Italian Educators Hope Video Will Aid in Fight Against Hatred
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Italian Educators Hope Video Will Aid in Fight Against Hatred

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Move over MTV In an effort to teach high schoolers here to fight anti-Semitism and racism, a fastpaced music video will be used by local authorities and Jewish leaders.

The producers of the 20-minute video — the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the Cultural Office of the Lazio Region, where Rome is located — recently presented it at a Rome conference for educators on the teaching of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

The video uses quick-cut film shots, sophisticated computer graphics, archival film from World War II, clips from well-known movies and testimony from Holocaust survivors against a soundtrack of rip music, rock and acid jazz.

The video, titled “Vernichtung Baby,” which means Extermination Baby, is a deliberate reference to the popular album “Achtung Baby” by the rock group U2. The Nazis used the word “Vernichtung” to refer to the Final Solution, the plan to exterminate the world’s Jews.

” `Vernichtung Baby’ intends to address itself to an audience of high school students, adopting a language that adheres as much as possible to their specific culture,” says an introductory statement about the video.

“The audio text is deliberately kept to a minimum, while the story is underlined by written text and computer graphics,” the statement says.

The message against anti-Semitism and racism is overt in the lyrics of Italian rap songs in the first and last few minutes of the film.

The video begins with sinister, choppy black-and-white images of Rome’s chaotic traffic, hooligan violence in the soccer stadium, racist slogans scrawled on walls and images of dark-skinned immigrants.

The ominous rap lyrics say that Italian cities today are potential theaters of racist urban violence and only by remembering history and refusing to be silent spectators can an explosion of this violence be prevented.

“If today you are silent, only look on, tomorrow be certain the pain will be yours,” the singer chants.

The last few minutes of the film show a youth running through the streets of Rome’s ancient Jewish ghetto. Images of marching skinheads and scenes of violence are superimposed onto the ghetto.

These scenes fade into peaceful, color images of Rome, and a more relaxed rap voice sings lyrics that speak of the possibility of a future without racism if the past is understood and remembered.

Between these two rap songs, stark film images both from archives and from commercial films evoke racism and tell the story of the rise of fascism and Nazism and of the Holocaust as it was experienced in Italy.

One of the images is a flock of sheep, a clear comparison with the widely publicized shots from World War II of crowds cheering and giving fascist and Nazi salutes.

Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist dictator, allied himself with Hitler and instituted anti-jewish laws in 1938. Jews from Italy were not deported to Nazi death camps until 1943.

In the video, three survivors of the roundup and deportation of Jews from Rome share their reminiscences of that day and of their experiences in Nazi camps.

Film clips were taken from movies such as “Do the Right Thing,” “The Wall” and “Schindler’s List.”

About 100 educators attended the conference at which the video was presented. A series of talks and discussions on how to teach young people about the Holocaust and the Jewish experience were held.

“The experience of the anti-Jewish persecution by fascists and Nazis is at the same time an historic fact and the possible model of a procedure that could repeat itself,” Organizers of the seminar said.

For years, Jewish leaders had lobbied for such educational material for formal use in schools.

“Vernichtung Baby” is the second video film that will be used in schools to teach about Jewish experience.

In February 1994, Italy’s Education Ministry unveiled a 70-minute video, called “Who Are the Jews?” about Jewish religion, history and culture for use in schools across the nation.

“We hope that it will be a pilot program leading to other educational initiatives,” Tullia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said at the time. “Prejudice is born of ignorance. In a democratic society, unity and diversity are both important. This film presents a small part of the Italian reality.”

About 40,000 of Italy’s 58-million person population are Jewish. More than half of the Jewish population is concentrated in Rome and Milan.

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