San Diego Miramar College screens ‘Woman In Gold’ in observance of Yom HaShoah


Israeli soldiers stand on stage during a ceremony marking Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, for the 6 million Jews killed during World War II, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on April 17, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Alexis Bondch, Staff Writer

The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Antiracism (IDEA) Committee at San Diego Miramar College hosted a movie screening of “Woman in Gold”, in observance of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, April 17th.

Yom HaShoah is observed on the 27th day of the month of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. This year, the corresponding dates are from sunset on April 17th to nightfall on April 18th

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, this date memorializes the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and is set aside to remember the victims of the Holocaust. 

The Holocaust was a violent, state-sponsored systematic annihilation of 6 million Jews and millions of other persecuted individuals, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, LGBTQ, Roman Catholics, people with disabilities, Poles, Soviets, Serbs, communists, and Africans.

The 2015 film “Woman in Gold” is based on the true story of a Jewish woman who battles bureaucracy all the way to the United States Supreme Court to triumph over injustice and reclaim what is rightfully hers.

Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann, who teamed up with her lawyer Randy Schoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds, to fight the government of Austria to recover a precious and highly valuable Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt that had been stolen from her family home during the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.

The painting, called “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” otherwise known as “The Woman in Gold” hung in the Galerie Belvedere in Austria until 2006. The painting was lauded as an icon of Austria’s culture, though it had been stripped of its true origins. The gallery failed to acknowledge that the piece depicted a Jewish woman, and was stolen from a Jewish family. 

The film chronicles Altmann and Schoenberg’s efforts to reason with the museum curators and Austrian government. Altmann was willing to allow the Galerie Belvedere to keep the painting, if only Austria would admit that the painting had been obtained illegally.  

When that fails, viewers watch their painstaking battle up to the Supreme Court, where it’s decided in a triumphant moment that the painting will be returned to Altmann. She then sells it for $135 Million to the Neue Gallery in New York where it still hangs today to be admired by the public.

The “Woman in Gold” screening was held in a small classroom and attended by faculty and students, who filled three of four available rows as they watched with unsmiling faces, some responding with solemn nods, and the occasional chuckle in response to a breath of comic relief in the film.

The showing of the movie was bookended by short, informative presentations by April Koch, a Spanish professor at Miramar College. Following the presentations, Koch received accolades from several fellow faculty members for consistently organizing annual Yom HaShoah events like this one.

“Woman in Gold” is a poignant reminder of how painful it is when cherished pieces of heritage and culture are unjustly ripped away, and how healing it can be to fight for what is right.

The event concluded with a quick discussion of the film and its relevance today. When asked why it’s important to be reminded of the Holocaust and its atrocities, one faculty member offered simply: “Racism.”

According to a recent report published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), incidents of antisemitic violence, harassment and assault are at their highest numbers since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. The 2022 numbers showed a 36% increase over 2021, for a total of 3,697 reported incidents of antisemitic violence.

Meanwhile, public figures  like Kanye West and Donald Trump—who is not only a celebrity, but a former US president and presidential candidate in the upcoming election—make headlines by openly peddling hateful comments about Jewish people and Jewish culture.   

With antisemitic violence and rhetoric on the rise, it’s a crucial time to pause and reflect on the horrors of the past, so they are not repeated. Yom HaShoah provides a prime opportunity to do just that.