A Rabid Dog Always Ready to Bite

Promotion for the monologue of the Italian Primo Levi entitled “If this is a man.” (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, June 30, 2019 — Incredible. Anne Frank is a venerable old woman of 90. She remained frozen in the image of a smiling, sensitive, and good girl who discovered love and sexuality in the middle of adolescence as she records in her Diary. The Nazis murdered her in February or March of 1945, a little before the end of the war. She had been born in June of 1929.

So a foundation called “Anne Frank Space,” at this time led by its vice president, the architect Ilana Beker, caught my attention. It is composed, essentially, of Venezuelan Jews. If the massive immigration of that people is great for the societies that receive them, it is even more significant when it comes to Jews. They tend to have excellent education and a profound sense of social responsibility. This foundation’s objective, in essence, is to fight againt prejudices and that we manage to live together in harmony with different people.

Within that spirit, they brought to Miami Beach, to the Colony theater, the monologue of the Italian Primo Levi entitled If This is a Man, published in 1947. They are his memories from the Auschwitz concentration camp. Along with Levi, 650 Italian Jews were transported like animals to that horrible slaughterhouse. Only 20 survived. Four decades later, in 1987, hounded by depression, Levi committed suicide by throwing himself to the pavement from a third floor. Elie Wiesel, upon finding out, wrote: “Primo Levi died in Auschwitz forty years later.”

The actor Javier Vidal achieves a tremendous resemblance to Primo Levi and turns to an excellent “trick:” he recites the text admirably with the accent and cadence of an Italian who speaks Spanish. For an hour and a half it is very easy to believe that Levi himself transmits to us his experiences. His wife, Julie Restifo, directs the work with an enviable economy of media. A few chairs on the stage and the projection of some drawings and images set the horror with total clarity.

Almost at the end of the work, Primo Levi warns that what they are suffering can be reproduced in the future. And thus it is so. One of the constant features of Western civilization is antisemitism. Hitler and the Nazis did not invent anything. They limited themselves to picking up a bloodthirsty tradition initiated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but amplified by primitive medieval Christianity, which has been changing with each generation and adapting itself to every stage of history.

Hitler attributed to the Jews the German defeat in the First World War, despite the heroic participation of many Jews on the German and Austrian side, and supposed that by eradicating that “damned race” from the face of the earth all of Europe’s problems would suddenly disappear. Of course it was an unjust stupidity, but the ground had been fertilized for centuries with outrages against Jews.

It is true that the Roman papacy has asked forgiveness for its criminal excesses, but antisemitic prejudices are still alive in our culture. I remember a meeting of the Liberal International in Finland, in which they asked me to sit with an enigmatic Russian politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who had created a supposed Liberal Party and wanted to affiliate it with our political family.

It was enough to ask him “how are things in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia” for antisemitism to rise to the surface. “Imagine,” he said to me, “the Jews are keeping everything.” He criticized to me the “cosmopolitanism” of that ethnicity and even mentioned “the conspiracy of the Jewish doctors” denounced, persecuted, and murdered by Stalin at the end of the forties.

Everything continued the same way in the Russian mentality, like in the time of the czars, when the political police, the fearsome Okhrana, fabricated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as if there existed a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy to take control of the planet. Of course antisemitism has not diminished. It has mutated and presents itself today as anti-Zionism, but it is the same dog with a different collar. A rabid dog always ready to bite.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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