Remarks by Carl Gershman
April 13, 2016
I want to begin by thanking my friend Walter Reich, who first proposed that we organize a showing of the documentary “Watching the Moon at Night” and make it available to a Washington audience.
And of course I want to especially thank Jeffrey Herbst and the Newseum for agreeing so readily to make this central and prestigious venue available for the showing of this important film.
“Watching the Moon at Night” raises fundamental questions about issues of terrorism and anti-Semitism that continue to haunt the modern world, and it also records and presents the views of some leading intellectuals – as well as practitioners and victims – about these issues. That’s a real service, and I want to thank Joanna Helander and Bo Persson for producing this very significant and sobering work of art and reporting.
This film will introduce you to many fascinating people, and I want to note just two of them. One is Walter Laqueur, who is really Bo’s inspiration, and mine as well. Walter is one of the great historians and intellectuals of World War II, the Cold War, and its aftermath. He was born in 1921 in Breslau, Germany, which is now Wroclaw, Poland. He left for Palestine the day before Kristallnacht on November 8, 1938. He has written more than 100 books and countless essays and articles on subjects as varied as the Soviet Union (now Russia) and Germany, Europe and the Middle East, Zionism, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and terrorism. He will turn 95 next month, and last year, at the age of 94, he wrote and published a very well-reviewed book entitled “Putinism: Russia and Its Future with the West.” He lives locally in the Van Ness area and would have been with us today if his health had permitted it.
The other person is Andre Glucksmann, the marvelous French intellectual who died last November. Glucksmann was called by some “the French Orwell.” He as one of the New Philosophers who started on the left and who turned against totalitarianism in the 1970s under the influence of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents. He was fundamentally concerned about the great issues of genocide and evil in the modern world. As a child he was sent with his parents to a waiting station for the trip to Auschwitz and watched as his mother stood up to the police, letting everyone know that they were to be transported to their deaths. She made such a scandal in the train, telling everybody that they were going to be killed and should rebel, that there was the beginning of a riot (as Glucksmann’s son Raphael recounted it to me) and the French police took the trouble-maker with her child off the train. They let her go, even telling her “You are the kind of people who will survive.” Based on this experience, Glucksmann always believed that resistance is better than compliance. In addition, being very familiar with the revolutionary temptation of intellectuals to reshape the world through totalitarianism, he attached less importance to trying to transform the world than to mending the evil that we find In it, of which there is an endless supply.
It’s a privilege to be exposed to such people, and I want to thank Bo and Joanna for making that possible.
I also want to note the presence here today of Poland’s Ambassador to the United States Ryszard Schnepf. He is part of the diminishing center in Poland today, which is a deeply divided country – as, unfortunately, are we.
I hope you enjoy this important film.