour.

HT: No Garcia.

Debunking the Latest “Married Jesus” Hoax

When these stories start to burble up in my RSS feeds, I always swear I’m going to ignore them and wait for them to go away. Just paying attention to them makes people dumber.not_this_crap_again (3)

This one was an easy call, because the articles had the “tell” of pure BS right inside: the name “Simcha Jacobovici,” mostly famous for outlandish claims like the Talpiot Tomb theory, the forged James Ossuary, finding proof of the Exodus, and similar cringe-worthy nonsense. He’s about as credible as that guy who keep claiming to have the body of a bigfoot in his freezer, and I’m not even exaggerating.

Somehow, Jacobovici and his pet conspiracy-theory academic Barrie Wilson have managed to sucker the British Library into supporting his latest bid for attention and money, just in time for a book and media blitz to coincide with the holiday season. It serves everyone’s purpose, I guess:  they get coverage for their books, people remember that the British Library exists and is filled with genuine treasures, and the media gets eyeballs and the chance to stick a knife into Christianity, which they hate.

So What Is The Discovery?

That’s the hilarious part, because:

1)  There is no discovery! It’s an old and well-known pseudepigraphal text called “Joseph and Aseneth,” about which I’ve written from a theological perspective. They’re trying to hide this fact by referring to it as “The Ecclesiastical History of Zacharias Rhetor” (aka Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor) , but that’s simply the larger text in which the Syriac text of”Josepeh and Aseneth” (a late translation of an an earlier Greek text) tale is embedded.

2) Jesus and Mary are never mentioned in it!

The original is a fascinating story about the patriarch Joseph and his marriage to the Egyptian Aseneth, mentioned in passing in Genesis 41:45, and deals with her conversion from idolatry to monotheism.

The only way they can get headlines is by turning an allegorical, novelistic tale of a well-known patriarch into a discovery about the historical Jesus by replacing “Joseph” with “Jesus” and “Aseneth” with “Mary Magdalene.”


No reason, really, except a complete misunderstanding of early Biblical exegesis, particularly that practiced in Alexandria, which sought Christ in every Old Testament text and tried to draw out the Christological meaning from those texts.

But no, that’s not it! It’s “encoded,” you see, to hide the Real Truth That Will Destroy Christianity Forever No Seriously Guys For Reals This Time.

They see mention of the Lord and the incarnate Word in surrounding (not the main) text and the tale becomes, not a theological lesson, but an encrypted history, because the original writers foresaw that, 1500 years later, a couple of dudes would need make payments on their beach houses.

There is controversy about the text: whether it’s purely late Jewish or a Christian adaptation of Jewish material. It may come from  a Second Temple Jewish context without a Christian influence, or it may be an adaptation of a Jewish original into a Christian allegory. My essay points out some of the Eucharistic elements which might make this second suggestion a viable reading.

They’re trying to make a big deal of the “secret” text “discovered” in the British Library, but of course the Syriac version of “Joseph and Aseneth” was not lost at all. Scholars just hadn’t settled on a context for it.

Let’s even pause a moment and ride along with Barrie and Jacobovici to read this as a Christian text. It’s all very allegorical if it is, and if we do read “Joseph” as “Jesus,” what we have then is an allegorical tale of the marriage of Jesus to the Church, which would be a common image used by early Church writers, particularly of the Alexandrian school. An allegorical reading would be a sensible reading supported by similar texts.

The idea that this proves the literal, historical fact of an actual marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is supported by nothing more than wishful thinking and the desire to undermine Christianity and score an easy payday. There is no text (not even a trace of a text, and texts do leave traces even when they’re gone) that suggests a literal marriage of Jesus. None. That’s a curiously modern obsession.

Try to remember what happened with the last Jesus is Married story that sucked up all the media oxygen, and recall the wisdom of Michael Crichton and his Gell-Mann Effect.

This junk comes around without fail every year. I hate covering it, but I hate fraud and ignorance worse.

Two Boys Play Chess: Madness Follows


Matan Poleg (above left) and Omar Eltigani (right) were paired at the World Youth Chess Championships in South Africa last week. They played a game. Poleg won on the 45th move.

Outrage ensued. Denunciations were issued. The Sudanese media couldn’t even bring themselves to mention Matan Poleg’s name. The head of the Sudanese Chess Association resigned, offering grovelling apologies.

You already know the punchline to this, of course.

Poleg is an Israeli Jew. Eltigani is Sudanese. In the Muslim world, this is an unbearable outrage.

[a] top Sudanese religious official issued a scathing rebuke of the Sudanese government for not stopping Eltigani from playing, asserting that Sudan is in a state of war with the Jews and has a policy of not recognizing “the Zionist entity.” He said that competing against an Israeli player is tantamount to recognizing Israel and gives it legitimacy, according to Sudanese news site Al Nilin.

Two girls under age 10–one Israeli, one Algerian–were also matched, and were also forbidden to play:

An Israeli Arab girl was paired against an Algerian girl and the Algerian girl was not allowed to play the match, he said. The girls, who conversed in Arabic, were each awarded a point even though the match wasn’t played, he said.

Good ole fashioned Jew-hate: it’s never out of season, even in the world of chess. As a writer and magazine editor, I’ve covered chess before, and this is not unusual. WYCC doesn’t have the guts to do what they should do: ban any team that refuses to play against Israelis. Cowards.


John XXIII and the Jews

One of the better parts about being a writer is that you get learn things for a living. For example, when Carl Olson asked me to cover a lecture on Pope John XXIII and the Jews for Catholic World Report, I had only a fairly general image of Pope John. I thought he was a genial and humble man, a skilled diplomat, and a fine leader. I liked all that I’d read by him, but until Rabbi David G. Dalin explained the extent and nature of his work on behalf of the Jews during World War II, I never thought of him as a hero.

Almost as interesting was Rabbi Dalin’s characterization of him as one of the great scholar popes. I had not known he wrote a five-volume biography about St. Charles Borromeo, or that he was a respected lecturer in Church history.

One laughably wrong characterization I read about him, again and again, is that he was some kind of flaming liberal.

The idea of Bishop Roncalli, protege of Pius XII (and by some accounts the man Pius XII wanted to succeed him), as some kind of heretic liberal may be one of the more absurd things people say about him, and there is no shortage of people saying silly things about John XXIII. For example, in a recent interview filled with more than its fair share of flatly untrue statements, heretical former priest Tony Flannery suggested that Pope Francis may be “far more radical than John XXIII.”

Actually, neither of them is any kind of radical. And since Flannery is a man of the far left, and John XXIII’s more vocal foes tend to be of the far right, it’s pretty clear that neither side truly understands this great saint.

If you’d like to learn more about him, my story about Rabbi Dalin’s research on John is up now at Catholic World Report. Here’s a bit of it:

He was the preeminent Vatican diplomat in Turkey and Greece during World War II, and played a historic role in saving tens of thousands of Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

“During the tragic years of the Holocaust,” Rabbi Dalin observes, “Angelo Roncalli reached heroic heights.”

Pius XII and his Vatican diplomats—with Bishop Roncalli among the most prominent—had some political leverage in Catholic countries, and they used it to halt or significantly delay deportation of Jews by Nazi puppet governments. In Budapest alone, Roncalli rescued at least 50,000 Jews by issuing baptismal certificates. During the German occupation of Greece, he actively aided the local population and prevented the deportation of Greek Jews to death camps. He was instrumental in preventing tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from being deported to Auschwitz. Through persistent diplomatic protests, Roncalli and Pius were able to save thousands in Slovakia.

Since Roncalli had a warm relationship the king and queen of Bulgaria, he wrote to King Boris III saying, “On no account should Bulgaria agree with the horrific and dishonorable demand of the Nazis,” and threatening him with the punishment of God if he cooperated.

And although the canonization ceremony isn’t until later this month, let’s finish this post by doing something many Catholics will be doing from now on: saying, “Saint John XXIII, pray for us.”

h/t: Thanks to John Burger for connecting me with CWR.

Francis/Netanyahu Meeting Cancelled (Actually, It Was Never Even Planned)

Last week, a report began circulating in the Israeli press that President Benjamin Netanyahu would be meeting with Pope Francis when Netanyahu traveled to Rome this week. The report set off a firestorm in Israel because of rumors that a visit by the pope to Holy Land was contingent upon the return of certain holy sites to the Church:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be traveling to Rome next week to meet with the pope; they will discuss, among other things, the transfer of certain holy sites to the custody of the Catholic Church. “It turns out,” says HaModia, “that the new pope has set a public declaration of the transfer as a condition for his promised visit to the land.” One of the sites in question is David’s Tomb, “which the Catholics have claimed as their own for hundreds of years.”

HaMevaser reports that Rabbi Haim Miller has appealed to Knesset Members in an effort to stop the deal from going through. Miller claims that it is better for the pope not to visit Israel than that the tomb be handed over to the Catholic Church, even if this causes a rift between the Vatican and Israel.

This sounds like a lot of nonsense, but there was no chance the meeting was going to happen since it was reported in the press before it was even planned, and you don’t get on the pope’s schedule with one week’s notice:

In a diplomatic foul-up, the announcement made last week that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would meet with Pope Francis in Rome was retracted on Monday after it emerged that the Vatican had never scheduled it, Haaretz reported.

The pope’s staff said they only learned of the meeting through media reports. Efforts by Israeli officials to put such a meeting on the calendar at the last minute in order to avoid embarrassment after having announced it last Wednesday proved futile.

It was explained that protocol at the Vatican is such that a request for a meeting only a week in advance is unheard of and out of the question.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement: “As opposed to what was claimed, a meeting was planned this week between the prime minister and the Pope during his trip in Italy, but due to a scheduling conflict, it was postponed.”

Francis is still intending to visit Israel in March:

Pope Francis will make his first visit to Israel in March.

The pope told his close friend, Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, of his lifelong dream to visit the Holy Land, and of his intentions to visit Israel and Bethlehem, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

According to Channel 2, the pope hopes his visit will bring a message of reconciliation.

He dreams of embracing Rabbi Skorka in front of the Western Wall, in order to send out a message against anti-Semitism.

Last week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein visited the Vatican and invited the pope to visit the Holy Land and be his personal guest in the Knesset.

“I’ll come, I’ll come,” Pope Francis responded.


Mysterious Structure Under the Sea of Galilee

Sonar image of structure on the floor of the Sea of Galilee

I filed this one away in Evernote this summer and forgot to blog it, but it’s too cool to let pass:

A huge, cone-shaped monument has been discovered by a team of Israeli archaeologists conducting a geophysical survey on the southern Sea of Galilee.

According to a paper published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, the structure was built several thousand years ago and later submerged under the water.

It is 230 feet (70 m) in diameter and about 39 feet (12 m) high. The estimated weight of the monument is over 60,000 tons.

“The site resembles early burial sites in Europe and was likely built in the early Bronze Age. There may be a connection to the nearby ancient city of Beit Yerah, the largest and most fortified city in the area,” explained Dr Yitzhak Paz from Ben-Gurion University, lead author of the paper reporting the discovery.

“The stones, which comprise the structure, were probably brought from more than a mile away and arranged according to a specific construction plan,” added co-author Prof Shmuel Marco from Tel Aviv University.

Read more here and here.

Hopeful Signs? UPDATE #2: Not a Hoax

The optimist in me says “yes.” The cynic says, “public relations ploy.” I try paying more attention to the optimist.

In any case, it’s welcome. From the President of Iran:

It’s worthwhile remembering that the Iranian people (particularly the young) tend to have positive feelings towards America, by and large. (They tend to despise the English, however.) Maybe if we stopped with the Middle East meddling and they throttled back on the crazy and the Jew-hating and the terror-exportation, some kind of peace could be achieved. I’ll take this message as a sign of hope.

UPDATE: Reader “Dale” sent this link saying it looks like a hoax:

Not only were the blessings not a diplomatic signal, they weren’t even really blessings from Rouhani himself, according to Iran’s official Fars News Agency.

Mohammad Reza Sadeq, an adviser to Rouhani, said the Iranian president doesn’t even have a Twitter account (although he kept referring to it as “tweeter”), let alone that he was behind the eyebrow-raising tweet purportedly from the leader of a country that wishes for Israel’s destruction.

UPDATE #2: Joanne McPortland tells me “Christiane Amanpour claims she just interviewed him. No hoax.”

Apostrophe to Zion: New Meaning for a Dead Sea Scroll?

I’m still enjoying Slacktacular August with a reduced blogging schedule, but I thought this was a fascinating little slice of the philology world that shows how scholars grapple with ancient languages and shifting meanings.

In this case, it’s the Hebrew root “taph-bet-ayin,” which has various modern meanings: “to demand,” “to investigate,” “to prosecute.”

The “Apostrophe to Zion,” found in the Psalms Scroll of Dead Sea Scrolls, contains the word “tit’ba’e’ch,” and none of those meanings work in context. (An “apostrophe” is one of the rhetorical figures, meaning an address to an abstract idea or personification.)

Here’s the entire psalm, which is quite beautiful, as translated by Vermes, with the problem lines highlighted.

Apostrophe to Zion

I will remember you, O Zion, for a blessing;
with all my might I love you;
your memory is to be blessed for ever.
Your hope is great, O Zion;
Peace and your awaited salvation will come.
Generation after generation shall dwell in you,
and generations of the pious shall be your ornament.
They who desire the day of your salvation
shall rejoice in the greatness of your glory.
They shall be suckled on the fullness of your glory,
and in your beautiful streets they shall make tinkling sounds.
You shall remember the pious deeds of your prophets,
and shall glorify yourself in the deeds of your pious ones.
Cleanse violence from your midst;
lying and iniquity, may they be cut off from you.
Your sons shall rejoice within you,
and your cherished ones shall be joined to you.
How much they have hoped in your salvation,
and how much your perfect ones have mourned for you?
Your hope, O Zion, shall not perish,
and your expectation will not be forgotten.
Is there a just man who has perished?
Is there a man who has escaped his iniquity?
Man is tried according to his way,
each is repaid according to his deeds.
Your oppressors shall be cut off from around you, O Zion,
and all who hate you shall be dispersed.
Your praise is pleasing, O Zion;
it rises up in all the world.
Many times I will remember you for a blessing;
I will bless you with all my heart.
You shall attain to eternal righteousness,
and shall receive blessings from the noble.
Take the vision which speaks of you,
and the dreams of the prophets requested for you.
Be exalted and increase O Zion;
Praise the Most High, your Redeemer!
May my soul rejoice in your glory!
Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Revised and extended 4th ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 241–242.

The phrase “the dreams of the prophets requested for you,” doesn’t really make any sense, but “requested for you” is about the only modern understanding of “tit’ba’e’ch” that fits. Essentially, it means “the dreams the prophets requested for you” or “investigated for you.”

Two doctoral students–Hanan Ariel and Alexey Yuditsky–suggest that the word also has a lost meaning, which is not usual. (For example, try to imagine future scholars puzzling over the social implications of the former usage of the word “gay” if only the modern meaning of the word was known to them. The lyrics of the theme song to The Flintstones take on a whole new meaning.)

[I]n Arabic, which is as close to Hebrew as say French is to English – the root taph-bet-ayin means “to go after,” “follow,” “overtake.”

Aha, thought the students: what if the mystery verb titbaech bore a rare meaning, not commonly known – not “seek” or “demand,” but “follow,” overtake”?

No modern references on Hebrew give that meaning to the root taph-bet-ayin. Yet not only Arabic but other similar Semitic languages as well ascribe to the root the meaning of “going forward” or “following after.”

And thus, Ariel and Yuditsky suggested that “the dreams of the prophets requested for you” actually means “The prophets’ vision will overtake you”.

In other words, ancient Israelites used taph-bet-ayin to mean follow, chase, overtake, not sue. That meaning fell into disuse over time, Ariel and Yuditsky surmise.

Actually, there is evidence of using taph-bet-ayin to mean “follow.” As Prof. Menahem Kistler helpfully pointed out to Ariel, the midrashic work Sifrei Devarim tells of scholars “who went abroad and traveled and arrived in Ptolemais” (that is, Acre). In this story, the word for “went” or “traveled” was based on the taph-bet-ayin root.

While about it, Ariel and Yuditsky also offered quirky new interpretations of two other mysterious phrases in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Scholars had been puzzled about the word “taamol” in the Raz Nihyeh (known as “The Secret of the Way Things Are,” or the “Sapiential Work Scroll”). The students decided that again unusually, here it means “to bear” or “to suffer.” That verse means, they say – “Do not rejoice when you should mourn, so that you will not suffer during your life.”

In another place in the work, the Hebrew words avad b’ruach — which could be translated as “worked for the wind/spirit” — appear. Based on verses in scripture, they suggest that the expression refers to a slave who receives no compensation for his work — in other words, one who toils for nothing.

The idea of being overtaken by the vision of the prophets is a much more satisfactory understanding that the idea of prophets requesting a vision for the People of God. It’s not a huge story, but it’s a microcosm of the good work possible with some elements of modern criticism, and the reason we can’t dispense with its techniques.

Jew-Hating Has-Been Wants You To Pay Attention To Him

I used to love Pink Floyd and Roger Waters. I collected everything, spent countless hours listening to them, and paid good money to see Waters solo in concert twice (Hitchhiking and Radio KAOS tours). 

It’s funny, but I started listening to them less and less–particularly the later, Waters-dominated material–as I got older and recognized the immaturity and hatred at the heart of his intellectual posturing.

Waters does not have a subtle mind, but he imagines he does. He is the Otto of prog rock. (Imagine Jamie Lee Curtis saying, “What kind of fascism is this, Roger?”) I’m sure he imagines he’s writing very profound material, but anyone out of his teenage years who still thinks The Wall or The Final Cut is really deep, man, needs to read a book or two. It’s self-indulgent high-school level claptrap.

So it came as no surprise that Waters thinks he’s being provocative and making some kind of statement by channeling Julius Streicher and slapping a Star of David on a pig covered in various fascist symbolism.

The juxtaposition of Jews and pigs appears in various antisemitic propaganda throughout history.

The image to the right of Jews suckling at the Devil’s Pig is just one example of the way people used pigs to denigrate Jews. Muslim propagandists today routinely lump Jews in with apes and pigs in order to dehumanize them.

That’s okay, though. For the Smart Set, the Jews are the new Nazis because shutup!

Yawn. I can find the same kind of claptrap on al-Jazeera or Democratic Underground 24/7.

But hey, it works! Roger goes from “whatever-happened-to?” to multiple articles, and now people know that the guy who didn’t sing “Money” is on tour! And since many of them are already Jew-haters (it’s a disease that never goes away), it’s a perfect win-win for Waters.

Waters has been dressing up in fascist drag for decades now, acting like he was making an anti-fascist statement. At some point, if you wear those cool leather jackets and swastika-like crossed hammers in front of thousands of chanting and cheering people, you begin to think, “This is kinda cool.” You become what you hate.

PS: And, yeah, I know that doing what I say not to do makes me a hypocrite. I’m okay with that.

UPDATE: If I’m remembering my Floyd lore, the floating pig is Waters’ icon for capitalism, so the offensiveness goes even deeper, calling to mind images of “money-grubbing Jews.”

The Temple Mount: A Virtual Tour

Courtesy of the Israeli Minister of Construction and Housing and a group called The Heart of the Nation comes this virtual tour of the Temple Mount, complete with 360-degree views of various locations. It’s was released to coincide with Tisha B’av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

A couple of caveats: 1) It’s in Hebrew, although Google Translate can compile comically inept translations of certain screens, and 2) it’s slow and flaky. It does, however, provide some very nice images of Temple Mount sites.