Chancellor Schroeder speaks at ‘Kindertransport’ preem

GOOD MORNING: I feel compelled to print remarks of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the Berlin premiere of WB’s “Into the Arms of Strangers — Stories of the Kindertransport.” Schroeder said, “The events leading to the Kindertransport were one of the most heinous chapters in German history: the pogroms of Nov. 8, 1938. Survivors remember how as children they witnessed their parents being arrested, tortured or killed. They witnessed Jewish shops being plundered, synagogues burning. Fearful, caring mothers and fathers sent their children to safety on the Kindertransport — to a future unknown and uncertain. The children felt a pain that they still feel today — they lost their parents, their homes, their country, their language. This film recalls a time when in Germany all basic values were brutally rendered invalid. The values most affected were human kindness and human dignity. Recalling those authentic biographies means re-establishing part of that humaneness that was crushed at the time, it helps rebuild part of victims’ identities. They are not nameless victims, we recognize their faces. We learn about people of Jewish extraction who were children or juveniles when, between December of 1938 and August of 1939, they traveled on the Kindertransport to the United Kingdom and to safety.” Schroeder expressed his thanks to producer Deborah Oppenheimer, director Mark Harris “and last, but not least to Warner Bros., who helped in producing this film.” Gerald Levin was on hand to also introduce the feature along with Oppenheimer whose mother, Sylva was a Kindertransport survivor; her parents died in concentration camps. Also present at the premiere — never before attended by any chancellor — were two German Kindertransport survivors. To them, Schroeder noted, “I am very glad to see Ms. Hedy Epstein and Ms. Ursula Rosenfield among us. They are witnesses of the events that are subject of tonight’s film; we will share part of their lives” … He continued, “We are ashamed and dismayed by the events depicted in this film. But there is reason to be grateful — the fact that thousands could be saved. We are grateful to the government of the United Kingdom and to the host parents and families who welcomed Jewish children, protected them, offered them shelter and a home.” He added, “The film emphasizes the obligation of the Federal Republic of Germany to offer shelter to refugees in our country — we cannot accept the alienation of people because of their race, ethnic background or creed. Obviously there are decisive differences between the events depicted in the film and those happening today. In those days, murderers were ruling Germany, today state and society join together in opposing the neo-Nazi groups. And,” he added, “that does not mean we are exempt from our duty to remember. Nobody is asking those generations born after the war to feel guilty about our history. But still, the young people should learn to deal with the present by understanding the past. The testimony of the survivors helps our understanding immensely. Therefore, I hope that films like this one will be seen by as many young people as possible.” The Berlin audience broke into applause several times during his delivery. Oppenheimer told me the chancellor was so moved by the evening’s events that he concluded a meeting with his ministries early to return to a private reception hosted by Warner Bros. after the film. This, too, is showbiz.

AND NOW FOR “AMERICAN HOLOCAUST: When It’s All Over, I’ll Still be Indian.” The 30-minute film is directed by Jonelle Romero who tells me she is Apache, Cheyenne, Spanish and Jewish (her mother). The pic, which won best docu short at the American Indian Film Festival in SanFran, is entered in the Academy Awards nomination race and is going to Sundance. The pic includes footage of Adolf Hitler and quotes attributed to him claiming that the “American Holocaust” — the U.S. government’s murderous expulsion of Indians from their lands — inspired Hitler’s heinous holocaust. Romero says, “Many non-Indian people find it hard to believe that there was, and still is, an American Indian Holocaust.” Romero and her production partner Gary Robinson have been working on the film, narrated by Ed Asner, since 1994. Some of this “American Holocaust” footage will bring tears to your eyes. The Native American population has shrunk from its original (estimated) North American 20 million to its current 4 million. Interviews with many indigenous people reveal the true pictures of the American Indians. “And it’s time that we tell our own stories from an American Indian perspective,” Romero adds. She says President Clinton has done more for the American Indians than any other president and is only the second president to visit an Indian reservation. He will be an honoree at the Red Nation Celebration, Feb. 18 at the Hollywood Palace. The initial Celebration was held in Santa Fe in ’95. The next (4-1/2-hour) show of contemporary and traditional Indian music, drama and comedy will honor Mike Greene for including the Native American Music category in the Grammys. Filmmaker-actress Romero’s roots are also deep in showbiz: Her mother, Rita Rogers, got her start as a bikini girl on the Red Skelton show and later worked with Elvis Presley. And that sure is showbiz, too.

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