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Holocaust film One Life faces backlash after promo materials omit mention of Jews

The film follows the true story of how Sir Nicolas Winton saved 669 Jewish children from the Nazis during WWII

Maanya Sachdeva
Thursday 04 January 2024 20:52 GMT
One Life trailer

The marketing materials for Holocaust film One Life, starring Anthony Hopkins, are being updated amid backlash to the lack of references to Jewish people.

The biopic follows the incredible true story of how Nicolas Winton, remembered as the “British Schindler”, saved the lives of 669 Jewish children during World War II.

According to Variety, the film’s promo material was criticised online because the children Winton rescued were described as “central European” instead of Jewish.

A source close to the production reportedly said the choice of language was, in no way, linked to the events of 7 October 2023, when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, or the ongoing war in Gaza that it triggered.

Directed by James Hawes, the critically-acclaimed movie became embroiled in controversy after Rachel Riley drew attention to language that British entertainment retailer HMV used to promote One Life on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The since-deleted tweet referred to the kids Winton saved as “central European” children, with the Countdown presenter calling the social media post a “sign of messed up times” in response.

“Wow. They can’t even bring themselves to say ‘Jewish children’ were saved from the Nazis,” Riley, 37 tweeted. “Jewish child Holocaust survivors no longer [sic] creditable? Sign of the messed up times.”

Riley was made an MBE for her work in raising awareness of the Holocaust and combating antisemitism last year.

She was honoured for her services to Holocaust education as an avid campaigner in the New Year Honours list.

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Screenshots shared on X showed at least two cinemas in the UK, including the Peckhamplex in London’s Rye Lane and The Cameo in Edinburgh, Scotland, also used the phrase “central European” instead of “Jewish” to describe the film on their social media channels.

The production company SeeSaw Films, and Warner Bros, the film’s UK distributor, were also criticised for not using the word “Jewish” in the promotional material, according to a Variety report, but they didn’t describe the children Winton saved as “central European” either.

A source close to the film reportedly told the publication the phrase was not used by SeeSaw or Warner Bros but was likely included by an “unauthorised third-party” on the online movie database IMDb before it was picked up by HMV and indie cinemas.

“The filmmakers were sensitive to the fact that one hundred of the children were not Jewish, they were political refugees, and made a decision that it was important to be inclusive,” the source was quoted as saying.

The source added: “There was no desire to take away an association with the Jewish community,. There was never any intent to cause offence [by the filmmakers]. They’re very proud of the film.”

At the time of writing, the film’s IMDb page read:”The true story of Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, a young London broker who, in the months leading up to World War II, rescued 669 predominantly Jewish children from the Nazis.”

The Independent has contacted Warner Bros and SeeSaw Films for comment.

Additional reporting on wires.

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