1945 is Europe’s version of the United States in 1865.
1945 is a film that teaches all of us the importance of remembering the past. Without doing so, mankind cannot hope to eliminate its mistakes. Tragically, all we will do is repeat them.
This film takes place in a small town in Hungary in August, 1945. An aging, bearded man and his young companion step off a train and residents of the village quickly become unglued. Given that World War II has just ended in Europe, locals wonder if these two individuals are former Jewish residents who have returned to claim property stolen from them during the Nazi conquest.
This movie focuses on average Hungarian citizens who found a way to justify profiting when Jewish neighbors were arrested and sent away to an unknown fate. As you watch Director Ferenc Török’s film unfold you are overwhelmed by the reality that the silence of Hungarians and other European citizens facilitated the efforts of the German Gestapo to exterminate most European Jews.
The film revolves around a wedding taking place where the son of the town clerk is marrying a young woman whose former lover has unexpectedly returned from the war. On top of this chaos, the clerk, played in memorable fashion by Peter Rudolf, faces a wife who is disgusted by the unapologetic manner he uses to support friends who had confiscated Jewish property.
As I watched this movie unfold, I was reminded of the silence that has engulfed our country since slavery was eliminated after the Civil War ended in 1865. Think of the memorial that has just been opened in Montgomery, Alabama which memorializes the thousands of black Americans who were lynched in the ensuing decades and imagine how many Americans were responsible for standing silently by and doing nothing.
1945 is a film that serves as a reminder to all of us that acquiescing in racial injustice is just as bad as those held responsible for causing it. In other words, standing by in a crowd and watching a black man lynched from a tree leaves every member of that crowd as guilty as those individuals responsible for putting the noose around the poor man’s neck.
This movie served as a mirror into the soul of America. Imagine if Europeans had treated the Jewish survivors of World War II in the same manner that our ancestors did Native Americans by taking their land and property and then forcing them to live on reservations. Imagine if the returning Jews lived in a society where Europeans supported their version of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, segregation and the banning of Jews marrying outside their religion.
While our country admirably helped create the country known as Israel, we have done nothing remotely similar with helping our black citizens adjust to life since slavery ended. More to the point, while we moan about the violence taking place in what was formerly known as the inner cities across our land we do literally nothing to help correct the problem. We have an educational system that throws kids out of school for months during the summer of every year and we watch in mock horror as many are lost to the streets. Though we blame parents for not exercising proper guidance, we’ve done next to nothing to reestablish the family unit that was all but destroyed by centuries of slavery.
From my humble standpoint, the time has come that we enact a national policy where public schools in all major metropolitan areas are required to have classes year round from the first to the twelfth grade. It makes absolutely no sense to send city kids home for the summer when that is based on an agrarian principal that disappeared decades ago. Additionally, what other occupation other than teachers are left unemployed for months every year?
Let’s have kids in school where food, school uniforms and an education are provided. Let’s see if they don’t benefit after graduating from high school as a group. Let’s see if our country doesn’t benefit in the process.