- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kurt Gerron is a name long forgotten. However, a lesson can be learned from his life as we confront the threat to world peace posed by Iran’s continuation of its nuclear enrichment program in violation of U.N. resolutions.

Gerron was a well-respected Jewish actor and film director in Germany in the late 1920s/early 1930s. As Adolf Hitler embarked upon his anti-Semitic campaign, many Jews had to shut down businesses. Before long, Jews were precluded from directing movies. Offered a chance to go to Hollywood, he refused, moving, in 1933, to the Netherlands where he regained immense popularity as an actor/director. Associates in Hollywood again pleaded with him to come to America, but Gerron again refused — somehow feeling immune to the Nazi beast.

When the Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1940, Gerron — no longer able to deny the beast’s presence — acted in a Nazi propaganda movie. He was arrested in 1943 and sent to a concentration camp in the Netherlands. When reports about Nazi gas chambers circulated late in the war, the Germans gave Gerron a choice: direct a propaganda film “depicting the camps as a Bohemian paradise of flourishing art and culture” or die Entitled “The Fuehrer Gives a City to the Jews,” the film showed inhabitants free to do as they pleased, well fed and clothed and taking swims. He believed by directing the film he would win a stay of execution for actor participants. Gerron was partly right — he was the last one to be loaded onto the final transport taking all actor participants to Auschwitz. There, he and his wife were sent to the gas chambers — one day before the chambers closed forever.

When exactly did Kurt Gerron come to realize the threat posed to his existence by the Nazi beast? We will never know. As a popular director, Gerron lived the good life while his Jewish friends fell victim around him. Yet, he chose to deny the beast’s existence. Forced to flee Germany for the Netherlands, he chose to appease the beast as it ravaged Europe, hoping he would be spared. And, finally, realizing no other option existed, he sold his soul, choosing to portray as gentle a beast which, in the end, would brutally consume him.

With Iran’s decision not to stop its nuclear enrichment program, another beast is rearing its ugly head, once again threatening world stability. But, faced with Tehran’s refusal to act responsibly, we see a world community failing to grasp the new threat of a new beast in a new century. As did Hitler, this beast makes clear its intention to eradicate Jews. But, while not even Hitler threatened to dominate the whole world, Iran threatens a new world order governed by Shariah law and a willingness to be a catalyst in creating the death and destruction that it believes must precede Islam’s return to greatness.

Tehran’s mindset should cause the entire international community concern, especially as Iran seeks the capability within the next several years to make that mindset a reality by developing nuclear weapons.

Despite Iran’s belligerent talk and disregard for U.N. resolutions, the world community seems reluctant to present a united front to contain the beast. Our European allies and our Chinese and Russian “friends” seem unwilling to take minimal action, such as economic sanctions, to start reining in the beast.

The Chinese, unconcerned about petrodollars flowing to a country funding world terrorism, enter into a $100 billion oil deal with Iran. The Russians, while knowing firsthand terrorists can strike quickly and without warning, continue to feed the terrorist beast in Tehran with nuclear technology and weaponry.

What will it take for members of the international community to wake up to the danger posed to their very existence in a world where stateless terrorist organizations become proxies of nations, such as Iran, that fund them? At some point, that stateless terrorist group will acquire a nuclear weapon developed by a nation-state supporting terrorism, sanctioning the group to commit the most terrible terrorist attacks. Islamic extremists recognize the difficulty democratic states will have in tracing accountability from the terrorist group to the terrorist nation-state that provides a nuclear device, enabling the latter to break the will of a disjointed world community, one member state at a time.

Hitler was infatuated with creating a master race of Germans he called “Aryans.” While he envisioned a race of blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans, he clearly had not studied history. For Aryan roots go back to Iran and an Indo-European branch of people who settled there. Thus, Hitler’s view of Aryans was a distorted one.

But, a common bond exists between old German mythology and the ancient faith of Iran’s Aryans: the world will one day be purged of enemies by a “purification of fire.” Hitler may have envisioned his devastating aerial bombardments in Europe as the vehicle for his purification process; Iran’s president may well envision the nuclear bomb he seeks to develop as the vehicle for his.

The U.N. must soon decide how best to deal with Iran. Member nations of the U.N. Security Council, in voting on what action to take, would do well to heed the lesson of Kurt Gerron. His fate should make clear the high price of ignoring or appeasing the beast.

James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times

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