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Discouraging, Revealing and a Romanian Indifference to a Jewish Massacre

“I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians” is a Toronto Jewish Film Festival film that reveals the indifference and blindness or perhaps ignorance by Romanians of the 1941 Odessa Massacre a name given to the mass massacre of the Jews in Odessa and surrounding towns in the Transnistria Governorate during the autumn of 1941 and winter of 1942 while these areas were under Romanian control. This amounts to approximately 134,000 Jews. In fact, is has been established that 380,000 Jews were murdered by the Romanians during the Second World War. Apparently Adolf Eichmann complained to Hitler the Romanians killed more Jews than they could efficiently bury. The writer Hannah Arendt noted that Romanians were the worst anti-Semites in Europe.

Marianna a Romanian film director wants to film a re-enactment of the 1941 massacre and through her and the research we learn about the Romanians who were allied with Hitler had their own concentration camps for Jews and Roma. Even Hitler thought their over eagerness to slaughter Jews so early on was a bit excessive.

The producer puts pressure on Marianna to deal with some other massacre as the Romanian atrocities are minor in comparison to past and ongoing massacres. The children would be frightened by the violence. We should portray Romanian soldiers in a valiant and brave way. Educating the public would be a “comic illusion”. He says how brave of her to shove shit over past generations. And “lest we forget” is just a pile of shit. In other words why reveal the Romanian genocide as it would hurt the people that fund us. And as here are so many current massacres occurring in the world why focus on something in the past. A classic Holocaust denier or as Marianna says a comparative trivializer of massacres.

On the eve of shooting Marianna tricks the producer into thinking the role of Romanian troops will be restricted to escorting the Jews to their execution and there will be no executing of Jews by Romanian troops. But the Romanian execution is shown with its then fascist leader Antonescu vilifying the Jews as scum with the blessing of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The deputy mayor is in shock. Prior to the performance she had given a speech about the bravery and valor of Romanian troops that enabled Romanians to enjoy a soda and ice cream and watch a movie. After all she says love is the cure for all. There is much sarcasm in this film.

Deeply disturbing are the cheers of the crowd when the Romanian troops not only escort the Jews to their death but herd them into a building and set it ablaze.

A highly intellectual and well thought out film although initially the first half hour is a bit confusing. To really grasp the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings of this film watching it once is not enough.

If you can struggle through the first half hour of the film it is well worth your time.

(“I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians”, Czech Republic/Bulgaria/Romania, 2018, Director Radu Jude, 140 minutes, Part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and shows May 10 at 3 p.m. Cineplex Empress Walk 6).

To learn more about the film and see a trailer

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