Ralph Fiennes Wears Many Jewish Hats

Inspired: Ralph Fiennes (left) and Bob Woodward discuss Fiennes’s many World War II roles.
COURTESY U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM/MIRIAM LOMASKIN
Inspired: Ralph Fiennes (left) and Bob Woodward discuss Fiennes’s many World War II roles.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 13, 2010, issue of January 22, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

‘Do you have to be handsome to play the role of a Nazi commander?”

That was a question that actor Ralph Fiennes was asked during a January 9 discussion, titled “The Power of Film and the Holocaust,” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Fiennes didn’t have a clear answer.

The British actor, whose role in the film “Schindler’s List” as Amon Goeth, SS commander of the Plaszow concentration camp, was described by director Steven Spielberg as “sexual evil,” did not rule out the part that aesthetics played in the Nazi propaganda machine. He recalled his first fitting of the SS uniform in his trailer on the Krakow, Poland, set of “Schindler’s List.” “The uniform is designed to have an impact,” he said.

Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, who moderated the discussion, suggested that the actor bears a striking similarity to Vladimir Putin, and asked whether he would like to portray the Russian leader in a film.

Aside from playing a Nazi SS officer in “Schindler’s List,” Fiennes played the role of a Jewish Holocaust victim in the film “Sunshine” and a lawyer in a romantic entanglement with an SS prison guard in “The Reader.” “You feel wiped out after playing these scenes, you feel empty,” he said when describing the moments after the director calls “cut” and the actor is left with his thoughts.

Woodward, making a comparison between jihadist terrorists and the Nazis, asked Fiennes if he’d play the role of Mohammed Atta, the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, whom Woodward sees as “the modern [Amon] Goeth.” Fiennes objected to the comparison, but said he would be willing to play such a role were it offered to him.

Sara Bloomfield, the museum’s director, noted that the Holocaust remains a popular theme for movies around the world. Eight of the 65 films submitted for Oscar consideration in the foreign film category last year dealt with World War II or the Holocaust.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.