Video focusing on a confrontation between the historical events of the Holocaust and present-day manifestations of Neo-Nazism in the Czech Republic
The Education and Culture Centre of the Jewish Museum in Prague commissioned this video for a song of the same name – an electronic collage based on snippets from an interview with a Holocaust survivor. This song was in the Czech Radio 1 charts for several weeks in the spring of 2005. The video merges archival film shots from the Second World War and from the immediate post-war period (from the National Film Archives and Archive of Short Films) with recordings from recent concerts and demonstrations of Neo-Nazi and skinhead groups – in which shouts of “Heil!” can be heard and the passive assistance of the police is evident – and footage of a Jewish cemetery being destroyed, etc. (from the Archives of the Tolerance and Civic Society Association). The video primarily serves a didactic function and is intended mainly for people between 14 and 35.
It all started with a thought-provoking performance organized by The Tchendos for the Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust on 27 January 2004. A group of about 40 young people rigged out in period clothing from the 1940s, carrying suitcases and wearing yellow Jewish stars travelled on Prague's subways to see how passers-by would react. They were trying to evoke the atmosphere of the period when the Nazis deported part of the population to ghettoes, concentration camps and death camps.
After this performance, the Czech Radio 1 conducted an interview with a Holocaust survivor, and this became the basis for the song I Can’t Understand. Among other things, the survivor said: “I don’t know what goes through the minds of young people who spray walls with slogans like ‘Gas the Gypsies!’, ‘Gas the Jews!’ and ‘Juden raus!’. I can't understand why they write it, where they find the malice, and what kind of an idea they have about it. I don’t know what the police or judges say to this, though... Whenever there’s a [Neo-Nazi] band playing in a village pub, everyone can hear them shouting “Heil!”, and the police outside just stand by and do nothing, and I say why…“
DJ Wokurka of The Tchendos describes how the song came about:
“The interview that took place on Radio 1’s The Still Life programme deeply affected us. We thought it would be a good idea to use snippets from the interview, setting them to modern music and releasing them to the world, so people can hear the voice of a woman who, near the end of her life, has to deal with issues that should have been settled a long time ago…” The Holocaust survivor agreed to her voice being used in the music video. By means of contemporary music, this recording conveys information about Nazi crimes to the young people of today and shows how Neo-Nazi ideologies are linked to these crimes.
This song did not come about by accident, but with a deliberate purpose in mind and at a time when society is confronting the dangers associated with the recent growth in xenophobia, racism and Neo-Nazism. Although these acts are not encountered every day, it is a nationwide problem and must be dealt with accordingly.
The Education and Culture Centre of the Jewish Museum in Prague (ECC) seeks to educate and influence, in particular, the young generation, among whom racist and anti-Semitic sentiments are often reflected – primarily because of a lack of awareness. As the song I Can’t Understand is presented in a form that young people can closely identify with, it is being used by ECC lecturers as part of the ECC’s programmes dealing with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
(For more information on the ECC’s programmes for schools on this topic, see www.jewishmuseum.cz/cz/czprimary.htm.)
To heighten the impact of the song, The Tchendos was asked by the ECC to put together a visual presentation that would create a more lasting and thought-provoking impression on young people. At 5 minutes, the song was long enough to achieve this goal.
Intended use of the video:
The Education and Culture Centre of JMP – as part of its programmes for schools
Óčko music television station
Czech Television (e.g., programmes Orange and Night with an Angel)
Music clubs in the Czech Republic
The video will also be offered to TV Nova and TV Prima
(After subtitles have been added, it will also be offered to media outlets and festivals abroad.)
References abroad to the composition I Can’t Understand:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington
Server Moreshet, Israel
The making of the video was financially supported by the Jewish Museum in Prague Foundation, Fedor Gál, Michal Spevák (AVH-servis), Radio 1 staff and presenters.
For more information please contact:
Marie Zahradníková, tel. (+420) 224 814 926, e-mail: