Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jay Reiner on Bernard Weinraub's "The Accomplices"

Now playing at LA's Fountain Theatre, Bernard Weinraub's drama about Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook). Review from the Hollywood Reporter:
Even if you’re Jewish you probably haven’t heard of Peter Bergson, a man whose service to the Jews during the Holocaust rivals that of Oskar Schindler or Raoul Wallenberg.

Bergson (born Hillel Kook), a committed Zionist, came to the U.S. in 1940 to help raise a Jewish army in the struggle against Hitler. As news of the Holocaust leaked out, he changed his mission to saving the remaining Jews of Europe. This meant persuading the Roosevelt administration of the urgency of acting immediately in a number of areas, particularly in assisting refugees.

The objective proved elusive, though ultimately Bergson is credited with helping save the lives of at least 200,000 Jews. The story is fascinating because it sheds light on one of the darkest chapters in American history, and this includes the reaction of the American Jewish establishment, led by Rabbi Stephen Wise.

In “The Accomplices,” Bernard Weinraub, a former political correspondent at the New York Times, tells the provocative story in a balanced but no-holds-barred manner that lets the uncomfortable facts speak for themselves. In Bergson (Steven Schub), he also has an inherently dramatic character because the man was anything but politic in the way he conducted himself. He was abrasive, headstrong and arrogant, part of the reason the Jewish establishment tried its best to silence him and even have him deported. Not only were they showing their loyalty to FDR (James Harper), they feared Bergson would alienate the president and the American people as well.