Ceylon was the name of the island of Sri Lanka from 1948-1972. It is situated very close to the southern coast of India and became part of the British Empire in 1815 and was an important base for Allied troops fighting the Japanese during WW2. Its independence in 1948 was gained peaceably. Its beautiful landscape includes mountains, beaches and tropical forests, and consequently it enjoys a diversity of animal and plant life. In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Sri Lanka's - and the world’s - first female prime minister. The country was sadly engaged in civil war from 1983-2009, due to some of the minority Tamil population wanting to establish an independent state of their own.
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the only one where Portuguese is the main language spoken. There are also African influences, due to the presence of slaves during the Portuguese colonisation. The vast majority of the population is Catholic, but freedom of religion is assured in the country’s constitution. The Amazon River contributes to Brazil having the largest biodiversity in the world. The most popular sport is football, and national team have won the World Cup five times – more than any other country. They will be hosting the next World Cup in 2014, and then the Olympics in 2016. Well known cities in Brazil include Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Illiteracy is generally understood to be the inability of a person to read or write, as appears to be the case with Hanna. There is also such a thing as functional illiteracy, which is where somebody may have a level of understanding but not enough to live a truly independent life. There is evidence of a correlation between literacy and the probabilities of committing a crime, probably due to poor opportunities and low self worth. This is not strictly the case with Hanna, due to the fact that the crimes she committed were part of a systematic and governing regime; however, the method of her recruitment shows how people of low education and prospects were ideal fodder for the SS.
Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel and a holy city for people of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths. It has been a source of much debate in the painful Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the Palestinian National Authority desire East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, but Israel have annexed it since 1980. There are many cultural centres in the city, along with religious sites. This includes Yad Vashem, which is a complex museum and memorial centre to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Tel Aviv is the second largest city in Israel and an ever flourishing cosmopolitan centre. It is also the country’s financial capital and home of the stock exchange. There is a strong beach and club culture, along with museums, theatres and sports facilities. Unusually for most parts of the Middle East, it has a thriving LGBT scene.
The Negev desert is situated in southern Israel. In Hebrew Biblical lore, it was inhabited by the Tribes of Judah and Simeon, two of the sons of Jacob. It comprises 55% of the country’s landmass, but due to its hot and dry conditions only a relatively small number of people live there. This includes members of the native Bedouin tribe, who were originally nomadic and have been present in the desert since 1000AD. It is extremely arid and rocky, and holds a great number of modern military bases. Due to the climate, there is great potential for the development of solar energy in the region.
The Red Sea is a 1,400 mile long inlet situated between Africa and Asia. It is famous for being one of the most salty bodies of sea or ocean in the world, and for being one of the best locations in the world for diving. Countries surrounding the Red Sea include Egypt, the Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
" I saw Hanna by the burning church, hard-faced, in a black uniform, with a riding whip "
This dark image of Hanna corresponds to the idea of the female SS guard as being particularly chilling, perhaps due to the perception that it is more unusual for women to commit acts of cruelty. The contemporary Allied press seemed to share this idea, as many female guards became well known during the War Crimes Trials. One notorious example was Irma Grese (Hanna would have been around the same age), who served at Ravensbruck, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Survivors told of how she appeared to take particularly sadistic pleasure in her treatment of prisoners, randomly whipping, beating, shooting and setting her dogs on them. She was hanged at the age of 22, the youngest woman to do so under English
law in the last century. Another prominent female Nazi, who was tried by the USA in 1947, was Ilsa Koch, also known as ‘The Witch of Buchenwald’, as she was the wife of Karl Koch, the camp’s commandant. Her cruelty towards prisoners led to her being the inspiration behind some (incredibly tasteless) Nazi exploitation films, especially ‘Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS’.
" the stacked wooden bunks, the piles of hair and glasses "
Prisoners in the camps were housed in barracks, and it was common for three or four adults to share one bunk. They were made of slatted wood, and would sometimes have a thin straw mattress. Several hundred prisoners would sleep together in one building, which explains how diseases such as typhus were able to spread so quickly.
When inmates arrived at the camps, they would be stripped of all personal belongings. This included glasses, shoes, clothing, suitcases, artificial limbs, and hair, which was shaven from heads. At many sites of education and remembrance, these objects are exhibited in an attempt to demonstrate the scale and cruelty of the treatment received by prisoners. Whilst consciously viewing these items can be a powerful and upsetting experience, some critics have argued that as images they become so iconic that they lose emotional resonance.
" from Bergen-Belsen the mountain of corpses "
Situated in North-Western Germany, Bergen-Belsen is well known for the horrific scenes which greeted British troops upon their arrival there in April 1945. Although not designated by the Nazis as a death camp, overcrowded conditions became so poor and disease so rife that in less than two years tens of thousands of people died there. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were among the victims. Upon its liberation, there were an estimated 60,000 prisoners still alive, though many were seriously ill or at the point of starvation. There were 13,000 emaciated corpses piled up or strewn around the camp. A further 14,000 people died after the troops arrived; the departing SS guards had deliberately sabotaged the water supply which made treating the sick even more difficult, and the Luftwaffe bombed one of the hospitals. The high level of infectious disease meant that the bodies of dead inmates had to be covered in lime and buried in mass pits, a task assigned to the few remaining German guards. The buildings of the camp were burned to the ground. There are many testimonies from British soldiers describing their shock and revulsion upon reaching the camp, but perhaps the most famous account is that of broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. In 2007, a new memorial and permanent exhibition were opened at the site.
‘Holocaust’ was an Emmy Award winning US television serial broadcasted in 1978, starring Meryl Streep, Tom Bell, Rosemary Harris and James Woods. It told the story of a fictional family of German Jews over a time period of the 1930s to the end of World War Two. Here is further information about the series at IMDB.
‘Sophie’s Choice’ is a 1982 film based on William Styron’snovel of the same name. Set in 1947, it is features one of Meryl Streep’s finest performances. It tells the story of a young, Catholic, Polish immigrant to New York who was imprisoned in Auschwitz during the war. The ‘choice’ scene is one of the most well known and harrowing in cinema; Streep insisted on filming it in one take as she found it so upsetting.
There are no available trailers of the movie that do it justice, so instead, here are the filmmakers discussing the background and production of the film.
Possibly the best known and most watched film to depict the Holocaust, ‘Schindler’s List’ was directed by Stephen Spielberg and released in 1993, winning seven Oscars the following year. Based on Thomas Keneally’s book ‘Schindler’s Ark’, it depicted events such as the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, the regime at Płaszów labour camp, the deportations to and selections at Auschwitz, and the personal experiences of various Jewish prisoners who were saved by Oskar Schindler. Amon Göth and Rudolf Höss are both portrayed in the film.
Natzweiler-Struthof was a concentration camp situated in the Alsace region of France, which during the war was annexed by Germany as part of the Third Reich. It was in operation from 1941-1944 and an estimated 52,000 people were kept prisoner there; around half of them were killed. There was a gas chamber and crematorium, and medical experiments were performed on a number of inmates. In September 1944, prisoners were forced to partake in a death march to Dachau; some weeks later, Natzweiler-Struthof became the first camp in Western Europe to be reached by Allied forces. The site now holds a museum and memorial.