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Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation President Condemns Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars Speech: “Morally Indefensible”

Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA (HSF) president David Schaecter is condemning The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer for his divisive Oscar acceptance speech that linked his film’s Holocaust subject matter to criticism of Israel’s ongoing Gaza conflict.

“I watched in anguish Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony to equate Hamas’ maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of Hamas’ ongoing barbarity. Your comments were factually inaccurate and morally indefensible,” wrote the 94-year-old head of the survivor-run foundation in an open letter that was signed by the executive committee, which was shared on the organization’s website Tuesday.

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Shaecter survived three years in the Auschwitz Nazi death camp and another in Buchenwald.

The Academy Award win for the German-language drama Zone of Interest in the best international feature category was overshadowed by Glazer drawing a line between the Holocaust and the Gaza conflict in the wake of the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terror attack on southern Israel.

Glazer’s Oscar-winning film focuses on the life of the family of the Nazi commander of the Auschwitz camp against the literal backdrop of the Holocaust’s worst atrocities. In his prepared speech from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre stage that was received with applause, Glazer said, “Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst … Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation, which has led to conflict for so many innocent people — whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza — all the victims of this dehumanization … how do we resist?”

In his open letter, Shaecter wrote, “You should be ashamed of yourself for using Auschwitz to criticize Israel. You made a Holocaust movie and won an Oscar. And you are Jewish. Good for you. But it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were murdered solely because of their Jewish identity.”

The divisive reaction to Glazer’s speech was swift, with some misinterpreting Glazer’s speech to mean that he was refuting his Jewishness, rather that he was “refuting his Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.” The speech has been praised by supporters of a ceasefire and slammed by pro-Israel and Jewish figures.

Shaecter explains, “The ‘occupation’ of which you speak has nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Jewish people’s existence and right to live in the land of Israel predates the Holocaust by hundreds of years. Today’s political and geographic landscape is the direct result of wars started by past Arab leaders who refused to accept Jewish people as their neighbors in our historic homeland.”

In a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter from the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) on Monday, CEO Sacha Roytman had echoed Shaecter in saying, “Unfortunately, Jonathan Glazer has turned a magnificent achievement into another ‘As a Jew’ moment, where he appropriates his religious and ethnic identity to attack the national homeland of the Jewish People which is fighting a war on seven fronts against those who openly call for the genocide of Jews.

“While not comparing the two, Jews are once again being dehumanized for mass destruction, much as they were in the Holocaust. Rather than hijacking the Holocaust, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish People have learned that when someone says that they come to destroy us, we should not doubt their intent.”

Allison Josephs, founder and executive director of Jew in the City, which launched the first and only Jewish Hollywood Bureau in 2021, provided this statement to THR: “Glazer could have spoken about how the dehumanization of Jews led people to not believe that sexual violence was used against Israeli women or that it was ‘justified resistance.’ He could have said that the dehumanization of Jews led people to celebrate and/or deny that October 7 happened at all. He could have noted that October 7 was the most deadly day for Jews since the Holocaust.

“Instead Glazer used a common refrain from Jew-haters — that the Holocaust is the ‘get out of jail free card’ for Jews. He blamed Jews for their own massacre by saying that ‘the occupation led to conflict for so many people,’ which is why he was refuting his Jewishness and the Holocaust being used for this purpose. Cillian Murphy accepted his award as ‘a very proud Irishman.’ If only we had a SINGLE Jew in Hollywood who could accept their award as a very proud Jew.”

Glazer’s controversial speech is not yet available on the Oscars official YouTube page. Sources at ABC told THR that, as part of the distribution agreement between the U.S. network and the Academy, ABC holds the exclusive clip rights to an agreed list of Oscar categories, including best international feature film. The clip of Glazer’s acceptance speech is currently live on Oscar.comABC.com, ABC’s YouTube page. Following the 30-day agreement window, the Academy will be able to post the clip on their platforms.

Read Shaecter’s full March 11 open letter, below:

David Schaecter, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, wrote this letter today: I am 94 years old and the only member of 105 souls in my family to survive the Holocaust. I miraculously survived nearly three years in the hell of Auschwitz and one year in the hell of Buchenwald. I watched in anguish Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony to equate Hamas’s maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of Hamas’s ongoing barbarity. Your comments were factually inaccurate and morally indefensible.

The “occupation” of which you speak has nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Jewish people’s existence and right to live in the land of Israel predates the Holocaust by hundreds of years. Today’s political and geographic landscape is the direct result of wars started by past Arab leaders who refused to accept Jewish people as their neighbors in our historic homeland. Now that several Arab countries are making peace with Israel because security and prosperity are better for all people, Iran and its terrorist proxies started another war, abetted by too many, who, through naïveté or malice, blame “the occupation.”

Worse is that you chose to use the Holocaust to validate your personal opinion. You made a Holocaust movie and won an Oscar. And you are Jewish. Good for you. But it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for the six million Jews, including one and half million children, who were murdered solely because of their Jewish identity. And it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for those of us who personally saw the world stand silent as our mothers, father, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were murdered. We actually had nowhere to go — no possible place for refuge. No country would accept us even though world leaders knew full well that thousands of Jews were being murdered every day. There was no Jewish nation to which we could flee. You should be ashamed of yourself for using Auschwitz to criticize Israel.

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