Hollywood Heavyweights to Join Spielberg at Auschwitz Commemoration Ceremony in Poland
A number of Hollywood executives joined director Steven Spielberg on a trip to Poland this weekend for a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp liberation, industry publication Variety reported.
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and other big names in Hollywood worked with Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation, the Polish government, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum to bring a group of 100 Auschwitz survivors and their families to Poland for the ceremony on Jan. 27, which is marked as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The delegation also includes 25 teachers from around the world who will participate in a four-day seminar on how to teach students about the influence of genocide and hate on world history, according to Variety.
Zaslav is chair of the Auschwitz: The Past Is Present Committee. He led the leadership team made up of Spielberg, Len Blavatnik, Haim Saban, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, investor Joel Citron, attorney Stephen A. Cozen, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and tech mogul Yuri Milner. Executives from the media and entertainment industries also participated including Barry Diller, Ari Emanuel, David Geffen, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ron Meyer, Leslie Moonves, Eric Schmidt, Diane Von Furstenberg, Rob Wiesenthal and Jeff Zucker.
“When I was a kid I learned in temple the mantra of ‘Never again.’ But there has been genocide since the Holocaust,” Zaslav said. “There is persecution because of religion and ethnicity. This is a moment to realize that we as a global society have to stand together.”
Zaslav’s family roots are in Warsaw. His grandparents and other family members managed to flee their homeland before the Nazi extermination campaign began in the early 1940s. Zaslav said the need to commemorate the horrors Jews faced at Auschwitz is underlined by the recent Charlie Hedbo killings in Paris and other hate crimes taking place around the world.
“It’s a solemn moment to reflect and recognize that we have come a long way in dealing with hate and genocide, but we have a long way to go,” he told Variety. “It’s important to recognize what happened there. Auschwitz is the best example of what can happen when religious, racial and ethnic hatred is unbridled.”
Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, who lost extended family members at the death camp, also stressed the importance of the trip.
“We have to show the world that we won’t forget,” Weinstein told Variety. “We have to look at the atrocities at Auschwitz. We want people to rise up and feel indignant. You have to step up for what you believe in. In this modern world, we have no choice.”
Spielberg and Zaslav led a fundraising effort to cover the costs of the trip to Poland. The ceremony is expected to be the last time a large group of Auschwitz survivors will be able to make the trip to the site because of their advanced ages, according to Variety.
Discovery outlets around the world will air the documentary One Day in Auschwitz on Sunday in connection with the ceremony and International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Produced by the Shoah Foundation, the documentary chronicles the experience of 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon on her recent trip to the site, which is now a museum and historic landmark. Discovery channels in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Africa will also air a commercial-free telecast of Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List.
The cable giant will have several film crews on hand at the ceremony on Tuesday to document the experiences of the survivors at the ceremony. The footage will be used as part of a “virtual field trip” developed for online platforms in connection with Discovery Education’s teaching curriculum related to Auschwitz.
Following Tuesday’s ceremony, a 15-minute documentary on the history of Auschwitz will be permanently installed at the museum. The documentary was produced by Spielberg and narrated by actress Meryl Streep. There are also plans for a permanent installation of testimonies of Holocaust survivors that have been collected by the Shoah Foundation over the past 20 years, Variety noted.