Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Chabad Rebbe & The German Officer

"The Chabad Rebbe & The German Officer" a 56-minute documentary film about the rescue of Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the 6th Lubavitch Rebbe, from war-torn Poland in 1939 by a half-Jewish German spy named Maj. Ernst Bloch working under direct orders of the head of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, German Military Intelligence, aired on the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Channel 1 on May 1, 2011 at 21:45 to good reviews and good ratings.

However, the film was immediately recorded by interested viewers and dedicated pirates, on their Tivo machines and even broadcast by Erutz 7, the Modern Orthodox Settler website and webcast organization run out of Beit El in the West Bank. Erutz 7 left the film on their website for anyone who wanted to stream or download until the IBA told them to take it down.

Another pirate uploaded the film to a and put up links to a variety of websites. This guy apparently thrives on uploading all sorts of films just for the fun of it. He is not alone. Other pirates crow their accomplishments on the web, for no other reason apparently than to see their name on the web.

After the broadcast we received phone calls from respectable and well-meaning Chabadniks asking if they could put the film up on their websites. We were told the film was no less than a "Kiddush HaShem." A Holy Act. Why? Because it told of the "Nes (miracle)" of the Rebbe's rescue. Their reasoning was that Chabaniks didn't watch TV and only visited certain approved websites. The Israel Broadcasting Authority turned down their request, hoping to somehow make some money back on their investment.

After several days of searching for pirated copies, it was clear that the desire of not so respectable Chabaniks and others interested in the story, weren't going to let the opportunity to see the film pass them by. Pirated copies of the film appeared like wild flowers after a heavy rain.

The IBA and the producers of the film didn't see this film as a holy work. The Chabad organization's JEM (Jewish Educational Media) was singularly uncooperative in the production of the film. The Producer's hoped that should Chabad like the film they'd
order copies, or put the film in their 3,000 Chabad houses, so some of the investment in making the film over a four-year period could be recouped. But as one cynic pointed out, 'Why buy the cow when the milk is free?'

As of now the film has been viewed or downloaded thousands of times, not counting the hundreds of thousands of viewers who watched on TV during the premiere broadcast.
The morality of some Chabadniks downloading the film without permission is not in question. The internet has become a free-for-all where nothing can be sold that can be copied for free. The issue that has plagued Hollywood studios and the music industry has come home to haunt the producers of this film.

Now the issue is, leave the pirated films on-line or spend hours each day to ferret the pirated copies out from every crevice they're hiding in and have them removed?

Whatever the outcome the film has found an audience for this unusual story.

הרבי והקצין הגרמני

Available in Hebrew by pirates at the website near you.