Leon Blum: For All Mankind
This powerful documentary tells the story of Leon Blum - a Jew who served as prime minister of France, and who was also a prisoner of the Nazis at the Buchenwald concentration camp.Blum, the first Jew to lead France, devoted his life to improving the well-being of workers and was an early champion of women's rights. In 1936, as the head of the Popular Front, an alliance of leftwing movements, he became prime minister. In 1940, his socialist views and Jewish heritage placed him in jeopardy, and the Vichy government deported him to Buchenwald. After the war, Blum was welcomed home by the French people and was re-elected prime minister in 1946.
Jean Bodon brings the life and times of Leon Blum to 21st century relevance. --Richard J. Garfunkel, The Advocates-WVOX
This loving tribute pays homage to the man and his ideals. --Hadassah Magazine
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Top customer reviews
He saw the necessity of supporting General Charles De Gaulle when it was most critical to do so and by way of this film, I see only positives for France in his having done so much for its people.
This film is educational for those of us (I dare say, most) whom have a shadow of the political and historical education we should have had, to take our rightful place in the world as fully functioning citizens.
That Mr. Blum was a Jew, only served to inadvertently stick his thumb in Hitler's eye as did the performance of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics before the war.
French filmmaker Jean Bodon discussed his intriguing film, as well as Leon Blum, who was also France's first Socialist prime minister.
In the documentary, Blum's biographer sums it up like this, "His life was so wonderful, so full, yet so tragic...like a great novel Leon Blum wrote in flesh and blood."
Writers; historians; former French prime ministers and other top officials; Blum family members; plus archival photos and footage make this "novel" and documentary come vibrantly, seeringly alive.
The film is interwoven with clips of: French celebrations at the end of World War One (and Two): Lenin talking: the only color film ever shot of a concentration camp; alarming propaganda footage, one showing hundreds of rats skittering -- "They, like Jews, endanger the welfare of mankind"; Maurice Chevalier warbling sans souci in Nazi-occupied France; and Leon Blum orating passionately, and also chatting with a smiling Harry Truman after they negotiated post-war US aid to France.
Blum (pronounced "Bloom" in French) was reared in Alsace in the 1870s by his grandmother and mother, who imbued a staunch sense of justice in him and his four brothers. Although "not considered an excellent student", he studied law at the Sorbonne. Later, he became a writer and literary critic, who was friendly with André Gide and other major authors.
Blum became politically active due to France's infamous trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew convicted falsely of treason in 1894. Eventually, Blum led France's leftist Popular Front, which was termed the "scum of society" and "dominated by Jews".
In February 1936, he barely survived an assassination attempt by right-wingers (see "Time" cover photo below).
That year, when the Popular Front swept the elections, Blum became prime minister at age 67. He implemented the Popular Front's programs, and personally negotiated reforms including a 40-hour work week and paid vacation. He also named three women as under-secretaries in his government, a first for France.
Fast forward to 1940, when the Vichy government in Nazi-occupied France sent him to Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Nazis did not kill him because, Bodon told the overflow audience at the Library's Mary Pickford Theater, "The mid-level management Germans wanted to keep him as a hostage to exchange for their life" should that have become necessary.
After World War II, Blum was welcomed home by the French people who placed him back in power in 1946 as prime minister.
"It's very strange the way Leon Blum was forgotten," commented Bodon, a professor at the University of Alabama in Birmingham where he teaches courses in television production, cinema, and broadcasting. In 2000, he was honored with the President's Excellence in Teaching Award.
Now, Bodon is in pre-production for his feature film "Une Belle Gifle" (A beautiful slap in the face), about the French Olympian swimmer, a world record holder, Alfred Nakache. The Jewish athlete and his family were deported to Auschwitz in January 1944. Nakache's wife, also a ranked swimmer, and their two-year-old daughter were gassed immediately. Nakache was tortured until liberation in May 1945.
Although devastated physically and emotionally, he rebuilt himself and within less than a year, established a world record in a three-man relay.
Bodon said that both films are "basically 'Rocky' stories."
The filmmaker only recently found out that he himself was Jewish -- through researching a documentary on his father.
Bodon commented that "Documentaries have a tendency to be a little cold."
Not a chance with "Leon Blum: For All Mankind". It emblazons this crucial historical figure on viewers' minds -- never again to be forgotten.
For more info: "Leon Blum: For All Mankind" DVD is distributed by First Run Features, [...]. Library of Congress, [...], Mary Pickford Theater, James Madison Building, 101 Independence SE, Third floor, Washington, DC. The free event was sponsored by the Library's European Division and the Hebrew Language Table, with cooperation of the Embassy of France.