All indications pointed to a can’t-miss event for a TV show out of Moscow last Saturday. After all, the program boasted Russia’s gold medal winner for ice skating at the 2006 Olympics, the performance was choreographed by a former Olympic medalist, and the dance paid tribute to the 1999 Oscar winning film “Life is Beautiful’ in the Best Foreign Language category. What could go wrong? As it turned out – plenty. The film was about the Holocaust and the dance costume was the striped uniform worn by inmates of Hitler’s concentration camps down to the sewn-on yellow Star of David. The allusion was made complete with the sound effects of barking dogs and machine-gun fire.

Failing to freeze Fascism out

A video of the dance routine had circulated online and roundly derided. The Jerusalem Post called it “chilling.” Israel’s culture minister told Israel Army Radio that “a concentration camp is not a summer camp.” And a Holocaust scholar at Emory University asked in a tweet,Have you lost all sense of decency?” The Russian skater Tatania Navka, who came up with the idea for the tribute to the Holocaust movie, meant no disrespect. She told the press her hope was to move the audience to seek out the movie and to have their children see it, too. “Our children need to know and remember that terrible time, which I hope, God willing, they will never know.” You may remember the film’s lead character were Nazi captives, a small boy and his father who made believe their persecution was an extensive game so the boy wouldn’t be afraid.

Hitler on ice

But while Navka swore innocence of any evil intent, the sight of her Nazi prison garb and the sounds of that sort of prisons stays in the mind as unequivocally crass. And it’s not like this wasn’t the only time that a Russia performing artist showed such bad taste. As recently as last April, a competitor in a Dancing with the Stars-like competition cavorted in a Nazi uniform while searching for Jewish children hiding from him – all to the tune “Fly Me To The Moon” crooned by Frank Sinatra.

One would think someone from Russia would be less witless about dolling up in anything having to do with the Nazis since some 3 million Soviet prisoners of war died at their hands. Maybe they forgot their history – in the time of the czars there were pogroms and Jews who were routinely massacred.

What's wrong with this picture?

At this point you may wonder why Mel Brooks playing Hitler in his 1984 musical “To Be Or Not To Be” wasn’t also derided. Why wasn’t his singing and dancing as the Fuhrer equally objectionable? It was likely because Brooks didn’t merely ape him, he showed contempt by making him look ridiculous. The Russian dance numbers about Nazis merely recreated it without a single defaming attempt to go along with it.

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