Jewish humor has travelled from the Shtetl to Hollywood, from the Torah to Comic books. Jewish humor is tradition and pop culture – and also a cliché? Especially in Germany and Austria, Jewish jokes became very popular after the Second World War. Jewish humor is, allegedly, self-ironic – and laughing about the Jews together with the Jews seems like a convenient way for the perpetrator countries to cope with their dark pasts. But is Jewish humor really always self-mocking – or is the matter more complex? In the documentary, rabbis, comedians and writers from Germany, Austria, France and Israel have their say. Who owns Jewish humour – and who owns the laughter?
An animated documentary from Humanity in Action, Voices in the Void recounts the remarkable ”Danish Exception” of October 1943. The piece features the story of late Rabbi Bent Melchior, who, as a teenager went into hiding with his family to escape Nazi deportation. In his own words, Rabbi Melchior tells a story of heroism and survival, and of the regular Danish people who took exceptional steps to save their neighbors and ensure their safe escape to Sweden.
Two Trees in Jerusalem, an animated documentary produced by Humanity in Action, profiles the remarkable history of Eberhard and Donata Helmrich, who together saved the lives of countless Jews during the Holocaust. The pair worked as a husband-and-wife team in the eye of the storm, in Berlin and the blood-soaked fields of Eastern Europe, devising ever-more daring gambits to save any life they could, even as death surrounded them. The history is narrated by the couple’s daughter Cornelia, who was called into her parents’ confidence as a young child, and was imbued with an inner-strength that guided her work decades later as a politician and Commissioner for immigrant and refugee issues during the 1990’s.
My Father’s War, an animated documentary produced by Humanity in Action, brings to life the experiences of Peter Hein and his son David. As a Jewish toddler in the Netherlands in the 1940s, Peter was separated from his parents and whisked from hiding place to hiding place to escape deportation and death. Decades later, his own son David attempts to forge his own path after his father’s mental health buckles under the weight of his memories. The film reveals the hereditary trauma of the Holocaust: the deep emotional wounds of forefathers passed on to children and grandchildren. Narrated by both Peter and David, the film depicts an intergenerational conversation, reverberating across the decades.
Dreyfus Drei is a film about family, identity and returning to Germany from Australia Australian Jewish artist Ella Dreyfus grew up with little knowledge of her family’s tragic losses in the Holocaust. She sets out to uncover their history with her uncle George in Melbourne and her cousin Jonathan in Berlin, and finds her own way of re-connecting to Germany. The short documentary is a poetic film that follows Ella’s search for the Dreyfus’ histories and traces of her late father’s life.