Kuper, Jack

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Nationality: Canadian (originally Polish: immigrated to Canada, 1948). Born: Jankel Kuperblum, Zyrardow, 16 April 1932. Education: Studied graphic arts at Central Tech, Toronto, Ontario. Family: Married Terrye Lee Swadron in 1955; two daughters and two sons. Career: Graphic artist, playwright, and actor, 1952-63, and graphic design animation and still photography supervisor, 1963-66, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; radio-TV director, Goodis, Goldberg, Soren Advertising, 1966-67; chief film director, Robert Lawrence Productions Ltd., 1967-68; creative director, Kenyon and Eckhardt Advertising, 1968-70. Since 1971 president and director, Kuper Productions Ltd. Awards: Best supporting actor, Dominion Drama Festival, 1952; Art Directors Club of Montreal award, 1964; Canadian art director of the year, 1965; Graphica award, 1966; Hollywood Radio and Television Society international broadcasting award, 1968; Canadian Radio Commercial Festival award, 1968; Graphica certificate, 1968, 1969; Canadian Television Commercials Festival award, 1980, 1982; National Education Film and Video Festival Gold Apple (United States), 1992; Columbus International Film and Video Festival Bronze award, 1992; Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Gemini award, 1992, for A Day in the WarsawGhetto: A Birthday Trip in Hell, 1997, for Who Was Jerzy Kosinski?; American Film and Video Festival Red Ribbon, 1993; Atlanta Film and Video Festival honorable mention, 1993; Jewish book award for Holocaust literature, 1995, for After the Smoke Cleared; National Education Film and Video Festival Bronze Apple, 1996. Agent: Beverley Slopen, 131 Bloor Street West, Suite 711, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1S3, Canada.



Child of the Holocaust. 1967.

After the Smoke Cleared. 1994.


Sun in My Eyes (produced Toronto, 1961).


Disguise, 1987; Who Was Jerzy Kosinski? (documentary), 1995; Children of the Storm (documentary), 2000; The Fear of Felix Nussbaum (documentary), 2000.

Television Plays:

On a Streetcar, 1955; Street Music, 1956; Lost in a Crowd, 1957; Two from King Street, 1959; Girl in the Window, 1959; It Happened in Kensington Market, 1959; The Man in the Railway Station, 1959; Sun in My Eyes, 1960; The Police (adaptation), 1961; Search for an Enemy, 1961; The Wounded Soldier, 1962; The Magician of Lublin (adaptation), 1962; Dawn (adaptation), 1963; Neon Dreams, 1963.

Radio Plays:

Street Music, 1959; The Last Warm Day, 1959; Bontsha the Silent (adaptation), 1960; The Palace, 1960.


Theatrical Activities: Director:

Television—Run! 1962; It's a Big Wide Wonderful World, 1962; Dawn, 1963; I've Got My Eye on You, 1963; Mehane Yehuda, 1971; A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto: A Birthday Trip in Hell, 1991; Shtetl, 1995. Documentary Films— his own screenplays.

* * *

When Jack Kuper's autobiographical work, Child of the Holocaust, was published in 1967, it was the first Holocaust-related memoir to be published en masse in North America. In a conversation with the author, Kuper recalled the difficulty he experienced in finding a publishing house for the book. Typical of the period, agents and publishers informed him that the World War II was history and the subject matter of the book had little—if any—relevance for the 1960s. Further, he was advised to try to put the suffering he described "behind him and try to get on with his life."

The Polish-born Kuper, however, was hardly "living in the past." By the time that Child of the Holocaust was being offered for publication, Kuper had made a name for himself in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where he had evolved from a graphic artist into a playwright and award-winning actor. In addition, Kuper had received international honors for his role as director of the 1962 film Run, which parodied the destructive tendencies that modern society holds for those driven to succeed at any cost.

Kuper's sensitivity to the crises that modern man created for himself may be seen as related to his own childhood experiences in which survival and not material success was an immediate and all-encompassing concern. Indeed, it was perhaps his personal success that led Kuper to redouble his efforts to publish the memories he jotted down in Yiddish in 1946. As Kuper himself is aware, it is the unaffected and direct style of the 15-year-old orphaned immigrant boy that is the secret of the success of Child of the Holocaust. The book, which has been compared to both Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl and Jerzy Kosinski 's The Painted Bird, has subsequently been in publication for more than three decades. It has appeared in five languages and is part of the curriculum on the Holocaust in schools in Canada, the United States, and Italy.

In 1971 Kuper established his own production company, which has produced both commercials and documentary films. It is through these films that Kuper has continued to explore the meaning of the Holocaust and its impact on his own life. Among the Holocaust-related films that Kuper has produced are A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto: A Birthday Trip in Hell, The Fear of Felix Nussbaum, and Children of the Storm. The latter film traces the life stories of the Jewish Holocaust orphans (among them Kuper himself) who came to Canada in 1947.

Committed to do more than "show the nasty Nazis" as nonhuman creatures, Kuper has endeavored to reflect the complexity of the Holocaust experience and its consequences. Through his literary and cinema work he has caused individuals to consider the forces that lead ordinary people to do remarkable good and horrible evil as well as the consequences of the above.

Critical of both the commercialization of the Holocaust and of what he saw as the excessive showmanship of institutions such as Yad Vashem, Kuper has been hopeful that in his quiet understatement he will allow people to approach the Holocaust experience with the respect and reverence that he himself has for the memory of the Holocaust and its victims.

—Avi Kay

See the essay on Child of the Holocaust.