Hoping for Peace in Our Time: Wishes For a Wonderful New Year!

Dove of Peace: Pablo Picasso, Lithograph (1949)

There is so much to be grateful for! Best wishes to all for a Wonderful, Happy and Healthy New Year! God bless us everyone!

Playing For Change: Song Around the World – “Stand By Me”

Anne Frank: Remembering Anne on Her Birthday

Anne Frank: Remembering Anne on Her Birthday

Anne Frank was born 84 years ago, on June 12, 1929. During her short 15 years, she kept a diary and wrote there sorting out her emotions, describing her crushes and despair, her desires and dreams. Anne kept the diary from 1942 to 1944, the two years that her German-Jewish family lived in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II. In August 1944, Anne, her family and the others who were in hiding with them were discovered by Nazi authorities. They were shipped off to Nazi concentration camps; Anne died in Bergen-Belsen, just weeks before it was liberated.

Historical Background Notes

Surrounded by the turmoil of Weimar Germany, Otto and Edith Frank got married in 1925, and Otto pursued an industrial career. In 1929, the year Anne Frank was born, the stock market in New York crashed, and an already unstable Weimar government was further undermined by economic depression, unemployment and inflation. In 1933, the Nazis came into power. The Franks decided to move to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which had been neutral during World War I. The Netherlands had the reputation of being a safe haven for religious minorities. Otto Frank left for Amsterdam first and established a branch of his uncle’s company there.

Initially, Anne felt at home in their apartment at 37 Merwedeplien. She and her sisters attended school, went to the beach, and had both Jewish and Christian Dutch friends. The Frank family seemed to have made what appeared to be a good decision and were adjusting to their new life. But like so many other refugees throughout Europe during World War II, the Franks’ belief that they had a safe haven was shattered when Nazi armies violated Dutch neutrality. The Nazi bombing of Rotterdam killed 1,000 people and within five days the government surrendered under the threat of further bombings. Queen Wilhelmina and her government went into exile in London.

At first Anne and Margot were still able to socialize with their friends and attend school. However, soon the Nazi administration in the Netherlands, along with the Dutch civil service, began issuing and carrying out anti-Jewish decrees. This included stripping Jews of their rights as citizens and human beings and isolating them from their fellow Dutch citizens. Otto Frank, aware of what the Nazi decrees had done to Jews in Germany, anticipated as best he could what was going to happen to by turning his business over to his non-Jewish colleagues. Anne had to leave her Montessori School to attend the Jewish Lyceum.

The first brutal round up of 400 Jewish men and boys in Holland occurred on February 25, 1941. It was in response to earlier riots by Dutch Nazis and a counter-attack by a small Jewish resistance group. Virtually the entire working population of Amsterdam and a few other cities in the vicinity went on strike. The strike continued for two days, until the Germans broke it up by force. By 1942, the round-ups of Jews and their deportation to labor, transit and concentration camps were becoming routine. The geography of the Netherlands and the closing of its borders made escape extremely difficult. Fearful for their lives, Otto and Edith Frank prepared to go into hiding. They wanted to stay together as a family and they already had a place in mind, an annex of rooms above Otto Frank’s office at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.

The employees of Otto Frank agreed to help them. At a time when it was unusual to find anyone to help, the Franks, as Anna wrote in her diary, were “privileged” to have so many helpers and to be together. Besides business associates Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, employees and friends Miep Gies, her husband Jan, Bep Voskuijl and his father were all trustworthy. They not only agreed to keep the business operating in their employer’s absence, but they would risk their lives to help the Frank family survive.

On July 5, 1942, Anne’s sister Margot received a call-up notice for a Nazi “work camp.” Although their hiding place was not yet ready, Edith and Otto Frank realized that they had to escape immediately. Hurriedly, they packed their belongings and left notes behind that implied they had fled the country. On the evening of July 6, they moved into their hiding place.

Otto Frank had made arrangements with his business partner, German Jewish refugee Hermann van Pels, his wife, Auguste, and their son, Peter, to share the annex with his family. They arrived a week later on July 13. The seven residents of the annex were joined by the eighth and final resident, Fritz Pfeffer, in November. Most families who went into hiding were all split up and moved from place to place, dependent on others for help. Many parents tried to place at least their children in hiding, and of the children who survived the war, few ever saw their families again.

Since the annex was above a business, and the buildings on either side were occupied, the eight residents had to be extremely quiet to avoid being discovered. They became a kind of extended family in the confined space of the shared rooms. The Nazi’s and their collaborators were carrying out their plan for the “final solution to the Jewish question.” The annex residents could only wait and hope. Anne wrote in her diary about the long hours of boredom and suffocation. At other times, she felt alone and misunderstood.

News was extremely important to those living in the annex; only Germany’s defeat would end the mass killing of Jews and other innocent victims. The residents constantly argued over when, and if, the war would end. At approximately 10 a.m. on August 4, 1944, Anne and the others’ greatest fear came true. Four Dutch Nazis entered the office building to catch the hidden Jews. Someone had betrayed them, but to this day no one knows who. The Nazis took the residents into custody, transported them to a prison in Amsterdam, subsequently deported them to the Dutch transit camp, Westerbrook, and then to Auschwitz.

Anne and her sister were then transported to Bergen-Belson concentration camp in Germany. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot, already debilitated, contracted typhus. Margot, seventeen years old, died first. A short time later Anne, then fifteen years old, died. It was March 1945. The exact date of their deaths and where they were buried is unknown.

For interested readers, The Anne Frank Center, USA, maintains a scrapbook of her life and times.

Anne Frank’s Attic Window

Anne Frank’s Attic Window

The 150-year-old chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in the attic of the canal-side warehouse in Amsterdam was a ray of hope for the famous diary writer. The Jewish teenager remained indoors with her family for 25 months until they were arrested in August 1944. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp in March 1945.

The attic window from which Anne Frank could see the tree was the only one that had not been blacked out. In a diary entry dated February 23, 1944, she wrote: “From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind… As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

The Chestnut Tree and the Attic Window

The Only Known Moving Picture of Anne Frank

Anne Frank Speaks: A Holocaust Documentary

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Harvey Milk Day 2011: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Harvey Milk Day 2011: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Although California is presently the only state with an official Harvey Milk Day, cities all across the country will be holding rallies and events today to honor the first openly gay man to be elected to public office and an icon of the gay-rights movement. Milk, who would have been 81 years-old, gave us his life 32 years ago, knowing that the first of any civil rights movement, who clearly and loudly proclaim their right to equality, most often meets a violent and sudden end. Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He fought to end discrimination against gays and lesbians and built coalitions of gay-rights groups, labor unions and small-business owners. He was 48 when he was killed a year later by a former supervisor, Dan White.

The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary film, won the 1984 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The movie Milk, was released in 2008, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White. Milk received two Academy Awards, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay rights movement stating, “He fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction.”

Harvey Milk: The Candlelight Funeral Rites

A Documentary on Harvey Milk: 575 Castro St.

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Before there was the Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slide Show:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image Above to View Slide Show)

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Plum Flower Deer: A Visual Story of Courage and Rebirth

Plum Flower Deer: A Visual Story of Courage and Rebirth

Plum Flower Deer is a two-minute animated short film, with story, design and animation by Yoho Hang Yue at Toronto’s Crush Production Company. The film tells the story about a pair of Plum Flower Deer, (one of the most auspicious, divine animals in Chinese culture), who are separated by an act of man but are rejoined in spirit. The Plum Flower Tree itself has been the subject of innumerable paintings and poems, representing courage and elegance. The film draws on Chinese art and tradition, presenting an artistic rumination about love, hope, the natural world and rebirth.

Plum Flower Deer: A Visual Story of Courage and Rebirth

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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Machine Civilization: We Are All One

Machine Civilization: We Are All One

Machine Civilization is the fabulously choreographed music video by World Order, the celebrated Japanese music/dance performance group led by former martial artist Genki Sudo. The video features  slow-motion breakdance voguing Japanese businessmen, released along with some words of hope following the recent earthquake and tsunami devastation in Japan. Genki Sudo accompanied his video with these words of inspiration:

The unprecedented disasters unfolding in Japan; earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear explosions, will somehow change things to come. And to send my message about this, I have expressed it here with World Order.

These disasters can be interpreted as a turning point for civilization. I think that we have arrived at a time of revolution, shared with all the people of the world, in today’s society, economy, and political systems.

Incidents themselves are neutral. I believe that every single one of us, wandering through this deep darkness, can overcome anything, if only we let go of our fear, and face the it all in a positive light.

The world is not going to change. Each one of us will change. And if we do, then yes, the world will be changed. It is darkest right before the dawn. Let’s all rise up to welcome the morning that will be so very bright for mankind. We are all one.”

World Order: Machine Civilization

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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The Sun City Picture House: Hollywood Comes to Haiti

The Sun City Picture House: Hollywood Comes to Haiti

Sun City Picture House is a very engaging documentary short film by David Darg and Bryn Mooser.  After the devastating earthquake rocked Haiti last year, food and medical aid poured into the island country, but in the months that followed a pair of Hollywood actresses and their friends had another idea.  They wanted to build a movie theater.  Maria Bello, who starred in the Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups, and Tron actress Olivia Wilde, have documented the efforts of the group of people that brought the theater to life in this new, documentary short.

The documentary, Sun City Picture House, focuses on Haitian aid worker Raphael Louigene, whose dream was to build a movie theater, and the two American aid workers who helped him realize that dream by constructing it in just four days: Bryn Mooser from Artists for Peace and Justice, and Dave Darg, who works for Operation Blessing.  Mario Bello stated, “The thing that’s needed most in Haiti right now, besides the immediate relief efforts, is joy.  And that’s what this movie is about.”

This piece also includes a slide show of stunning photographs of life in Haiti’s tent cities by New York photographer Wyatt Gallery.

The Sun City Picture House: Hollywood Comes to Haiti

Tent Life in Haiti: Portraits of Dignity in the Wake of Devastation

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Tent Life in Haiti: Portraits of Profound Dignity in the Wake of Devastation

Tent Life in Haiti: Portraits of Profound Dignity in the Wake of Devastation

Photography by:  Wyatt Gallery, NYC

January 12, 2011, will mark one year to the day that the devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, resulting in what is arguably the worst natural disaster in modern history.  Of the 1.5 million Haitian people who lost their homes in the earthquake, the majority are still living in makeshift tent cities, and the promised billions of dollars in foreign aid have yet to materialize.  While financial donors and peacekeepers have resources that vastly overshadow those of the Haitian government, a lack of coordination in their endeavors has hampered the country’s efforts to recover.

Tent Life: Haiti is a very timely collection of stunning portraits of dignity, hope and joy by New York photographer Wyatt Gallery, inspirational photographs that show the reality of Haitian lives a year after the earthquake’s destruction and its aftermath.  Gallery’s photographs present an artful and unselfconscious study of the resilience of an irrepressible people.  They are beautiful narrative illustrations of the lives of a people experiencing a painfully arduous process of recovery, but they don’t romanticize the tent cities or the desperate living conditions of the Haitians who were rendered homeless by the earthquake.

Rather than using the medium of photography mainly as an attempt to understand what has happened in Haiti, Gallery’s portraits reveal a sense of intimacy and closeness with the Haitian survivors, as well as a genuine wish to be helpful.  His work stands as a tender expression of the unexpected and unlikely sense of hope that he discovered in the residents of the Haitian tent cities.

A collection of photographs from Gallery’s Tent Life: Haiti is currently on exhibition at the Umbrage Gallery in Downtown Brooklyn, and will be on display until March 31, 2011.  In addition, Tent Life: Haiti has just been published as a fine art photography book, and 100% of the proceeds will go to four charitable relief organizations: J/P Haitian Relief Organization, Healing Haiti, the Global Syndicate and the Cine Institute.

Tent Life in Haiti: A Documentary Video Journal

We Are The World 25 For Haiti (Official Video)

Tent Life in Haiti: Portraits of Profound Dignity in the Wake of Devastation

(Please Click Image to View Photo-Gallery)

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