Friday, August 28, 2009

Is Inglorious Basterds a German fantasy, not a Jewish one?

A contrarian view of Inglourious Basterds from John Rosenthal (who occasionally writes for the JC). He argues that the movie is, in many ways (including much of its funding) very German, and that the main idea - Jews as avengers - is "a German fantasy, not a Jewish one":

But, it will be asked, what could possibly be German about a film that has been described as a “Jewish revenge fantasy,” in which Brad Pitt’s “Aldo Raine” and his band of Jewish “basterds” brutally kill and mutilate evil Nazis, cutting off their scalps as trophies? Hasn’t every Jew dreamt of bashing in the heads of Germans with a baseball bat √† la Eli Roth’s “Sgt. Donny Donowitz”?

Well … no. And by the way: Who could possibly think such a thing? The answer is not hard to find. The “avenging Jew” is indeed a kind of stock character of the German political imagination. It has been at least ever since a certain Dr. Joseph Goebbels announced to the German public in 1944 that “the Jew Morgenthau” — otherwise known as the American Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau — was planning to turn Germany into “one big potato farm” in the event of an Allied victory over the German Reich.

The allusion was to the so-called Morgenthau Plan for restricting German industry following occupation. The V√∂lkischer Beobachter (September 26, 1944) had a different name for the plan: “The Jew’s Murder Plan” [Judas Mordplan]...

Of course, Rosenthal is not exactly right - see the legendary Michael Elkins's book Forged in Fury, based on the true story of a group of some 50 Jews who, after the War, who tried to kill as many as possible former Nazis. (Jonathan Freedland's last book, The Final Reckoning, was based on the same story, and credits Elkins in the afterword). Still, he makes a strong case. Read the whole thing here.

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