A surprise announcement by the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles poses a compelling question about how to correct anti-Semitic ignorance: Can you fight Hitler with Hitler?
The football team is now weighing the level of punishment appropriate for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who praised anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and shared quotes dubiously attributed to Adolf Hitler on social media over the July 4 weekend. But while the outfit is triaging Jackson’s damage, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie announced to Deadline that his new production company is set to launch with a documentary exploring the enduring cultural impact of the Führer.
“The Meaning of Hitler,” named for the award-winning 1978 book by German journalist Raimund Pretzel, who published it under his favored non de plume Sebastian Haffner, is the first finished film of Lurie’s newly-minted Play/Action Pictures. Like the book, the film will explore common misconceptions about the Nazi leader and track his rise in the Reichstag to his implementation of the Final Solution.
Directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker filmed the documentary over three years in nine different countries and recorded interviews with such figures as Holocaust historian and Forward contributing columnist Deborah E. Lipstadt, novelist Martin Amis and Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld. The doc is meant to be more than a simple look at the past and will draw parallels to contemporary white nationalism and the normalization of anti-Semitic attitudes. In other words, it might make for required viewing for those who cavalierly quote (or think they’re quoting) Hitler.
“We couldn’t be prouder that ‘The Meaning of Hitler’ is the first completed film made by our new documentary production company,” Lurie said in a statement to Deadline. “I envisioned Play/Action to be a leading creative force for films that engage with the most crucial and challenging issues of our time. The rise of white supremacy and neo-fascism in the United States and the world over are among the most important and serious threats we face today.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.