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The Nazis and Spielberg: The Coming Storm

The Nazis and Spielberg: The Coming Storm

Nothing quite gets the public going like a Spielberg movie. Even if you hate his movies (not that I do), it's hard to avoid the excitement they engender. Especially come Christmas. This year, Spielberg's big holiday release, you may have heard, is "The Adventures of Tintin," an animated 3D film about the legendary children's book. And this year, I'm predicting a minor controversy about it.

Why? Simple: the comic book's maker, the long dead Belgium illustrator, Herge (ne Georges Remi), is widely presumed to be anti-Semitic. Of course, that reputation has been muted by his remarkable artist career. But it's likely to be revived now, with all the attention being given now to his creation, Tintin. Basically, the case against Herge goes like this: while Belgium was under Nazi occupation, Herge continued to publish his Tintin comics under a magazine, "Le Soir," which had been taken over by the Nazis.

In many countries the Nazis took over, they subjugated all press materials to their censors, so that's not exactly his crime. What is is the fact that he created at least one viciously anti-Semitic character in a Tintin strip, and at just the time when Belgium Jews were being forced to wear a yellow star. The strip featured a fat Jewish banker named Blumenstein, who one recent biographer said was meant to represent the "incarnation of evil." Then, just after the war, Herge responded indignantly when a friend who survived a Nazi labor camp returned to tell him that Jews were especially singled out. Herge responded: “You mistook what you saw… First of all, how do you know they were Jews? They must have been common law criminals."

Presumably Spielberg knows all this (everyone seems to know about it in Europe). And he may get a pass, given the other great Jewish work Spielberg has done. Not only is there the Shoah Foundation, which has become the largest filmed archive of Holocaust survives, and which the Times announced today was expanding its mandate to include victims of other genocide. But Spielberg is also, of course, the man who made Schindler a household name. And no one, I should add, gave a damn that Schindler was a Nazi, either.

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