History and Hollywood

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Its not often that a great historical film like ‘Titanic’ (1997), ‘Braveheart’ (1995) or ‘Schindler’s list’ (1993) comes along that captures not only our interest but our emotions. But what is the purpose of films? To entertain? To make money? Should the truth matter in films based on real events or on real people?

There is no doubt that we all watch films or documentaries because they are entertaining. Films such as ‘Titanic’ and ‘Braveheart’ captured our interest because they developed a story line that employed a bit of action, a bit of romance, a bit of suspense and a bit of tragedy. And with these films we may assume that the films were roughly truthful to historical events or people. But would we care?

These events were such a long time ago and nothing that we could personally relate to in our time. For example, in the movie ‘Braveheart’ portrays the battle of Stirling where the Scottish defeat the English. The battle of ‘Stirling’ is actually the ‘Battle of Stirling Bridge’ on 11th september 1297 where the Scots cornered the English on the narrow Bridge – not on an open field as depicted in the movie.  There is no doubt that the scene in the movie was brillant – but is it historically accurate?

And what about films depicting our own national history? In the film ‘The Patriot’ (2000) based roughly on the true historical characters during the American Revolution. There is a scene where the British red-coats find a church filled with people that are suspected of being pro-revolutionary supporters and the church is burnt to the ground by the British red-coats. Its a powerful scene where we see the horror of war and the innocent being burned in a church by the callous British red-coat commander. But did it really happen? We have no evidence that the British army ever locked people in a church and set it on fire. So why put it in a movie if it did not happen?

In 1981, the film ‘Gallipoli’ was released to critical acclaim as it was based on the story of two young men from the Australian outback going off to enlist for the war and going to fight at Gallipoli – a place now ingrained in the Australian national psyche and often regarded as the ‘birthplace’ of modern Australia. Its a great film that is still used in Australian schools today to educate young Australians about the events at Gallipoli in modern day Turkey on 25th April 1915.

But its a film that borrows heavily from the Australian interpretation of events, particularly from the accounts written by C.E.W Bean, the Australian war correspondent at Gallipoli in 1915. The film portrays the British military commanders as needlessly sacrificing Australian lives in what became a military disaster. But is it historical truth? Should teachers use films as a teaching tool if we have doubts about the historical accuracy of the events portrayed? We also know that the film ‘Gallipoli’ was made 6 years after the end of the Vietnam War and it was made after a very strong anti-war period in history. So would ‘Gallipoli’ be historically accurate if it really portrays our own emotions towards war after Vietnam?

There is no doubt a plethora of films based on the Vietnam War particularly films made during the 1980’s as ‘Platoon’ and ‘Casualties of War’ or films based around the return of Vietnam soldiers from the war as ‘Rambo: First Blood’ and ‘Born on the 4th of July’. But many of these films were made years after the war ended and are based on opposition and popular perceptions to the war rather than based on historical fact.  Should we be careful about how the Vietnam War was portrayed?

What about the portrayal of historical events and even characters in wars? One of the most controversial second world war films made was the 1957 film ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’.  In the film, captured British soldiers are forced by the Japanese to work on the construction of a bridge over the Mae Klong River (renamed Kwai Yai River in 1960) in Thailand. The film’s story was loosely based on a true World War II incident, and the real-life character of Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey who was in charge of a number of Allied POW’s at Tha Markam camp from late 1942 through May 1943 when they were ordered to build two Kwai River bridges in Burma.

Was the film historically accurate? According to the Australian Prisoners of War on the Thai- Burma Railway the plot of the film was entirely fictional although the character of Nicholson (played by Alec Guiness) was supposedly based on the British colonel at Tha Markam, Philip Toosey.

But what of other historical events as tragic as the Holocaust during World War II where Nazi Germany forcibly deported millions of jews and gypsies from their homes to forced labor and extermination camps. There are very few films based on the true historical events of the Holocaust as acclaimed as Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ which is based on the story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party who profits from the use of Jewish labor during the war. Do films as ‘Schindler’s List’ minimise the Holocaust and the events surrounding the persecution of the jews, gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war?

So what about the portrayal of events in our own lives? In 2004, the film-documentary maker Michael Moore released the critically acclaimed documentary ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ in which explored the events behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and accused the Bush administration of using the attacks to invade Iraq in 2003.  Is it right for Michael Moore to use 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq to accuse the U.S government of a cover-up if not a conspiracy to go to war?

Will students and people in the future see ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ and accept its portrayal of events as to what really happened? I guess its easy for us to say that its up to the viewer to do their own research and to find out the truth of events but can the popular view of a historical event in film and documentaries become history?

Is it important that films and documentaries be historically accurate or at least truthful? What will happen if we accept films without doing research to find out the facts? Will film become the portrayal of historical events and therefore accepted historical truth?

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63 thoughts on “History and Hollywood

  1. Hahaha you claim you know history yet know NOTHING. Tell you what, it’s a good idea to research a subject before you put it on your blog. Schindlers List is a book of fiction, yes you’ll find it in the fiction section of your library.

    https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/schindlers-list-the-movie-is-fiction-fiction-fiction/

    You keep believing what the media bosses and your government want you to believe like a good boy. Leave REAL history to the grown ups, you know, those critical thinkers than can make their own minds up.

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      1. Wow, look on the first edition of the book it says a work of fiction.

        You’re so indoctrinated no matter what I show you you’ll scoff at. The critical thinking part of your brain has been fried by years of media manipulation. Try thinking for yourself for a while, it’s frightening I know but if you claim to like history you’ll see the real world, not what the powers that be only want you to know.

        Try proving anything I show you wrong instead of acting like a child.

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      2. Schindler’s List a work of fiction? Or is it Schindler’s Arc you are referring to? So who was Poldek Pfefferberg? Who was Oskar Schindler? What was Plaszow? What was Auschwitz? Who was Amon Goeth?.

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      3. I’ve decided not to waste anymore of my precious time on someone so blind to real history. I could show you stuff all day and you’d still believe your programming. You just wallow in your ignorance. Good day.

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      4. Oh so is this the challenge? how many died at Auschwitz? Dont tell me your going to claim Auschwitz was a work camp and that no one was gassed there….

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      5. Funny because The Red Cross who were in all the camps disagree with you. Most of the deaths were from Typhus towards the end of the war as allied bombing had destroyed German infrastructure.

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      6. The Red Cross? Were the Red Cross at ,Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno and Belzec? Were the Red Cross on the eastern Front as the Nazi Einsatzgruppen killing squads murdered milliions?

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      7. What a complete load of rubbish! The Red cross exposes the Holocaust as a hoax and yet there is the poster boy of the Holocaust deniers, Fred Leuchter! I dont believe he ever worked for the Red Cross!

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      8. Good to see you have ignored the fact that the Red Cross was deliberately deceived by the Nazis from investigating the gas chambers and the mass murders in the death camps.

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      9. Well i thought it was a question of simple maths. If there were 9 million jews in Europe in 1939 and there were only 3 million in 1945, then that must mean that 6 million jews were murdered by the Nazis. And then there is Auschwitz. The Germans murdered many jews as soon as they arrived in Auschwitz. So records of Auschwitz are not entirely accurate. The Germans went to great lengths to destroy the evidence and records.

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      10. Why was there a swimming pool, dentist, brothel, cinema, theatre, money, football games, canteen, shop at Auschwitz if they were just going to kill them? Why transport them thousands of miles? Wouldn’t they just kill them when they found them. Can’t you see how that doesn’t make any sense. Why tattoo them if they were just going to kill them straight away?

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      11. I’m sick looking shot up for you. What? You think I faked those Jews saying those things in those videos? Hahaha how would I do that. Look up Spielbergs Shoah site for yourself, those guys are on it.

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      12. Fred Leuchter was a nut case! He had no academic creditials and his expert testimony on gas chambers at Auschwitz was thrown out at the David Irving libel trial. Even David Irving came to admit that the Holocaust had happened. Fred Leuchter has been discredited even by the U.S government.

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      13. Yes the US government are lying scumbags. All governments are lying scumbags. You really have your head up your ass if you trust them. It’s hilarious really, how old are you, 12?

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      14. I can’t believe how naive you are. They lied about Saddam Hussein in the first gulf war. Everyone knows that. Our governments constantly lie. They lie to get us into every war. You sir are extremely naive. You’re the perfect citizen, what we call Sheep. You obey without question. Believe everything they tell you without question, it’s absolutely hilarious.

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      15. Answer me this. Why is it illegal to question this one event of history? Why are people in prison right now for asking questions? Does that not bother you? There is no other event in history that you cannot investigate, none, zero! Why? There have been many genocides, the Bolsheviks murdered 60 million. We can discuss that no problem. You know why? Because they fear people knowing the truth. When you look at this with a clear head it all falls apart. TRUTH FEARS NO INVESTIGATIONS.

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      16. That is not true at all. The study of the Holocaust is a historical field. Denying the holocaust and supporting pro-Nazi right wing hate groups is what put those morons in prison.

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      17. And why can’t you deny the holocaust? You can deny anything else in history without punishment. I can deny the Armenian genocide, what happens? Nothing. I can deny the Rwandan genocide, what happens? Nothing. I can deny a multitude of genocides that were worse than the holocaust, the red terror in Russia or Mao killing up to 100 million, what happens? Nothing. What make this one event special? Is Jewish suffering more precious than anyone else’s?

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      18. There is no physical evidence. Show me where the 6 million are? Show me one autopsy report of one Jew killed by gassing. Come on I’m begging you, show me one autopsy report. If that many died surly there’s autopsy reports.

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      19. No physical evidencce? So what was Auschwitz – Birkenau? What were the camps? You want an autopsy report – oh yeah as if the Nazis produced autopsy reports on a person they had just murdered! Or do you want the SS testimony from SS doctors at Auschwitz such as Hans Munch? Do you know that Hans Munch revisited Auschwitz in 1993 and signed a document in which he acknowledged the gas chambers and the murders at Auschwitz?

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      20. An autopsy report from the allies? Why would the allies produce a autopsy report for people that the Germans murdered by gassing and then cremated the bodies?

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      21. Here is the statement from Hans Munch, a SS doctor at Auschwitz

        I…Dr. Hans Münch hereby attest that as an SS physician on duty in Auschwitz in 1944, I witnessed the selection process of those who were to live and those who were to die. Other SS physicians on duty in the camps made selections at the barracks. I was exempt from performing selections because I had refused to do so.

        I further attest that I saw thousands of people gassed here at Auschwitz. Children, old people, the sick and those unable to work were sent to the gas chambers. These were innocent human beings: Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Hitler’s political opponents…anyone who did not fit Hitler’s idea of a pure Aryan race.

        I am signing this paper of my own free will to help document the cruel intolerance of my fellow SS.

        I, a former SS Physician, witnessed the dropping of Zyklon B into simulated exhaust vents from outside the gas chambers. Zyklon B began to work as soon as it was released from the canisters. The effects of the gas were observed through a peephole by an assigned doctor of the SS officer on duty. After three to five minutes, death could be certified, and the doors were opened as a sign that the corpses were cleared to be burned.

        This is the nightmare I continue to live with fifty years later.

        I am so sorry that in some way I was part of it. Under the prevailing circumstances I did the best I could to save as many lives as possible. Joining the SS was a mistake. I was young. I was an opportunist. And once I joined, there was no way out.”

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      22. They made it up to get Israel you dumb bastard. You ever hear of the Balfour agreement, you claim to know history yet you know nothing. You know what they let you know.

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      23. They made it up to get Israel? Are you kidding? They made up the Holocaust to get their own land in Israel? I guess you never heard of the bible and the historic claims of the jewish people to the land in Israel? Oh the famous Balfour agreement. Here we go – and i guess your claiming the Balfour agreement was a part of some massive worldwide conspiracy! This is crazy.

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      24. Here’s David Cole, a Jew himself, exposing the lies. But I suppose I faked this too 😂😂😂😂

        No gas chambers, fake chimney built after the war by the Russians, it’s not even attached to the building lol. Gas chamber doors made of wood with glass panels and the handle on the inside. Just admit it, you can’t process any of this information I’m showing you because you’re so indoctrinated. I could take you back in time and show you the truth with your own eyes and you’d still scream ‘no no it happened, those poor jews’ lol.

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      25. David Cole! Give me a break. David Cole is a certified nutter. This is the guy who went to Auschwitz and claimed he found no evidence of the gas chambers and that all of the evidence was circumstantial. I have seen this guys videos and there is nothing academic about them. And to make matters worse, this David Cole changes his identity and tries to hide his Holocaust denier past. David Cole is a certified crazy.

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      26. If you have an objective mind as I’m sure you’ll claim then you look at both sides of the story and then make a decision. I’m sure you’d agree with that. Well up till now you’ve only been fed one side of the story. I too, like you, used to believe the lies. But I’ve got a critical mind so I looked at the other side and was astonished. Try to prove anything on here wrong, I guarantee you can’t.

        https://cigpapers.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/holocaust-or-holohoax-21-amazing-facts/

        The 6 million number was used many times well before WW2. It seems to hold some occultist thing with them. It says in their holy books a burned offering of 6 million is needed to return to the holy land. So they made it up, they tried after WW1 but it didn’t stick. You can see newspaper clippings of these claims, look for them.

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      27. Ive heard it all before. Fred Leucter claimed not to have found any evidence of Zyklon B at Auschwitz and an Australian guy Richard Krege claimed never to have found any evidence of mass graves at Treblinka. But neither of them presented any credible evidence for their claims and were dismissed as crazy by reputable scholars on the Holocaust.

        The only interesting point to come out of the whole debate was the question on the type of engines / motors used at Treblinka – which were originally believed to be Russian Tank petrol engines. But its now understood that they were Russian tank gasoline engines.

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      28. I’ve shown you what I can. I’m wasting no more time on you. It’s up to you, you can look at it with an open mind or wallow in your ignorance. I’m done. Don’t bother answering back as I will not be replying.

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  2. The Red Cross did visit Auschwitz. But were they shown the gas chambers? No.

    According to former SS-Untersturmfuehrer Dr. Hans Münch at the Nuremburg Trials

    “I repeatedly witnessed guided tours of civilians and also of commissions of the Red Cross and other parties within the camp, and I was able to ascertain that the camp leadership arranged it masterfully to conduct these guided tours in such a way that the people being guided around did not see anything about inhuman treatment. The main camp was shown only and in this main camp there were so-called show blocks, particularly block 13, that were especially prepared for such guided tours and that were equipped like a normal soldier’s barracks with beds that had sheets on them, and well-functioning washrooms”.

    Looks like someone has not been doing their homework.

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