“Son of Saul,” which depicts the horrors of the Nazi Genocide and tells the story behind the sonderkommando – the Jewish prisoners who were forced to dispose of the bodies of the dead at the Auschwitz concentration camp – won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film Sunday night.
The honor was all the greater because director Laszlo Nemes’ film almost did not get made. When the traditional sources of financing said no to the project, the people of Hungary said yes – and they said it so strongly that the Hungarian National Film Fund stepped in to finance it.
The people of Hungary are why “Son of Saul” became a hit at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globes. And now that it has won an Oscar, they are why it will be seen around the world. In fact, even before the Oscars, it had been sold to more than 80 countries.
The film is a source of pride for all Hungarians who, like the people of so many other European countries, still find it hard to deal with the Holocaust and its aftermath. The film reminds us never to forget, that if we do not learn the painful lessons of history, we are condemned to repeat them.
“Son of Saul” is a source of pride for me, as well. I saw the compassion of the Hungarian people firsthand when I served as ambassador to the Republic of Hungary from 2001-2003, and again when I was chief of protocol at the State Department from 2007-2009. Through these appointments by President George W. Bush, I came to know and love the people of Hungary. I saw their passion for both their own history and for the history of the continent that shaped it and continues to do so today.
The film is a triumph for the Hungarian Film Commission and its leader, filmmaker Andy Vajna. Numerous other projects will surely follow, and now many of them will get funding from traditional sources.
As a Jewish American who has served my country in Hungary and has come to know and love its people, I am so proud of this accomplishment, and I urge all Americans and all people of good faith and humanity to see “Son of Saul.”
See it alone. See it with your family. Show it in schools. Show it in legislatures and palaces and parks. “Son of Saul” tells a story that must never be forgotten.
Nancy G. Brinker is founder of Susan G. Komen and Race for the Cure. She served as ambassador to the Republic of Hungary from 2001-2003 and was chief of protocol at the State Department from 2007-2009.