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Joshua Greene

      . . . is a television producer and author. Mr. Greene brings personal narratives to life in companion book and film formats. His award-winning films have aired on PBS, HBO, the Disney Channel and television stations in 20 countries. For the book and documentary, Witness: Voices from the Holocaust, Mr. Greene worked with Shiva Kumar, drawing from 10,000 hours of first person accounts housed at the Yale University Fortunoff Video Archive.

Excerpts3:31 secs

      Looking for a sense of the deeper dimension to the mystery of life? Joshua Greene points us to the experience of Nazi Holocaust survivors. It need not lead to despair or to a victim mentality, he found.

      After spending thousands of hours over almost four years preparing his book and television documentary, Witness: Voices of the Holocaust, what Mr. Greene experienced was empathy. And an affirmation of his own religious faith. He also was reinforced in his concern that our violent culture finds death entertaining. And it generated for him increased reasons to worry that we no longer distinguish media-reality from actual history.

      Mr. Greene is quick to declare he is neither a Holocaust scholar nor deeply read in the subject. He is, however, a concerned parent, worried that our media have numbed adults and youngsters alike. No "happy endings" in his Holocaust movie. Just ordinary people who became extraordinary by living through unbelievable circumstances.

      Testimony is powerful, Mr. Greene assures us. He found he had to step away from the control inherent in his craft as a filmmaker, relinquish the expectations that accompany interviews. Instead, he listened to unstructured, first-hand expressions of traumatized memories from people who experienced astonishing brutality.

      Would we have acted differently, either as persecuted or persecutors? We'd all like to think so, but with what assurance? Were the survivors heroic? Not by their account. We impose heroism on them because we want to believe that WE are capable of it, Mr. Greene believes.

      The victims were not restricted to those incarcerated, tortured and murdered. One of Mr. Greene's witnesses is a Hitler Youth. Certainly the young man was surrounded by propaganda, says Mr. Greene, but he reminds us that we, too, live drenched in carefully crafted messages. And leaves the moral of the story to us to discern.

      Mr. Greene believes monumental, critical choices face human culture. We can continue along the same destructive path with which we are so familiar. Or we can awaken to an imperative to know ourselves as members of a global community where our responsibilities to others are as great as to ourselves. Witnesses to the Holocaust know what happens when we choose badly.

Conversation 1

Joshua Greene shares his hope with Paula Gordon and Bill Russell that people can see the difference between the Hollywood version and the reality of the Holocaust experience. He sympathizes with a natural reluctance to confront the seamy side of human nature. He describes alternative reactions to the raw truth of experience.

Conversation 2

Mr. Greene questions whether, in fact, most of us would act differently than people did in the Nazi era. He explains why young people are his interest, using kids' questions as prompts. He distinguishes what's remarkable and what's ordinary about his Witnesses. Mr. Greene describes powerful testimony from a former Hitler Youth and wonders how we might react to similar circumstances. Mr. Greene explains why he is confident that we are at a critical historical juncture in the evolution of human culture, why he is fearful of the dominant role the mass media currently play. Reminding us that he is not a Holocaust scholar, Mr. Greene expresses himself as a concerned parent and as an individual living in a culture of violence, where death is entertaining.

Conversation 3

The extremely politically and emotionally charged "politics" of the Holocaust are examined. Mr. Greene gives different points of view. He quotes from individual survivors as to the human-ness of the Holocaust experience. He recalls personal interpretations of why people thought they'd survived. He returns to his consideration of history's true face and how we would like to interpret it. He reminds us that today, as then, we are surrounded by propaganda, concerned that we don't do enough to prepare young people to discern between reality and illusion. He wonders what we have learned from the Nazi Holocaust.

Conversation 4

Mr. Greene describes what motivates him. He draws on his own longing to reconcile his sense of spiritual beauty with the grim reality of the Holocaust. He compares his craft as a filmmaker/writer to this project which demanded he refrain from invention. He applauds the Fortunoff Archive professionals whose approach allowed him to end with a question instead of answers. Teaching is contrasted to learning. Mr. Greene offers his personal conclusions. He connects empathy to the testimony of witnesses. He elaborates on the power of testimony (as distinct from expectation-heavy interviews.) He applauds America's current condition while criticizing it, worried that we suffer from the very freedom we celebrate.

Conversation 5

Religion, Mr. Greene suggests, needs to break down traditional barriers, come to an understanding of the universality of human spirit. He compares he experience to that of his physicist brother, BRIAN GREENE. Joshua Greene also exhorts science to come out of its (similar) shell. He imagines what film courses might one day include (ethics, morality, how to be a decent human being.) He suggests what we might find if we more deeply explore consciousness. He tells parents how to use his book and documentary to teach children not to sanction evil. He describes his hope that we are awakening to our role as part of a global community.

Conversation 6

Mr. Greene offers advise to young people interested in entering the media. He describes the threats of ego-ism when one seeks a career in television or film. He describes breaking rules, urging people to understand more about life's deeper dimensions. He suggests we can come away from an examination of the Holocaust experience with more than a sense of despair.


Given the human capacity for evil and what Mr. Greene so aptly describes as the desensitizing effect of mass media representations of brutality, we are particularly grateful to Joshua Greene for entering into the fray which continues to surround these subjects.

Related Links:
Joshua Greene has a website devoted to the Nazi Holocaust work he and Shiva Kumar have done, in conjunction with the Fortunoff Archive at Yale University. You can also order the companion video documentary at this site.

Witness: Voices from the Holocaust is published by Simon & Schuster

The Fortunoff Video Archive from which Mr. Greene and Mr. Kumar drew their interviews also has a website.

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