A duty to stand up

By TOBY AXELROD
February 11, 2009 10:10
2 minute read.
A duty to stand up

Werner Wirsing 88 248. (photo credit: Toby Axelrod)

The shouts of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in front of the Egyptian Embassy drift up from the street into the hotel room of German businessman and film producer Werner Wirsing. And he is mad. "I want to go down and ask them: 'People, why are you demonstrating? Are you demonstrating against the rockets being shot at Israel?' I would ask them, why don't they protest against the cause?" says Wirsing, who co-produced Adam Resurrected with Israeli producer Ehud Bleiberg. Agitated, red in the face, his voice rising: "As the rockets were being fired against Israel, not a single politician said anything. And anyone who fights back is considered the bad guy… But the real bad guy is the one who destroys the peace." Wirsing, born in 1947, says two goals have driven him since his childhood. One was to see the unification of East and West Germany. And the other is to support the State of Israel. At 12, he saw the film Exodus and was shocked by how the British authorities dealt roughly with the Jewish survivors. But he was moved by how the refugees created their new life on a kibbutz, "building something despite the danger from the outside." "I thought to myself, 'We Germans are responsible for the suffering of the people on the boat.' And I then decided I had to do something in my life for the Jewish people." A few years later, in 1967, the Six Day War broke out while Wirsing was doing his required German military service. "I went to my captain and I asked for leave because I wanted to fight for the Israeli army. He looked at me strangely… and said he'd have to let me know. Before he could, the war was over." He never discussed his political views with his parents, who themselves were rather a-political, said Wirsing. He also avoided the subject with his own children. "I have to say I was shocked at how little my own children knew" about the past. "I have always said, 'We have to make films against forgetting.' But I myself have never contributed to this at home." When he got the script for Adam Resurrected from Bleiberg, Wirsing feared the story would wipe him out emotionally. "Especially when I read how he had to play the violin when his wife and children were forced to go to the gas chamber. I wanted to bang my head against the wall, I wanted to die." In fact, Wirsing says he can barely watch a Holocaust-related film in one sitting without breaking down. "Don't misunderstand me - I a not a softie," he said. "I am a hardliner." Killing innocent people is "disgusting," he said. "But for people who attack me, who every day send rockets on my land, to those people I would be very tough." Wirsing is producing a second film on a Holocaust theme this year, Unter Bauern - literally, "Among Farmers." It tells the story of Marga Spiegel (aunt of the late German Jewish leader Paul Spiegel), who survived the Holocaust in hiding. Adam Resurrected has two messages, he said. It is a bulwark against forgetting. And "we want to show what the human being is capable of," in a positive sense. It is about a man who "finds his way back to a kind of 'normal' life... Whoever falls has a duty to try stand up again. And the film shows that this is possible."


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