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German students harassed by films

To the Editor:

We wish to thank Michael C. Lynch '76 ["Dean's Office continually asserts its authority," Jan. 16] for raising a critical issue which has long been in our hearts and on our minds. As members of MIT German House, we agree with Lynch that World War II films should be completely banned from the MIT campus, since these films directly, grossly, and inarguably violate our civil rights.

Germans are inevitably cast in a bad light in these films. All Germans are shown as heartless, cruel, unthinking and ignorant. This serves only to perpetuate the stereotypes which people have. Elizabeth J. Salkind '85 ["Pornographic films lead to violence against women," Dec. 11, 1984] did an outstanding job of describing how films adversely affect the civil rights of the group involved.

World War II films show Germans as objects of hatred, not as people. Misquoting from Salkind, this "legitimizes and encourages those feelings of hatred, and actions which demonstrated them..." World War II history, "in all its forms, infringes on others -- others in this case being German House residents. World War II films are part of "a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on" national origin.

"The bigotry and contempt it promotes, with the acts of aggression it fosters, harm" German House members's "opportunities for equality of rights in employment and education" and promote untold violence and harrassment.

Clearly LSC has already taken our needs somewhat into account. We heartily applaud LSC's decision to show an alternative film to Das Boot last Saturday. (I believe the alternative is The Opening of Misty Beethoven.) This, however, is not enough!

Our civil rights will continue to be flagrantly and willfully violated until all such films are banned from campus. The very fact that World War II films are shown at MIT proves that the administration supports the oppression of people of German descent that accompanies these films.

As members of my community watch them, as a German House member "...I am targeted for violence." This is discriminatory. The only thing we cannot say is which individual "German House members" will be the recipients of the violence.

After such films, German House residents and others of German descent are "subjected to detailed recounting of scenes from the film and to an increase" in demeaning comments and jokes.

We are forced to hear about relatives tortured or killed by Germans, about how Germans have been the primary cause of war in this century, etc. "Even without these actions," World War II films "as a traditional event that portrays the objectification and abuse of" Germans "is in itself harassment of" Germans.

Our objection to World War II films "is not an objection to some bad ideas floating around in some people's heads, but to concrete violations of ... civil rights." We demand that the entire MIT community act at once in this issue of utmost importance, and ban all World War II films from campus immediately, without further discussion, and using whatever means are available.

This letter is not intended to represent the views of MIT German House as a whole, merely the members who are listed below. As absurd as this letter is, we think that it is only slightly more ridiculous than many of the views which have been expressed on the issue of pornography.

Our own views on pornography are mixed; many of us have strong objections to it. Yet we believe that there is a big difference between protest and censorship.

Max Hailperin '85->

Paul Hillner '88->

Scott S. Lawton '86->

Lauren Mahorter '87->

A. P. Sohn '88->

Chris A. Raanes '86->

Jim Weygandt '88->