history, photography

(9) Creating Historical Fiction: Herbert Zipper

Barbara and Zorka Kiss are lost in more ways than one. Struggling to survive in Manila during the Japanese occupation in 1942-45, I came to a spot in the narrative where I needed to blend the Nazi and Japanese atrocities together for sharing the characterizations of two unique Jewish sisters. Zorka is the classical musician who is accomplished with the viola. She is at a crippling part of the story and needs to move forward and not let tragedy keep her captive. At twenty, she must learn that her childhood avocation has a more meaningful purpose to her identity.

“But we all learned the motto of Dachau to heed

And became as hardened as stone

Stay humane, Dachau mate,

Be a man, Dachau Mate,

And work as hard as you can, Dachau mate,

For work leads to freedom alone!” – “Dachau Lied”

Enter the real man, Maestro Herbert Zipper. I had never heard of him. I stumbled upon his unique story and was thrilled, for I found my bridge and motivation for Zorka. It’s one of those human stories that can’t possibly be made up. Reality is stranger than fiction. Herbert is that and more!

Herbert Zipper (1904-1997) was a refined and educated Vienese Jew. By the time of the Anschluss in 1938, his father went to Paris to secure emigration papers for his family. Herbert had fallen in love with his soul mate,Trudl Dubsky, who was an accomplished ballerina. Herbert and his brother were arrested, transported by cattle cars and deposited to Munich’s concentration camp, Dachau. The infamous greeting, “Arbeit Macht Frei” greeted the Jews. While he was in the camp, he survived by focusing his energies on composing and creating an “outhouse” orchestra. For fifteen minutes a week, music was played and their humanity stayed intact. Through music, Herbert survived and gave inspiration to those around him.

Februrary 20, 1939, his father had secured the necessary papers and his sons were released from Dachau. Once in Paris, Herbert made his plans. Trudl was in a ballet in Manila having secured a spot with another Vienese conductor the pair knew. When he suddenly died of a heart attack, Trudl advocated for Herbert to replace him as Conductor of the Manila Symphony.

Zorka will befriend the Zippers and it’s Herbert’s wisdom which will lift and transform Zorka. The plot becomes richer because of Herbert and Trudl’s love, courage, and underground activities. It will be a pleasure to showcase the real couple in the novel. The tie in with fact and fiction is perfect.

I found Paul Cummins biography of Herbert Zipper fascinating. Try Dachau Song: The Twentieth Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper. His famous song, “Dachau Lied” was composed and sung by the inmates of Dachau. Here it is if you’d like to listen to it:

https://www.ushmm.org/exhibition/music/detail.php?content=dachau

Rough Draft:

During a sticky-hot monsoon in August, Zorka scanned the papers and discovered an article featuring the conductor of the Manila Theater of Arts, Dr. Herbert Zipper, a Vienese Jew who escaped Dachau and Buchenwald and came to Manila to accept the post of head conductor. A particular quote resonated with Zorka. “Music,” he quoted, “is God’s powerful gift that fills the heart and replenishes the soul when all seems lost.” Zorka felt a glimmer of inspiration. She desperately wanted to meet and talk to him. If he can survive the camps with music as his beacon of light, then so too, can I.

She stared at her viola case set in a corner of the living room. She pulled out the instrument, and her bow announced clear notes. The music seemed to seep into her blood. She played for hours a day, remembering her first recital at eight and her performances as a teenager for the Minneapolis Youth Symphony. She replayed pieces from solo concerts during Purim. She remembered the requests by the family in the parlor during Yom Kippur. As a transfusion, music flushed the sadness out of her heart.

Thanks for reading!

2000s, 2010s, actors, directors, Film Spotlight, History in Films, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies, oscars

L13FC: WWII from 2000 to the Present

It’s Friday the 13th and my lucky day. We get to share thoughts about a topic in the movie industry. Never has there been an event in the twentieth century that has instigated a global outpouring of stories documenting the best and worst in humanity than World War II. The movie industry has had a love affair with making World War II films. According to Wikipedia, over 400 films have been devoted to the event. In timing with anniversary dates, one has come to expect new narrations muscling for a chance to share their perspective. Outside of battles and key events, the Holocaust is a genre of its own. We have a macabre sense of duty to understand the atrocities and mindset of a time where everyday common people were thrust in the way of world domination. Today, let us discuss the cinematic touches that made recent World War II films compelling and effective. 

A smattering of films since 2000. What should be added to the list? Before you criticize me, I think a lot of Hollywood films about WWII are too romantic and silly. For instance, I don’t think Pearl Harbor is a good film overall, but I do think the filming of the attack on Pearl Harbor to be outstanding. So, what SCENE or PERFORMANCE has stuck with you over the last two decades? For me, World War II movies that moved me the most in the last twenty years were the ones involving children.

2010s, actors, Film Spotlight, History in Films, movies

Film Spotlight: Denial

denialheader

Guest Review: DENIAL (2016) by Cinemusefilms 

The nature of truth and the power to manipulate it have long been contentious themes in history and cinema. The outstanding film Denial (2016) resonates loudly in today’s post-truth world where power is often used to create alternate realities. It is a film that portrays denialism as a dangerous and perverse form of moral corruption, something that may be contained but can never be eliminated.

The story is based on the celebrated 1996 legal case fought between eminent academic Deborah Lipstadt, an American professor of Holocaust Studies, and David Irving, a historian of Nazi Germany. A book published by Lipstadt (Rachael Weisz) accuses Irving (Timothy Spall) of being a Holocaust denier and falsifier of history, and Irving sues for defamation. In the British justice system, the burden of proof is on the accused so Lipstadt must prove that the Holocaust did happen to establish that Irving is a liar. She engages a top legal team led by senior barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) who insists that neither Lipstadt or Holocaust survivors should present testimony against Irving because of his history of promoting himself by humiliating victims. Lipstadt and her lawyers visit Auschwitz to gather evidence of the existence of gas chambers but the bulk of the story is played out on the legal battlefield at court.

Modern audiences are desensitised to the atrocities of war. It is glorified in movies and video games and feeds the entertainment and amusement industry. Today’s filmmakers struggle to find ways of remembering the Holocaust without alienating viewers. The extraordinary Son of Saul (2016) takes audiences right into the flames, whereas Denial (2016) explores the moral issues in a courtroom. In reality, this was a high-stakes legal battle that could have potentially delegitimised the entire history of the Holocaust. It is an outstanding achievement that this film can capture the tension and the burden of moral responsibility carried by the Lipstadt legal team.

The casting and characterisation in this film are brilliant. Rachael Weisz’s American brashness presents a stark cultural contrast with the conservative traditions of British justice. She convincingly portrays a principled academic and scholar of truth, showing restrained emotion beneath her loathing for Irving’s anti-Semitism. Tom Wilkinson gives a masterful portrait of wisdom and conviction, while Timothy Spall plays Irving with subdued Satanic malice. The other support cast makes up a strong ensemble. The narrative unfolds at a sweeping pace and the script is both intelligent and instructive in the legal nuance of courtroom manoeuvers. The footage of Auschwitz is emotionally harrowing and the film treats its subject matter with utmost reverence.

If you want light entertainment, do not see this film. It is for audiences prepared to confront the dark side of humanity as well as those interested in the intricacies and triumphs of the British legal system. But more than that, it’s an essay on the nature of truth in history and it exposes the moral abhorrence of those who manipulate facts to suit their prejudices It is also a warning that manipulators of truth will always be among us. 4/5

Director: Mick Jackson

Stars: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall

Thanks, RICHARD, for contributing to my blog today!