While making “Free Men” (“Les hommes libres”), a subtle examination of an Algerian émigré living in Paris at the outset of the Nazi Occupation, it must have been tempting to pump up the emotional volume. Had the movie been made by Hollywood, Younes, a young man selling goods on the black market, would have been played by a sexy under-30 hunk, the tangential romance with a mysterious woman would have been front and center, and Younes’s conversion from a self-sufficient but apolitical layabout into a man committed to saving lives at the risk of his own would have been pushed as high-key melodramatic heroism. The moral quandaries would have been italicized and the young Jewish children at risk would have tugged at our heartstrings in a manner more sentimental than thought provoking.
Sometimes we listen to CDs for their artistry, sometimes simply to relish individual voices, and few voices are as heartening and as reaffirming about human values as the rich, exquisitely cultured speaking tones of Albert Einstein, to be heard on a reprint from British Library Publishing. In original recordings from 1930 to 1947, in English mostly but also in German, Einstein addresses audiences for the benefit of Jewish war refugees with moving simplicity and grace. This is a must-hear, unforgettable item.