Reflection on "Jealous of the Birds" by Deborah Lipstadt

  “Jealous of the Birds”

Reflection by Deborah Lipstadt

 January 2012  

How could Jews – particularly those who experienced the Holocaust -- live in Germany after World War II?

This is a question that has perplexed many people, among them many Jews.   It did not and does not seem to make sense.  How could Jews who had endured such pain choose to live amongst those who had perpetrated their suffering?      

In an understated, sensitive, and penetrating fashion, this film explores that question.   It demonstrates that not only have survivors’ children asked it of their parents but that survivors have asked it of themselves. 

While ostensibly a film about the Holocaust, this sensitive film is in fact an elegy about the attempt to heal.   The filmmaker, whose grandparents are at the center of this exploration, demonstrates in a loving and creative fashion that, despite an external appearance that suggests that the survivors have healed, they carry a deep seeded wound that defies healing.

This film comes at a time when the voice of the survivor, once so prevalent in our community, is increasingly being silenced by old age, infirmity, and death. Soon there will be no one to speak in the first person singular about their experience. We will have to depend on memoirs, letters, diaries, interviews, and films such as this to bring us directly in touch with the story of those who experienced what we now so glibly and easily refer to as “the Holocaust.”

This film, which on some level is a family’s tale, also touches on central questions of post-Holocaust Jewish identity. It is touching, powerful, and personal in a quiet fashion.

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University. Professor Lipstadt is the author most recently of The Eichmann Trial (NextBooks, Schocken Press and Random House, 2011).


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