On the day we promise to remember those who died for our freedom, and those who are still fighting out there all over the world, I’m looking at a made for TV movie that has quite the appropriate title.
Never Forget is based on actual events and tells the story of Mel Mermelstein, played by Leonard Nimoy, a survivor of the Holocaust and his fight against the IHR (The Institute for Historical Review) a holocaust denying organization, that is still operating today much to my disgust, and how that court battle got the Holocaust put in as a fact in the United States justice system with the use of judicial review.
Because it was a movie made for television the budget is not spectacular. That are a lot of reused sets and the opening credits are quite underwhelming. Still, this works well in two respects, one is that it keeps the focus on Mel and his family, and reusing sets like Mel’s business, showing it busy and happy in the beginning, and then showing him there again apologising to a client because he forgot their order shows how the whole case has taken its toll on him.
What I think is so striking about this film for me is that it tells a modern day story about the Holocaust. Unlike Schindler’s List or The Pianist, both of which go through events during the Holocaust and war itself, this tells about what happens afterwards. It’s a great reminder that this was not just some event that happened during World War Two where afterwards everyone who lived just said ‘Oh thank the heavens we survived!’ at that was the end of it. There were lingering scars, there were family members and friends to mourn that hadn’t survived, and that those scars were also transferred to others. Nearly forty years on we the audience learn that Mel’s children feel that they will never live up to the family he lost. That the eldest son resents the importance placed on the old family. Later that son comes to realize that the family that was lost was his too. That he will never know his grandparents, his uncle or aunts. It is a reminder the millions who died were not just a statistic loss of life, but that those lives meant something to others. Those were real people who loved and were loved. It also is an argument against the denier assertion that those people are just hiding out somewhere, because not only would such a mass movement be recorded in some kind of census and its impact noted in the change in society, that is the case for both the United States and Canada when they experienced a sharp increase in immigration, but that all of those families apparently decided not to look for their missing members when they left after the war.
Finally this film drives home to us that it is important to stand up to groups like the IHR. Not to engage them to give them legitimacy, but instead to point out the errors and deliberate lies they tell to collapse the entire base on which they attempt to stand. Honestly they remind me very much of the creationist movement. They both deliberately lie, they appeal to authority, many of which are now out of date and out of context, they sell leaflets and tapes and CDs and rely on donates from gullible and/or racist people to prompt their propaganda, and they try to change the umbrella name they operate under to make them seem legitimate. Just as creationism tries to hide behind the new moniker of Intelligent Design, to try and subvert the scientific process under the guise of education, so IHR don’t call themselves Holocuast deniers but instead historical revisionists, telling people that they promote peace and critical inquiry into historic events. As a student of history this disgusts me, you do not revision history you refine history. That historians may find new evidence that the number of those who died is more or less than was earlier thought doesn’t suddenly invalidate the fact that people were deliberately murdered there. Just as the finding of new evidence that shifts the evolutionary tree of life doesn’t overturn the theory of evolution. To stand by and let those groups lie to people is, in my opinion, giving approval with silence.
The movie touched on that whole subject early on in the first scene where Mermelstein is talking to a classroom of students and one of them stands up and said his father told that the Holocaust never happened. Mel responds that that idea was something that Hitler would say if he were back on Earth and the question to ask is would you believe it. I was initially struck by how blunt that phrasing was, but yes it is appropriate to say that because that is exactly that kinds of things Hitler said and the attitude he and his party employed in their propaganda to the German people. We have eye-witnesses, documents, testimonies, among others items as evidence of the Holocaust. We know the Holocaust took place and there’s value in understanding why it happened and what we can learn from that horrific part of our past. And when you deny that event in the name of anti-Semitic bigotry you become part of the very problem that caused that event in the first place.
Truthfully Never Forget is a wonderful touching and important film and I wish it had a wider release, or at least some kind of DVD release, because it is a film I think everyone should see. To remind us of our history and that we should remember it, and its impact, to avoid repeating it.
Lest We Forget.