Monday, February 9, 2009


His Holiness Bishop Richard Williamson is a man I’d like to meet and with whom I’d like to chat!
by Charlie Leck

I’d begin my conversation with his Holiness by saying something like this: “Listen, dodo bird,…”

Richard Williamson was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of various comments he made over the years regarding the holocaust. He made it clear that he didn’t think any Jews were gassed in the Nazi work camps. Now, bending to enormous pressure, the Vatican has informed Williamson that he must recant such statements before he can be reinstalled as a Bishop of the Church. The Bishop (is he or isn’t he?) replied that he needs time to study the matter and review research he did in the 80s that had convinced him that no such horrendous murders had taken place.

Richard Williamson's excommunication was lifted by the Vatican last month. He is one of four bishops from the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X. The decision sparked outrage because Williamson, in a television interview, had denied the reality of the Holocaust.

“I must now examine everything again and look at the evidence.”

“Since I see that there are many honest and intelligent people who think differently, I must look again at the historical evidence…. It is about historical evidence, not about emotions. And if I find this evidence lacking, I will correct myself. But that will take time."
However… this is really an important however… the Bishop (of sorts) has indicated he has no intention of going to Auschwitz. That’s the camp the Nazis set up in occupied Poland. More than a million Jews died there. The German newspaper, Der Spiegel, had invited the clergyman to join it in a visit to the famous death camp.

Last night my wife and I saw the movie, Defiance. That’s why these statements from a Bishop of the Catholic Church are on my mind.

I’m also doing a lot of thinking about Doctor Death. That’s the moniker that has been hung on Doctor Aribert Heim who served as a medical officer at various concentration camps during the war against the Nazi Reich (Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen). Surviving inmates described how Heim took such satisfaction in injecting various incredients into the hearts of Jews to see how long it would take them to die. Heim was also accused of performing many unnecessary surgeries without anesthesia. They weren’t minor surgeries either – rather, they were things like amputations.

Now the NY Times has confirmed that Aribert Heim died in Cairo in 1992. He had spent the last ten years of his life living in a hotel room as a converted Muslim who took the name Tarek Hussein Farid.

It was with these two, fresh news stories in mind that I sat back to watch Defiance two evenings ago. (This NY Times review of the film is generally positive. Here are some reader reviews published in the NY Times. Here’s where you can see some trailers of the movie.)

Was it a good movie?
I don’t know. So often I see a movie and like it and think highly of it, only to then read reviews that pan the daylights out of it. I’m told there have been highly positive reviews about this film and others that have called it inferior.

Here’s what I can tell you. I was gripped by it. It is not the kind of movie one can enjoy. It is far too sad and demeaning of the human spirit to be enjoyed. I left the theater shaking my head and feeling the shame that humans must feel for the behaviors of humanity.

Defiance is another movie about man’s inhumanity to man. Yet, within the story there is hope for mankind. A band of Jews take to the forest instead of allowing themselves to be carted off to the death camps.

The Bielski brothers came home one day to find their parents murdered by local Russian authorities who were taking commands from the Nazis. The four brothers took to the woods rather than die in the same manner. The boys were familiar with the forest and they knew they could hide and survive there; however, in their new world, they met other Jews less capable of survival. They pledged to care for them. Their numbers grew to over 1200. They built shops and warehouses and medical centers. Getting defensive weapons and procuring food were their biggest problems. Surviving the cold Russian winters was another one.

The film is filled with action and conflict. There is violence and brutality. There is also love, joy and hope.

Bishop Williamson should be made to see the movie. He should understand that before the war there were 9 million Jews living in Europe. Six million of those had been murdered by the end of the war. It should be remembered that many gentiles, who had chosen to befriend Jews and had tried to assist them to escape, were also murdered by the Nazis.

Bishop Williamson, the story is true. The documentation is thick and rich. It is a story worth knowing about. It is a film that tells its story quite brilliantly.

I liked it. I recommend it.

The film is based on a book, Defiance: the Bielski Partisans, by Nechama Tec. The screenplay was by Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick. Zwick was also the film's director. The brilliant violin solos were performed by Joshua Bell. It is 2 hours and 17 minutes long. The cast is listed below the following noteable photograph...

Tuvia is played by Daniel Craig
Zus is played by Liev Schreiber
Aszael is played by Jamie Bell
Aron is played by George MacKay

Lilka (Alexa Davalos)
Shimon (All Corduner)
Isaac Malbin (Mark Feuerstein)
Chaya (Mia Wasikowska)
Bella (Iben Hjejle)

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