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Holocaust survivors’ foundation shames Zone of Interest director for ‘morally indefensible’ Oscars speech

The Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA has condemned The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer for his divisive Oscars speech, calling it “morally indefensible” and “disgraceful”.

In an open letter posted on the foundation’s website, the group’s 94-year-old president, David Schaecter, wrote: “I watched in anguish Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony [to] equate Hamas’s maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of Hamas’s ongoing barbarity.

“Your comments were factually inaccurate and morally indefensible,” Schaecter said, arguing: “The ‘occupation’ of which you speak has nothing [to] do with the Holocaust.

“You made a Holocaust movie and won an Oscar. And you are Jewish. Good for you. But it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were murdered solely because of their Jewish identity,” he added.

“You should be ashamed of yourself for using Auschwitz to criticise Israel. If the creation, existence, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish state equates to ‘occupation’ in your mind, then you obviously learned nothing from your movie.”

During Sunday’s (10 March) ceremony, the British director, 58, was awarded the Academy Award for Best International Film for his Holocaust movie, The Zone of Interest, about an Auschwitz commandant and his wife who try to build a dream life next to the camp.

While accepting the Oscar, Glazer brought some in the audience to tears with the impassioned and powerful speech he gave on behalf of himself and the film’s producer, James Wilson.

Jonathan Glazer’s speech brings ‘Zone of Interest’ star Sandra Hüller to tears (A.M.P.A.S. 2024)
Jonathan Glazer’s speech brings ‘Zone of Interest’ star Sandra Hüller to tears (A.M.P.A.S. 2024)

“Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst,” Glazer said. “Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation, which has led to conflict for so many innocent people – whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza – all the victims of this dehumanisation … how do we resist?”

The Anti-Defamation League also responded in outrage to Glazer’s speech, tweeting: “Israel is not hijacking Judaism or the Holocaust by defending itself against genocidal terrorists. Glazer’s comments at the #Oscars are both factually incorrect & morally reprehensible. They minimise the Shoah & excuse terrorism of the most heinous kind.”

Meanwhile, the Under the Skin director has also received support for his remarks. “[Glazer] took an unequivocal stance against the cynical utilisation of Judaism and the Holocaust in the name of justifying the occupation … we refuse to accept the ease with which the blood and lives of civilians is used as a justification for political ideologies, or as a bargaining chip. Empathy is not a zero-sum game,” Israeli military veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence said in a statement on X.