‘The City Without Jews’ deserves to be seen, discussed

Published: 3/19/2023 10:29:02 AM

On April 3, the Greenfield Garden Cinemas is hosting a 1924 Austrian silent film entitled “A City Without Jews.” The title of the film is displayed prominently on the cinema marquee (only from the east though). On posters, the Greenfield Human Rights Commission is facilitating discussion of antisemitism following the film.

I saw the film on YouTube this evening. It is an anti-Nazi film following the first wave of Nazi organizing in Germany and Austria in the early 1920s. The film opposed the Nazi movement to remove Jews from Aryan lands. (Genocide was not yet proposed.) However, the film did include antisemitic assumptions of what Jews were about and did (“Jews control banking”). Some period reviewers described the film positively for opposing Nazism, but did so in the vein that the presence of prominent Austrian Jews was in ways a “necessary evil.”

Nothing in the film touched the current or long-term assaults on Jewish existence or sensitivity. In fact, to my mind, the presence of the title of the film on the Greenfield Gardens marquee is a suggestion that the idea is plausible, “A City Without Jews.”

Apparently, a foundation, The Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts (La Jolla, California), selected the film, from another not-for-profit’s work, FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium), and somehow chose Greenfield for its showing, though only Greenfield.

I hope Greenfield Garden Cinemas realize that even seeing the title on the marquee invokes fear among Jews that see it, especially those with family that survived the Holocaust and other gross abuses (my wife’s and son’s in-laws), and is therefore at best an incompetent and insensitive manner to address antisemitism.

The film is part of film history and deserves to be seen. However, if you attend, please use the opportunity to also attend the post-film discussion to sincerely address antisemitism, its history in America, prejudices that you bear, and not paper over our sensitivity.

Richard Witty



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