Israeli Actor Michael Aloni on ‘Jewish Revenge’ at US Premiere of ‘Plan A’ Film About Holocaust Survivors’ Plot Against Germans
Israeli actor Michael Aloni and the filmmakers behind his post-World War II-era film “Plan A” discussed moral justice, revenge and antisemitism during the movie’s US premiere in New York City on Thursday night.
“Plan A” is based on the true story of young Holocaust survivors and Jewish vigilantes in 1945 who formed a group called Nakam, which is the Hebrew word for revenge. They plotted to avenge the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis by killing 6 million Germans, in a scheme — called Plan A — to poison the country’s drinking water.
Aloni stars as Michael, a member of Israel’s Haganah — the main Zionist paramilitary organization of Jews in pre-state Israel — who attempts to stop Nakam before they carry out their plan. The film was written and directed by Israeli brothers Yoav and Doron Paz.
In a panel discussion after the film’s screening on Thursday night at The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, Aloni said his character was a way to honor to his grandfather, who was a partisan in Poland.
“My own personal family history dates back to kind of exactly the same point,” he explained. “My mom, when she watched this movie, she was very excited and brought up in tears because for her its kind of like a way to glorify the memory of my grandfather. He was a partisan in Poland that stayed after the war and was also a professor for international law. He was a representative in the Nuremberg Trials where he received the SS officers, recognized each and every one of them, and sat through all the trials.”
Doron said he and Yoav conceived of the idea for the film after learning about a friend’s grandfather who, after surviving the Holocaust, located the neighbor that informed the Nazis about him and his family — and then killed him.
“Me and Yoav thought about the story and started thinking, ‘Wow this is an amazing personal revenge story,'” Doron said. “Once we started diving into the research and read about the revenge side of the Holocaust, we encountered the story about Plan A and this blew our mind because it wasn’t a personal revenge story, it was a national revenge story. And then on the spot, me and Yoav decided this is going to be our next movie.”
The head of Nakam, Abba Kovner, who later became a poet laureate, traveled to pre-state Israel to obtain poison for the group’s scheme. He managed to get the poison from brothers Aharon and Efram Katzir, the latter of whom went on later in life to become the fourth president of Israel, said Yad Vashem’s chief historian Dina Porat, who also participated in Thursday’s panel discussion.
Porat, who previously published a book dedicated to Kovner and has another coming out later this year about Nakam, said the group of Jewish vigilantes was comprised of 50 men and women, and that she knew and interviewed 35 of them.
The Paz brothers also interviewed some of the Jewish avengers for “Plan A,” discussing their moral choices, the desire for justice and lust for vengeance.
“What interested us was the psychological aspect,” said Doron. “To be honest, I don’t know what I would chose 70 years ago if I was a hot-blooded young man, 20-something-years-old, who lost everyone around me. But I think as storytellers, that’s what intrigued us in this story. Just to throw the question out there.”
Yoav said the filmmakers were very careful in how they tackled the “delicate subject” of revenge on screen, and that they wanted audiences to understand why Nakam did what they did. He said, “Some people think this film should’ve never been made and others think it was an important one that needs to spread out around the world. It’s a discussion and we wanted to raise this discussion.”
Aloni instead spoke to the audience about the will to survive being stronger than the will to carry out revenge.
“This story of the Jewish revenge is the very untold story that so many people are not aware of,” he said. “We know the stories of people who tried to save their lives, resist the Nazis and fought against them, and prisoners who fought in their own minds how to survive in the camps. The amount of strength of life that you need to put yourself in and to be strong in your imagination to survive those death camps is enormous. It’s stronger than the force of revenge, to stay alive.”
“Plan A” was filmed in Ukraine and Yoav praised the amazing Ukrainian crew that helped with the film. He also commented on the country suffering under Russia’s ongoing invasion and said, “We see history repeating itself. It’s really mind-blowing to see this footage on the news, looking like something out of World War II.”
“When we were shooting and scouting for locations [in Ukraine], it was so difficult to find places that look like out of a war and now unfortunately it just keeps repeating itself,” Yoaz said. “Of course in Israel it’s an ongoing conflict zone that never ends and all these conflicts keep raising moral questions about revenge: what does it mean to take revenge? What good will it take you if you walk this path? And so on. So this subject is still relevant.”
Aloni added, “Hate and hatred will always be in this world, and antisemitism still exists and we need to still fight it. And we have to stand for equality and peace, and to push those shadows away from us. It’s still a mission.”
“Plan A” has already been screened in Germany, where Doron explained that the reaction from the audience “was very serious and emotional.”