Michel Cojot

UF Professor Co-Producing PBS Documentary That Explores Hidden History of Nazi Hunter and Entebbe Hostage Michel Cojot

March 16, 2016

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In 1975, Parisian banker Michel Cojot, disguised as a journalist, sat and talked with Nazi Klaus Barbie, with the intent of killing him with the revolver Cojot had brought with him for that very purpose. Decades earlier, Cojot’s father was a prisoner in the Lyons, France, Gestapo that Barbie controlled. The elder Cojot was deported to Auschwitz . Michel Cojot had sought retaliation but could not pull the trigger. The words of Elie Wiesel, Every murder is a suicide, haunted him.

A year later, Cojot was a passenger on an Air France flight to Entebbe, Uganda, that was hijacked by terrorists. While Israeli commandos mounted a rescue, Cojot stepped up, serving as a translator and spokesperson.

Few people get a shot at righting history, says UF alumnus and director Boaz Dvir, who along with UF professor Gayle Zachmann, is co-producing a documentary about Cojot’s remarkable life. Michel claimed two. In 1975-76, he was catapulted twice onto the global stage. He certainly made the most of his second chance in Entebbe.

Slated for public release in 2017, Cojot explores the complexity of Jewish identity in post-war Europe. This is clearly an important project and a very timely one, says Jack Kugelmass, Director of the UF Center for Jewish Studies. At once poignant and packed with adventure, the story zooms on difficult questions and issues that call our attention today. It documents a critical moment in the history of French Jews, the third largest population of Jews in the world, notes Zachmann. We are very excited about the project.

Zachmann, who also serves as historical consultant for Cojot: A Second Chance Only Comes Once, presented a sneak peek of the project to the Gainesville Community at the Gainesville Jewish Film Festival on March 13, 2016. The American Jewish Historical Society also previewed the PBS documentary as part of its program, focusing on France, Jewish identity, and the Holocaust on March 23, 2016 in New York City. Zachmann was completing interviews for the film in France during the summer of 2016.

About the film screening

The UF Center for Jewish Studies is accepting gifts for this exciting film project. If you would like to participate, please contact jkugelma[at]ufl[dot]edu.

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