The 'Masters of the Air' Finale Gives Us a Powerful Jewish Scene – Kveller
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The ‘Masters of the Air’ Finale Gives Us a Powerful Jewish Scene

Lt. Robert 'Rosie' Rosenthal is confronted with the horrors of the Holocaust in the 9th and final episode of the Apple TV+ show.


via Apple TV+

The excellent “Masters of the Air,” the Apple TV+ series about the 100th Bomb Group, also known as the Bloody Hundredth for its many losses during World War II, has just aired its final episode.

There is no spoiling the ending of a historical show about WWII — it ends with the defeat of the Nazis, a permanent ceasefire and the end of the war. There’s music and revelry for the American forces stationed in Europe. There’s a remembrance of the many soldiers lost. But for Lieutenant Colonel “Rosie” Rosenthal, the very menschy character based off a real life Jewish American hero played by Nate Mann, there’s also a confrontation with the horrors that will continue to be unveiled long after the war.

As the war draws to a close, Rosie’s plane is downed in battle, and he is recovered by the Red Army. He finds himself with them in a base in Poznan, Poland, where he wanders into a nearby concentration camp — Zabikowo  — where the dead bodies of victims in striped prisoner clothes litter the ground. As he walks into a structure in the camp, he sees Hebrew letters on the wall, which according to the subtitles spell “the judge of life will judge for life.” He also sees a menorah and a Jewish star. He touches the latter reverently, horrified by the sight.

“We found many of these camps. Everyone is already dead, or barely alive,” a Russian soldier tells Rosie. “They were built for killing people, many people at a time — Poles, Russians, mostly Jews.”

As he waits to board a plane to meet up with his fellow American soldiers, Rosie stops at a tent housing refugees. “Where are you headed? Headed home? Family?” he asks an elderly man.

A woman translates for him: His family is dead. He buried them himself — his wife, daughter, the children, he says in Yiddish. The Germans ordered him to fill the ditch where they had killed them and the rest of his village, and he covered with dirt the bodies of his loved ones.

“To live one must make choices,” the young woman at his side says, translating his devastating words.

When he asks him where he will go now, the older man seems at a loss, but suggests perhaps “Palestina” — Palestine, or pre-state Israel.

Rosie, who was raised in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, shares with him three Yiddish words, with a heavy American accent: “Go with God.”

But the man, the survivor, scoffs at this. “He says if God exists, he has forgotten him. Not even the earth that covers our bones will remember us,” the woman translates his reply.

This year will see many shows that grapple with the Holocaust, from “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” to “We Were the Lucky Ones,” and yet this one scene is an incredibly powerful portrayal of its terrors. Here is a Jewish man, confronted with the Nazi evils he came to fight, with his fellow Jews killed and mourning and devastated.

Rosenthal joined the war effort a day after Pearl Harbor, determined to fight the Nazis and Hitler after he saw their hate close by, as the German Bundt was marching in Manhattan. He flew more missions than anyone in the 100th Bomb Group, and he helped bring the Nazi regime to its end. But that wasn’t enough for him — he also helped bring justice to the victims of the Holocaust as a prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials.

We are so glad this show is helping to keep his memory alive.

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