2001 Movie "The Believer" Depicted US Nazis Killing US Jews
September 6, 2019
Writer/Director Henry Bean, a Jew, said Hollywood distributors rejected "The Believer" after a showing at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "The film does not work, there is no redemption, and it's a primer for anti-Semitism," the rabbi said.
Luckily "The Believer," a work of genius, is available again on Amazon Prime. The film is more relevant today than ever due to increasing "antisemitism," attacks on synagogues, and laws banning "hate speech," i.e. anything Jews hate to hear.
The Believer is a 2001 film written and directed by Henry Bean about an orthodox Jew, played by Ryan Gosling, who becomes a neo-Nazi. The film is based loosely on the life of Daniel Burros, a neo-Nazi who committed suicide in the mid-'60s after a New York Times reporter wrote an article exposing him as a Jew.
According to Bean: "Burros was staying at a camp in the Poconos with the neo-Nazis when the story in the New York Times claiming that he was Jewish came out. The Nazis weren't upset. They were saying just sit down; we can talk about this. But Burros went up to his room, put on a Wagner record and shot himself. He killed himself within an hour of the story coming out."
Bean began discussing the Danny Burros story in the '70s when he was a writer living on the West Coast. He began to see Burros as typifying a particular kind of Jew. "He was a rabbi manque. Antisemitism is a form of practicing Judaism. He's sort of a rabbi after all. A Jew by day, a Nazi by night. . . . He was desperately hiding something and compulsively trying to bring it out at the same time. People are drawn to contradiction. He undergoes a conversion, but not back to the Torah."
By telling the story of the Jewish Nazi, Bean concluded, "I began to understand what Judaism was."
Bean's explanation of how a Jew can become a Nazi is at root theological. Through a series of flashbacks, the viewer sees Danny Balint, as he is called in the movie, arguing with his Yeshiva teacher about whether Abraham spared Isaac's life, as recounted in the Genesis account, or whether, as Danny maintains, he died on Mt. Moriah.
Danny's problems with religion stem from the fact that he takes the Torah much more seriously and literally than his fellow Yeshiva bokkers. When one of them tells Danny that "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," he becomes rhapsodic: "Fear of the Lord," he responds, "makes you afraid of everything. Do you even believe in God? I'm the only one who does believe. I see Him for the power-drunk madman that he is. And we're supposed to worship such a deity? I say never."
At this point, the teacher tells one of the students "to ask Rabbi Singer remove Danny from my class," something which prompts Danny to turn his eyes upward and say to God, "Then let Him destroy me now. Let Him destroy me like the conceited bully that He is. Go ahead."
When Danny gets a call from a New York Times reporter, he gives an eloquent articulation of anti-Semitism. Judaism "is a sickness. . . . The real Jew is a nomad and a wanderer. He has no roots and no attachments. He universalizes everything. All he can do is buy and sell and manipulate markets. It's all mental. Marx, Freud, Einstein: what have they given us? Communism, infantile sexuality and the atom bomb. They want nothing but nothingness, nothing without end."
The main issue in The Believer is theological. Danny has penetrated to the heart of the Jewish religion by understanding that the Jew worships Nothingness. As he says to the Times reporter, the Jews "want nothing but nothingness, nothing without end."
The Times reporter is impressed, but, at the moment when the real issue is framed, he changes the subject. "Wow," he tells Danny, "You're incredibly articulate, but how can you believe all this when you're a Jew yourself?"
When confronted by the contradiction at the heart of his identity, Danny becomes violent. At first he denies he's Jewish, then he threatens to sue the Times if the reporter publishes the article: "It's reckless disregard. I'm going to sue your fucking Jew paper." Finally, he takes out a gun and puts it into the mouth of the reporter and announces, as if unaware of the contradiction: "If you publish that article, I will kill myself."
All of the themes we have been discussing--Jews, racism, Nazism, nihilism, and violence--are all present in this powerful scene. At this point, they begin to coalesce into a coherent picture.
The Jewish Nazi is a political terrorist, but he is, first of all, a Nazi, which is to say a particular kind of socialist. Jews were drawn to socialism and communism throughout the 19th century. In fact, Jews made up the backbone of those movements. Jews were drawn to those movements because they provided both an antidote and a way to give political expression to the Jewish nihilism which came into being when the Enlightenment arrived in the shtetl and destroyed rabbinic Judaism.
Deprived of a coherent worldview, the Jew still had a sense of himself as a member of the chosen race which could now only find expression in revolutionary violence. The best way for the shtetl Jew to bring about tikkun olan was via dynamite and the Colt revolver.
DEFINED BY CABALISM, JUDAISM IS NIHILISTIC (SATANIC)
After their rejection of Christ, the Jews confected a religion which is based on the absence of Logos, which is to say, the absence of Being, which is to say, nothing.
If the Eucharist in the tabernacle in the Catholic Church can be termed "the real presence," then what the Jew who rejected Christ worships in his synagogue can be termed "the real absence," which is another word for nothing. The Jew worships nothing; or better, the Jew worships nothingness. The Jew, as Jacques Derrida has pointed out malgre lui but amply in his deconstructive literary criticism, is obsessed with the absence of presence or the presence of absence.
Violence is an extreme form of self-assertion, and only extreme forms of assertion are powerful enough to prevent the slide into non-being to which the Jewish nihilist is exposed by the very fact that he is Jewish.
Nihilism, in other words, leads inevitably to violence. So to get back to the plot of The Believer, when Danny goes to a Jewish bookstore, he meets one of his former Yeshiva classmates, who invites him to the synagogue for services--the same synagogue, it turns out, where Danny planted a bomb, which failed to go off.
This time he plants another bomb, timed to go off during Sabbath services, at which he decides to read the Torah. When Danny goes to the synagogue, he meets one of his former Yeshiva classmates, who calls him a "Jewish Nazi."
By showing up to davin at the synagogue where he has planted a bomb, Danny the Nazi finally succeeds in killing Danny the Jew. But since he dies reciting the Torah, it is equally accurate to say the Danny the Jew ends up killing Danny the Nazi.