ZDF movie “Das Unwort” – Humor Against Anti-Semitism (Archive)

David Strizzo in conversation with Stefan Karkowski

Lots of contradictions: director Stege (David Striesow) and director Eichmann (Florian Martens) in “Das Unwort” (ZDF). (ZDF/Connie Klein)

A satire about anti-Semitism was shown in German schools on November 9, isn’t that a problem? Not at all, believes David Strizzo, who plays a school principal in “Das Unwort.” Humor helps with such difficult topics.

At a high school in Berlin, a student is harassed by his classmates for his belief in Judaism. He defends himself by biting the earlobe of his classmate and breaking the other’s nose. What follows is a school conference in which the conflict is resolved, but in which everything becomes much worse.

The caregiver’s name is Eichmann

“Das Unwort” is a tragic comedy in which David Striesow plays the high school principal. A character with a lot of contradictions, heading an educational institution that is supposed to be “free of racism”. Then the truth looks different.

And the name of the caretaker is Eichmann, who knows nothing about the fact that his name evokes historical associations.

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Satire and humor on a serious topic, can that work? Strizzo says yes without reservation:

“Humour is the only way we can overcome such difficult topics in general or establish communication. Humor is the only way we have when we are deprived of everything else. Humor is also a cry of despair.”

“Jew” is a dirty word on German schoolyards

The “bad word” in the ZDF movie is “jude”. The word is still circumvented in Germany against the backdrop of National Socialism and the Holocaust, Strizzo says — and there is a great deal of uncertainty about how to deal with it. Only dialogue can help here, says the actor. At the same time, “Jew” is still a dirty word in German schoolyards.

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Strizzo also suffered from racism because his wife, Ines, is black. In the past, there were always encounters in everyday life that “were really, really, really hideous,” he says. Strizzo says he feels more comfortable with his wife in big cities and “multicultural urban areas” than anywhere else: “The more I come to the provinces, the more pronounced the resentment.”

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