Two timeley warnings (by Josef Sryck)
April 11, 1975
The Dutch Film Week - arranged by the Dutch Ministry of Culture and our Film Centre - brought us two outstanding, unusual documentaries, two timely warnings of the possibility of a new holocaust, threatening a violent, confused, disintegrating world. Both films "The past that lives" and "Now you know why I’m crying" show the mastery of the Dutch in depicting controversial, difficult subjects in a meaningful, mature and intelligent manner. Don’t miss wherever they will be shown. There could have been no place better suited, no films expressing more convincingly our fears and anxieties then the two Dutch films shown on “Remembrance Day” in the Jerusalem Museum. Philo Bregstein’s “The past that lives” succeeds in giving a warm and touching film portrait of the late professor Jacob Presser, who is a respected historian. He wrote “The destruction of the Dutch Jews”, a well documented book based on his own experience. Presser survived the Nazi occupation, while his wife was deported and died in a concentration camp. (…)
Writer, director Philo Bregstein interviewed professor Presser for hours, wrote and edited the interviews and only then began the events and ideas which formed Pressers mind, with photographs and film clippings. The professor himself speaks a clear, honest and sincere commentary. When the Nazi’s entered Holland the professor and his wife attempted suicide. They were saved. The professor and his wife attempted suicide. They were saved. The professor survived the war hiding. His wife was arrested, deported and never returned. The professor confesses that he never got rid of his guilt complex for surviving. A Marxist and free thinker, Presser becomes more and more aware of his Jewishness, deploring that there was no Israel to which the Dutch Jews could have escaped. In the end professor Presser - who didn’t see the film as he died nine days before its public showing - warns of a new Holocaust. This time not six but three million of Jews may perish in the “besiegd fortress of Israel,” while an indifferent world will loon on as it did before. Both films intend to shock, not to amuse. They achieved their aim. They started fierce polemics and serious discussions. “The past that lives” was awarded with prizes “for its human approach” and for pointing at an inhuman danger: the resurrection of a new murderous racism in - far too many - parts of the world.
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Escape from the tyrants (by Micheal Leitz)
Opening of the 19th Mannheim Filmweek
Best Film from Holland.
Account without hate.
There was one film about which nobody laughed, and only that film made going to Mannehim worth my while.
Under the lyrical title “The Past that Lives” the director Philo Bregstein gives an account of the persecution of the Jews and their extermination in Holland, and at the same time he shows us the portrait of an important historian.
In this film the Jewish agnostic and marxist Presser tells us about his life: Seventy minutes of recorded text comprising seventy years, filled with political struggle, persecution, short spells of happiness, and again escape, despair and anxiety.
“The Past That Lives” is the most objective and mature film about the persecution of the Jews that I have seen so far. In his soft and reserved voice, Presser does not only accuse Eichmann and his helpers, but also the Dutch bourgeoisie and the Jewish Council, established according to Hitlers orders.
Especially shaking in this documentary film is the admission of default; that understanding, that human insight that a man who struggled against tyranny during his life can still show, even then when should be numb with hate.
The end of the film, illustrated by pictures from archives and old newsreels, shows resignation. When this indefatigable preacher sees tyranny appearing in his own ranks, he withdraws in to an idyllic world. Shorty after his escape from the past lives on, presser died, he has not lived to see the film.
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Nieuw Rotterdamse Courant, May 11, 1970
For a moment it was a strange feeling to hear and see Prof. Jaques Presser, who died recently, tell his own biography on TV - it had become a finished biography. This, however, was not the only reason that I felt - I don't know another word for it - a certain respect as I viewed this excellent program, an hommage to the brilliant historian. Presser's biography is of importance because of the persecution of the Dutch Jews, which he experienced very closely and personally and which he literally relived while writing his monumental work "The Destruction of the Dutch Jewery", which, in his story, seems to have been a greater obsession than the reality. Presser never was and never became a fanatic. Neither during the war nor thereafter when a small group of rabid Dutch "McCarthyites" wanted to deny the talented Professor the History Chair in Amsterdam. Scepticism rang throughout his story, in a minor key, without the slightest complacency (Anatole France was one of his favorite authors). With his pictures, filmmaker Philo Bregstein created something very special, a piece of authenticity which I would love to see again.
Het Vrije Volk, May 11, 1970
"The Past that lives" In Prof. Jacob Presser told the story of his life. A serious man, who told the stirring story with simplicity. Filmmaker Philo Bregstein deserves great merit for illustrating the story with the same simplicity. As illustrative material he used photos and other historical documents. It is quite remarkable that Bregstein's film never becomes static , despite the "still" pictures. The program was made before Presser's death. The introduction by his friend Dr. Lou de Jong was striking in its accuracy of the personality of this historian. De Jong explained that Presser had told Bregstein, while the latter was making the film: "It is very possible that you'll broadcast this program after my death". A strong and lugubrious presentiment which, according to de Jong, was the reason for Presser's great need of having the story of his life brought onto the screen". That feeling came through strongly. I agreed with De Jong who said: "The integrity of Bregstein would have touched Presser deeply." Jan Carmiggelt of "Het Vrije Volk' Jan Carmiggelt of "Het Vrije Volk"
Algemeen Handelsblad, May 11, 1970
"The Past that lives" is a portrait of Prof. Presser eminant historian, brilliant author, eloquent speaker, liberal humanist, compiled by filmmaker Philo Bregstein from conversations with Presser interspersed with film-and photo- material from the archives. Prof. Presser died a week before the program was broadcast. A presentiment of his death lead him to say earlier to Bregstein: "It is very probable that you have to broadcast this program after my death." This was one of the reasons that it was decided to broadcast this "personal history" nevertheless. And rightly so: One can only say "farewell" to a truly great man in HIS style. "Fascinating" does not suffice to describe the feeling of walking hand in hand with Prof. Presser through almost three quarters of a century history in three quarters of an hour. Three quarters of a century of culture and Teutonic hordes, with more attention to the first but more emphasis on the latter. ("'The Eichmanns didn't do it; that so many well-educated people - Nobel Prize winners from "the country of authors and :philosophers" -took part in the eradication, that is most shocking to me"). One cannot separate the man Presser from the historian Presser. He told his most personal experiences with an objectivity and feeling for the reality of it all that was sometimes difficult to understand. The terrible, personal distress ("unbearable tension" in his own words), which he experienced daily when writing "The Destruction of the Dutch Jewery" cannot be discerned in this life's work if it is read superficially. The tension is released in an essentially moving act which he tells to Bregstein as if it were an anecdote. In his introduction Prof. L. de Jong called the portrait by Philo Bregstein "pure and full of integrity"; moreover it is no doubt one of the most impressing documents of our times and a rare TV highlight.
De Tijd, May 11, 1970
A Filmed Monument By far the most important program of this weekend The Past that lives" Which was broadcasted Saturday evening. In this program Dr. Presser, who passed away two weeks ago, told his biography. It was introduced by Dr. L. de Jong, who announced that the widow of Dr. Presser had approved of the show. Her husband had said, while the film was still in production, that it might very well be possible that the program would only be broadcast after his death. Alas, this prediction came true. On reflection, Prof. Presser in effect spoke his own eulogy. Philo Bregstein had illustrated it in a way beyond all praise: without excessive embellishments and therefore very convincing. To a great extent, of course, the documentary dealt with the persecution of the Jews in Amsterdam. I too was forced to live through those days to my great sorrow, although not as deeply involved. But when I heard and saw Prof. Jacques Presser tell his experiences - e.g. his teaching experiences at the Jewish High School - I relived the perfideous drama more intensely than I had felt the reality of it. I hope that many people who believe that time has come to stop commemorating * have seen this human document , a filmed monument to a very great man. Herman Hofhuizen of "De Tijd”• * In May of each year there are several commemorative services and programs to honor those who died during the five years of German Occupation. Holland was freed on May 5th, 1945.
Supplement, Algemeen Handelsblad, May 23, 1970
1970 On April 30, 1970, Prof. Dr. Jacques Presser** passed away, and on Saturday evening, and on Saturday evening, May 5th, the Vara-television*** showed “The Past that lives”, a biographical document ("ego-document") of Dr. Presser, made by 37-year old author and filmmaker Philo Bregstein. This fascinating and moving filmdocument could only be described in superlatives by TV critics. The general public was also very much impressed by Presser's biography which unfolds against the background of 70 years of 20th century history. The whole documentary is in agreement with Presser's point of view that history car only be recorded by PEOPLE experiencing it subjectively. * "Algemeen Handelsblad" is a leading Amsterdam evening newspaper. * Prof. Dr. Jacques Presser was a famous Dutch historian and author. * Vara is a Dutch television radio station.
Utrechts Nieuwsblad, May 11, 1970
A couple of weeks ago Professor Presser, author of "The Destruction of the Dutch Jewery" and last, but not least "The Night of the Girondists” passed away. Saturday night a program was shown on TV which could be regarded as his testament in so far that in it he looked back upon his life, but at the same time gavessome “guidelines" for the in the "attitude in the time" which would not be inappropriate to mankind in this day and age. For example, he told us that his astonishment had not as much been directed toward the Eichmanns in the Nazi era as to the Nobel Prize winners who had cooperated in the extermination of millions of Jews and the waging of Hitler's war of genocide. In a slightly different connotation, we can still wonder about the same cooperation we give to war and destruction. For example, Presser also said that, as a teacher, he had indeed learned one thing from young people: “The seriousness of the games, and the games of seriousness. “This also could be a useful guideline for many an educator in these “gamesome" times. Further, he reminded us of the McCarthy-period in America, which had extended its feelers as far as The Netherlands in those times of the "Cold War", and because of which, people such as he and Prof. Romeijn, who stood up against the American spiritual terror, had to suffer because they spoke out against it. These are just a couple of scenes excerpted from a program which was excellently compiled by Philo Bregstein.
Brabants Dagblad, May 11, 1970
The absolute highlight of the weekend was the program in which the late Prof. Presser told the story of his life. Filmmaker Philo Bergstein supplied the story with pictures, and the result was striking! In the introduction Dr. L. de Jong explained that the widow of Prof. Presser had fully approved of this broadcast. This is not surprising since the program was an impressive, posthumous homage to a great Netherlander, who foresaw, already during the pre-recording, that he probably was not going to be able to see his self-portrait.
De Volkskrant, May 11, 1970
Rarely have I seen a television program as touching and as moving as “The Past that lives”, the biography of historian Jacques Presser, narrated by himself. The fact that Presser passed away recently gave the program a special commemorative aspect. In the past weeks, which to a great extent were dedicated to memorial programs*, I haven’t found a program in which the past was so clearly interwoven with the present. The biography of Presser is above all the story of a terror so great that it can only be understood and felt when told by the man who has been subjected to it- because that terror had its effects on Presser until his death. The historian Presser, author of “ The Destruction of the Dutch Jewery” (“De Ondergang”), a chronicle of the persecution of the Jews in The Netherlands, portrayed himself as a weak, helpless, desperate man, but also a loving man, cherishing hope dispite everything. Because of his experience, he sees the relativity of things, is sceptical, but this sceptitism is never pedantic. The writing of “The Destruction of the Dutch Jewery” was for Presser a partial relief, “the closing-off of an unbearable period after five years of war”. He said about “The Destruction of the Dutch Jewery: “The most terrible pages of the against Asscher and Cohen of the Jewish Council: the accusation of those dead.”
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