What do astronauts and the Holocaust have in common? "An Article of Hope"

Filmmaker Dan Cohen is the guy behind "An Article of Hope," a feature film project seven years in the making. The documentary is done, but Dan's got a Kickstarter to raise funds to get it on television and into schools. Below, some words from Dan for Boing Boing readers about the film:

What could space shuttle Astronauts and the Holocaust possibly have in common? When I began my research into my documentary An Article of Hope, I thought I was making a film about a Holocaust story. But I soon unraveled a story that was much more than that. It is a story that crosses generations woven by the lives of three men, born at a different time, but brought together by a twist of fate.

At the center of the story were the Astronauts of the Space Shuttle Columbia. All from different backgrounds from around the world, magnificently diverse, yet threaded by a moment from the Holocaust, a horrific attempt to stamp out diversity.

Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon was a hero fighter pilot, a man who had the ability to rise to the moment. By the time he launched into space he was more than that, he was the representative of his country, his faith, and in his eyes perhaps, humanity. He searched for a symbol of this responsibility, and found a little Torah scroll given to a boy in a secret Bar Mitzvah in a Nazi concentration camp.

The boy survived to become a scientist – working on the mission. So Ramon wrapped around him the story of the scroll, demonstrating to the world what can happen when, in his words, “You go from the depths of hell, to the heights of space.”

In today’s fractious world, An Article of Hope is a story that needs to be told, a story about hope for the future. Our Kickstarter campaign will help us raise the underwriting we need to bring this story to millions across America on PBS. We are two-thirds of the way there. The campaign kicked off with a jolt, support from all over the world. We have just a bit more than a week to go to meet the goal of this 9-year project, to continue to tell the story of An Article of Hope.

And, why the Kickstarter if the documentary's done?

It took 7-years to make the documentary. We did it by raising a little money here, borrowing a little more money there, and a lot of love and un-reimbursed time from the director. Now the final challenge is to get it on television before millions. PBS is a non-profit network, which means we must bring underwriting to the agreement. With your help, the funds we raise here go toward final editing to conform the documentary to PBS technical requirements, broadcast rights and fees, promotion, web site, all of the things that would normally come from a traditional agreement, we must fund it all.

(Thanks, Miles O'Brien!)


  1. From the title, I thought it was going to be about how there are denialists of both the Holocaust and the moon landings…

  2. Why do we always say and write Thee Holocaust, as if it’s the only genocide that’s ever happened?

    1.  The word’s been co-opted for social and political purposes, just like “anti-semite”.  You can refuse to participate simply by being annoyingly precise – always say “the Nazi holocaust” so that you are implicitly recognizing the racist slaughter of Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, and haemophiliacs instead of just helping to grind an axe for the racist Israeli government.

      People will consider you a boringly pedantic buzzkiller at parties, though.

      1. You really need to look up some terms.

        “anti-semite” comes from Wilhelm Marr, who coined the term to refer to Jews. He was an anti-semite himself. Jews didn’t invent the word, the term, or the concept. Other people did. Don’t tag Jews with creating something they’d rather have never been created. But when you use it, at least use it properly.

        “The Holocaust” wasn’t an invention of the Israeli Government. It first started being used in the late 50’s, and 60’s, and only came into real prominence after the miniseries in 1978. In fact, many Jews don’t like the term at all and prefer “Shoah”, as Holocaust signifies a burned offering to “God”. There is still an ongoing debate in Jewish circles as to whether or not the term is appropriate, but it appears to be here to stay. I also have never, ever, met a Jew who was offended by somebody referring to it as “The Nazi Holocaust” or any equally descriptive term, and I have never seen a Holocaust museum display which does not mention the millions of others massacred along with the Jews. If you actually take the time to read the literature, instead of just spewing out hatred about things Israeli online, you might actually discover that the reason the topic is so singular is because of the hitherto unforeseen methods of mass extermination and planned execution on a literally global scale – not because Jews say so, but because almost all historians say so.

        Also, I beg to differ on the “racist Israeli government” line. I recently moved to Haifa and you could have fooled me that this is a racist state. After all, I walk out into the street and see Arabs (Christian and Muslim), Ethiopians, Russians, Georgians, Moroccans, Yemenites, Americans, French, and even Indian walking down the streets. Israel lists Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and English as official languages they cater to – because there are a hell of a lot of people who speak those languages living here and working here as citizens. You’ll also see tons of other ethnicities working and living here – happily, I might add.

        If you’re thinking that they’re all Jewish, you’d be dead wrong. I live in a sizably Christian Arab city, but I was in Beer Sheva last week and surrounded by Muslim Arabs – some of the women who were wearing full Burkas (as it’s not illegal to do so unlike France – where I recently moved from). Some of those Bedouins even volunteer for the army and serve in tracker units which are extremely dangerous and highly decorated. They’re not Jewish either.

        I’m not saying everything is happy and great between all types of ethnicities, but it sure isn’t a racist government. And if you were snidely referring to the Palestinians, I might remind you that they are not a race at all. They’re a nationality – or, at least, that is what many Palestinians would want us to believe (and I do).

        In summation: I don’t consider you pedantic, but merely grossly uninformed.

  3. This is awesome. Totally unaware of this story. I have always been less sad for the astronauts that died on the way home instead of never having spent time in orbit.

    So in a way, a very sad and tragic way, this was the perfect ending for that little piece of paper. Kind of like this has been accomplished, now it is time to rest.

    As to The Holocaust, The Nazi Holocaust, The Jewish Holocaust, good marketing is simply that, the only issue I have ever had with the way those events are remembered is it typically excludes those Ito mentions; along with the Jews another, approximately, 6 million political prisoners and assorted untermensch were worked and starved to death by the Nazis.

    For me the camp system was responsible for closer to 12 million murders, every one as cold-blooded and methodical as the attempted extermination of the Jews.

    The desire to exterminate the Jews and all other undesirables was so strong that it was conducted to the detriment of the war effort. The goal of the leadership, who knew this was all going to end, was to wipe out everyone, especially the Jews, regardless of the impact those operations had on the war, before the war ended.

    When one looks at those events in this light, the holocaust is in fact a more singular event as opposed to so many other atrocities and genocides.

  4. Actually Ilan Ramon  flew a plane that invaded and bombed Iraq, without provocation, so some would say he was a war criminal.

    Probably a GBush wouldn’t say that, though..

    1. Umm….without provocation? 1948, 1967, 1973.

      Iraq was in a state of war against Israel since 1948. During a state of war, you don’t need another “provocation”.  The Israelis bombed Osirak – a nuclear reactor. In hindsight, I’m glad they did. They also managed to take it out without a full scale invasion “on the cheap”, and without an occupation lasting ten years. Overall, I’d call it a success.

      Would you say that John Glenn is a war criminal as well? He flew over Korea. As far as I remember…North Korea had never invaded the United States.

      1. Would you say that John Glenn is a war criminal as well? He flew over Korea. As far as I remember…North Korea had never invaded the United States.


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