Max von Sydow has always been one of my favourite actors, we also happen to share the same birthday.(well obviously I am a bit younger). Unfortunately we had to say farewell to this legend of the silver screen last Sunday March 8,.
He was one of the most versatile actors in the movie industry, although he was Swedish he had an excellent command of the English language and also spoke several other languages.
His roles varied from comedies, science fiction and drama. He played in a number of WWII related movies where he played German officers like in ‘Escape to Victory and’ in the ‘Voyage of the Damned in which ge he played Captain Gustav Schröder who in 1939 tried to save 937 German Jews, who were passengers on his ship, MS St. Louis, from Nazi persecution.
Max von Sydow also played several movies in where he played Holocaust survivors like ” Emotional Arithmetic” ; “Intacto”and “Echoes of the Past” He also played Otto Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank”
What probably is a lesser know fact is that Max von Sydow as a teenager entertained Jewish refugees in Sweden. The refugees were allowed to go to Sweden via the “White Buses” operation The operation undertaken by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government in the spring of 1945 to rescue concentration camp inmates in areas under Nazi control and transport them to Neutral Sweden,
In a 2012 interview von Sydow recalled when his was a 16 year old boy in his hometown of Lund in Sweden.
There were some refugee camps in Lund where these Jewish refugees were housed. The local would provide them with food and clothes. Max von Sydow was a member of a folk dance troupe, and they would provide entertainment for the refugees.
Of that time he said to the Jewish Journal “Some were carried in on stretchers to watch the shows; for many, it was their first entertainment after the hell of the camps. These were people, many of whom were gravely ill, who came and spent perhaps a couple of weeks in our town before they died. We were just trying to do as much as was possible for them at the time. Many of them are still in Lund, in a huge graveyard with foreign names.”
I wonder if he knew then about the fate of the passengers of the MS St. Louis. They were refused entry in Cuba, the US and Canada, only 29 were allowed the disembark in Havana. After sailing for several weeks, 288 were allowed to enter the UK, The remaining passengers were eventually allowed to enter Belgium, France and the Netherlands, but only a few months later war broke out and in May and June 1940, most of the passengers of the MS St Louis, were yet again persecuted by the Nazis, only about half of those who returned to continental Europe survived the war.
One of Max’s last movies was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens ” a bit of trivia on that Max and Daisy Ridley(who plays the main character Rey in the movie) share the same birthday too. This means I share my birthday with 2 Star Wars actors.
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