By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Incredible. Anna Frank is a venerable 90-year old lady. She remained frozen in the image of a smiling, sensitive and good-natured girl who discovered love and sexuality in her adolescence, as she states in her Diary. The Nazis murdered her in February or March 1945, shortly before the end of the war. She was born in June 1929.
That’s why a foundation called “Space Anna Frank,” this time led by its vice president, the architect Ilana Beker, got my attention. It is composed, essentially, by Venezuelan Jews. If the massive immigration of that people is great to the societies that receive them, it is even more remarkable when it comes to Jews. They usually have an excellent academic preparation and a deep sense of social responsibility. Essentially, the goal of this foundation is to fight against prejudice and to achieve a harmonious coexistence among different people.
Within that spirit, they brought to Miami Beach, to the Colony Theater, the monologue of Italian Primo Levi entitled If This Is A Man, published in 1947. The monologue is based on his memoirs of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Together with Levi, the Nazis brought 650 Italian Jews to that horrible slaughterhouse as if they were animals. Only twenty survived. Four decades later, in 1987, beset by depression, Levi committed suicide by jumping from a third floor. When Elie Wiesel learned of the suicide, he wrote, “Primo Levi died in Auschwitz forty years later.”
Actor Javier Vidal achieves a great resemblance with Primo Levi and resorts 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 his experiences to us. His wife, Julie Restifo, directs the play with an enviable economy of means. A few chairs on the stage and the projection of some drawings and images create an atmosphere of horror quite clearly.
Near the end of the play, Primo Levi warns that what they are suffering can be reproduced in the future. And so it is. One of the constant features of Western civilization is anti-Semitism. Hitler and the Nazis did not invent anything. They limited themselves to collecting a bloodthirsty tradition initiated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but augmented by medieval primitive Christianity, which has been modified with each generation and adapted to all stages of history.
Hitler blamed the Jews for the German defeat in World War I, despite the heroic participation of many Jews in the German and Austrian camp, and he assumed that by extirpating that “cursed race” from the face of the earth all the problems of Europe would suddenly disappear. Sure, it was an unfair stupidity, but the stage had been set after centuries of abuses against the Jews.
It is true that the Roman papacy has apologized for its criminal excesses, but anti-Semitic prejudices are still alive in our culture. I remember a meeting of the Liberal International in Finland, where I was asked to sit next to an enigmatic Russian politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who had created an alleged Liberal Party and wanted to join our political family.
I just had to ask him “how are things in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia” to make anti-Semitism surface. “Imagine,” he told me, “the Jews are taking everything.” He criticized the “cosmopolitanism” of this ethnic group and even mentioned “the conspiracy of Jewish doctors” denounced, persecuted and exterminated by Stalin in the late 1940s.
Everything was the same in the Russian mentality, as in the time of the tsars, when the political police, the fearsome Okhrana, made up The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
, as if there existed a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy to seize the world. Of course, anti-Semitism has not diminished. It has mutated and now appears as anti-Zionism, but it is the same old, same old, or, as Spanish-speaking people say, the same dog with a different collar. A rabid dog always willing to bite.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.