’A Gem’ while accurate is a too small description. This is no ordinary Holocaust story. This story is about the capacity to endure- to remain human-in the presence of unspeakable horrors.
We are left with a profound feeling of the ugliness- the meanness- the brutality of humanity. But we are also left with an example of the power of faith- of a commitment to life and, if, we choose to employ it- the human capacity to be “as wise as serpents and harmless as doves”.
— Bill Jersey
Producer/Director/Writer, Documentary Films
Two-Time Oscar Nominee
“Near Normal Man” is an extraordinary film — at one level, it is a searing autobiographical account of the personal endurance, perseverance and courage of a Holocaust Survivor. It lasts only a half-hour, but once experienced, at another level you will never forget how it seamlessly pivots from the depths of evil that humans can inflict and endure – to rays of sun that highlight indomitable spirited resilience.
When shown to students in courses across a wide swath of the social sciences and humanities, the film is guaranteed to generate thought-provoking dialog about the human condition, not just “where were the Good Germans? ” — but what connections can we draw to illuminate our own responses to what is happening across the globe — from the refugee crisis engulfing Europe to the Rwanda genocide and beyond.
— Troy Duster, Ph.D.
Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
Grandson of Ida B. Wells, Civil Rights Activist
I have seen many similar films, but found this one especially moving, largely because of Ben Stern’s extraordinary articulation, from beginning to end. As soon as I saw that he had resettled in Skokie, I knew where this was going . . .Early on in that dispute, despite being a leading defender of the ACLU’s decision to take the case, I resolved never to lecture those who had endured, and still endure, incalculable pain and anguish, on why the First Amendment compelled the result it did.
I thought this wonderful film handled the Skokie matter superbly, and that Stern’s narrative about it was marvelous, and his remedy—a massive counter demonstration, a response of speech to speech — exactly right.
— Ira Glasser
Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union 1978-2001
This is a must-see video that tells the grim story of one survivor, shares his powerful memory of his Holocaust experience and of his decision 30 years later to stand against a Nazi march in Skokie. It is emotionally wrenching to live with Ben through his camp and death march travails and powerful to learn of his determined commitment to stand against a hate demonstration in America. Needs to be seen and discussed by young people today to help them understand the world and become aware of the dangers of hate speech and the importance of standing up for their beliefs.
— Ruth W. Messinger
Founder & Global Ambassador, American Jewish World Service
“Near Normal Man” reminds us that our common humanity is never a fixed given, but a fragile virtue that rests upon the determined actions of ordinary persons acting extraordinarily in the face of hatred and brutality. This film documents the courageous life of Ben Stern—Holocaust survivor, truth-teller, and finally, anti-neoNazi activist. In so doing, it recounts the history of an implacable evil that must never be forgotten. At the same time, it is a tale of timeless strength and wisdom, replete with critical lessons for combating intolerance in our own troubled times. As such, ‘Near Normal Man’ serves as an invaluable addition to higher education curricula in peace and conflict studies, and other related fields of the social sciences and humanities.
— Jerry W. Sanders, Ph.D.
Former Chair, Peace and Conflict Studies
University of California, Berkeley
I just watched “Near Normal Man” and was deeply moved by how full of life Ben is. I am glad to have had the opportunity to get to know him even if only through a 30-minute film.
— Dr. Deborah Lipstadt
American Historian and Author
Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies
There are no answers in the face of the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust, but the hard-earned wisdom of this most human of humans, a survivor named Ben Stern, is a lesson young people need more than ever: Live! The unimaginable path of this extraordinary man’s life, exquisitely communicated through this film, reminds us all that life itself is the most profound of answers. Live passionately, hold fiercely to hope, and counter every nightmare by building a loving future.
— Menachem Creditor
Chair, Rabbis Against Gun Violence
Trustee, American Jewish World Service
Rabbi, Congregation Netivot Shalom
Thank you for coming to Homestead yesterday. Your message is extremely powerful, timely and important for our students to hear. I can tell you that students and staff were talking about you and your experience throughout the rest of the day. Our students and staff were deeply moved by positive outlook and dedication to spreading the message of hope and love despite what others may bring. Your courage during World War II and right here in Illinois is an example for all of us, especially in these turbulent times that we face. I have sent an email to many of my principal colleagues across the Bay Area encouraging them to host a showing of this film for students and parents. Thank you for speaking up and out.
— Greg Giglio, Principal
Homestead High School
As National Chairman of Bnei Akiva South Africa, my mission is to prepare young adults in South Africa to take responsibility for their lives and for the world around them. I believe, especially in South Africa, that your film about Holocaust survivor, Ben Stern’s story of survival and of fighting the Nazi’s planned march in America thirty years later, offers an enormously important learning opportunity for young adults of every background in South Africa. Your documentary film will help my organization make a lasting impact on young people’s lives for the better.
We would be honored to work with you to distribute the completed documentary film throughout South Africa.
— Mr. David Chernick
National Chairman, Bnei Akiva South Africa
→ Bnei Akiva South Africa
Holocaust survivor, Ben Stern’s story of survival and later his fight against the Nazi’s planned march in Skokie USA in 1977, is a compelling story that must be told. It provides many valuable opportunities for discussion and learning for both students and adults.
All best wishes for this important project, which I feel sure will be very well-received and make a lasting impression on everyone who sees it.
— Tali Nates
Director, Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre
→ South African Holocaust & Genocide Centre