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Wrong Place to Preem

Tehran should have been the site for the premiere of “I Have Not Forgotten You–The Life And Legacy  of Simon Wiesenthal.”  It was held, in fact,  at the  The Academey of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Dec.14, the day after Iranian President  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s insulting conference denying the existence of the Holocaust.

However, that “denial”  will get is comeuppance when the Berlin Film Festival gives worldwide space in February, 2007 to Moriah Films’ no-holds-barred revelations of the horror of the Holocaust via the biopic of Simon Wiesenthal.

Last week’s screening at the Academy for supporters of Moriah Films was chaired by Rosalie  Zalis who introduced Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal  Center and the Museum of Tolerance. He noted that “to counteract the Tehran conference, the Simon Wiesenthal Center held a video conference with 51 Holocaust survivors, live, on camera.” He then introduced the film which will be unveiled officially at the Berlin film fest in Feb.

Hier  produced the film with Richard Trank who also directed and scripted. They had teamed to win two Documentary Oscars, “Genocide” (1981) and “The Long Way Home” (1997).   

Nicole Kidman narrates “I Have Not Fogotten You,” Lee Holdridge composed, conducted the original music score. The film will get theatrical distrbution  by Edward Noeltner’s Cinema Management Group.

Currently,  Moriah  Films’ “Ever Again,” narrated by Kevin Costner, is  playng in 20 cities. Hier says the  new Wiesenthal  film will get additional  outreach in colleges throuout the country — where Wiesenthal had been a  speaker on over 100 campii. His amazing story, the bringing to justice of over 1,100 war criminals, is graphically chronicled starting from his release by American GI’s in May, 1945 at the road-to-death camp Mauthausen, Austria.

“Having survived  through nothing less than a miracle, I have remained true to those who suffered with me, their last thoughts, their hopes and their fears have become my own,” said Wiesenthal. He proceeded to methodically track down to eventual  criminal prosecution the murderers of six million innocent Jewish men, women and childlen in the most hideously-devised tools of torture — depicted without pulling any pictorial punches. They include Franz Stangel, the Commandant at Treblinka death camp where 800,000 perished; Gustave Wagner of Sobibow, where 250,000  died; Walter Dauff,  who created the mobile death camp in which 250,000 women and children were  killed; Helena Ryan, the  murderer of Madjenick whom he tracked down in Queens, N.Y.; Joseph Mengele, “The Angel of Death”;  Karl Silberbruner, the Gestapo chief who arrested Anne Frank and family, and the others.

Hier met with Wiesenthal in 1960, established the Center in 1977, was at his side at his 90th birthday at the Imperial hotel in Vienna and remained his friend until Wiesentahl’s death at 96, in 2006, in Vienna.

He was reviled during the ’70s by his countrymen –he went from reviled to respected and admired by the younger generations. He was invited into Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square) on the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII — a site not used since Hitler occupied it.

Director Richard Trank says the Berlin Film Fest will be “the perfect venue” to premiere the film. “He had a close relationship with the German government which cooperated in gaining extradition for the war criminals abroad.”

It should be a memorable night, one which, I hope, Iran and Muslim misbelievers  — and other hate mongers — will be watching.