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Holocaust Lessons From Oliver Stone

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Oliver Stone may be a nut job, but he has certainly made some wonderful movies. Of late however, he seems to be moving from his typical love of whacky conspiracy theories to rather more ugly ones.

Stone's newest project, a Showtime documentary entitled "The Secret History of America" will, Mr. Stone claims, put Hitler "in context". Stone wants to make sure that our understanding of Hitler does not remain a product of "the Jewish dominated media", as he claims it has been.

I am all for expanding our understanding of even the most terrible events in history. In fact, it is those events, including the Holocaust, which are most often addressed in dangerously over-simplified ways. But somehow, a filmmaker who describes his work in terms reeking of Jew-hatred does not seem likely to make any constructive contributions on this issue.

Of course, that was this weekend. Mr. Stone is turning apologetic, issuing statements in which he says he "made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret. Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry".

Which is the "real" Oliver Stone? Is he the conspiracy theorist who resents the mythic power of Jews or the contrite artist seeking to bring deeper understanding to one of the darkest moments in human history?

My guess is that he's a bit of both. But because he simply calls his words a "clumsy error" and refuses to explore how they are actually part of his ongoing approach to world events, one in which some evil external force is always driving decent "little people" into horrible circumstances, I suspect that we have not heard the last of such claims about Jews from Mr. Stone.

There is no doubt that we need fuller explanations of the Holocaust, more sophisticated than those which invoke a demonic individual, Hitler, at whose feet all blame can be laid. In fact, to the extent that Stone demands a wider picture of accountability -- an appreciation that there is plenty of blame to go around in a world which stood largely silent as millions of human beings were murdered simply because of who they were -- I am with him. The list of those who bear responsibility should grow, not shrink, with the passage of time. That is what it means to be increasingly morally sensitive.

There is also no doubt that the Jewish community would do well to more fully appreciate, articulate and memorialize the horror of the Holocaust for people other than Jews. This is crucial if for no other reason than that it is only when the Holocaust can be remembered as a tragedy for all of humanity, that we can expect all of humanity to properly remember it.

None of that will be accomplished by minimizing the unique horror of the Nazis' "Final Solution" to the "Jewish problem", and certainly not by those, like Mr. Stone, who perpetuate some of the central underpinnings of the methodology which fueled the hatred which led to it.

Oliver Stone is no Nazi, but both his work and his words reflect something far more sinister than one clumsy error. They reflect deep and long-held hostilities of which Mr. Stone should be ashamed.

Let's hope the next Hollywood influential who wants to present a new angle on the Holocaust, can do so without resorting to any of the motifs and myths of those who perpetrated it. And let's hope that those new stories help all people to appreciate that all suffering is epic, when it happens to those about whom we care.

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