As the daughter of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, Austrian activist-filmmaker Ruth Beckermann was understandably nervous when, in the mid-1980s, former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim threw his hat into the ring in the lead-up to her country’s presidential elections. The source of her consternation: The outwardly genial politician, whose ties to the Nazi party during the Second World War had long been a topic of public debate, was revealed to have been more directly involved with — or at least knowledgeable of — murderous anti-partisan activities against the Jews than he had earlier claimed. Although Waldheim maintained his innocence and believed that he was the target of a slanderous smear campaign, investigative journalists dug up shocking aspects of his Nazi past that, sadly, only strengthened the devotion of his most ardent supporters. The Waldheim Waltz combines archival clips of U.S. Congressional hearings and the World Jewish Congress in New York presenting a number of damning arguments against the man’s bid for presidency with Beckermann’s own handheld video recordings of him giving speeches to an easily swayed electorate that — engulfed in a rise tide of anti-Semitism and nationalism — seems to be suffering from collective historical amnesia. As such, it is a fiercely intelligent meditation on our willingness to overlook the most glaring deficits in a politician’s character so long as he or she embodies our own self-interests. Although comprised entirely of historical documents and footage, this documentary bristles with the energy and urgency of a work made yesterday, and thus serves as a timely reminder that the fervor of reactionary politics is perhaps as strong today as it was during the Nazis’ initial rise to power.
Written by David Scott Diffrient
In German with English subtitles
Saturday, April 13
Lory Student Center Theatre
Film editor Dieter Pichler will be in attendance for
a post-screening Q&A moderated by Scott Diffrient.