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August 2, 2013

Holocaust survivor stories must fit the basic premise of the Holocaust — the genocide of the Jews

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:00 am

When I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the year 2000, I wanted to buy Claude Lanzmann’s nine-and-a-half hour documentary film, entitled Shoah.  I went to the book store at the Museum, with my credit card ready, but I balked when I learned that the price was $900.  Now Lanzmann has a new documentary out, and his original masterpiece is available at Amazon.com at a fraction of the original price.

There is an article about Lanzmann’s documentaries, which you can read in full here.  This quote is from the article:

Director Claude Lanzmann’s choice to focus only on those witnesses who were regularly in contact with the process of extermination forces the viewer to be reminded that the ultimate goal of the Holocaust wasn’t to harass the Jewish people or move them or make them uncomfortable. The purpose of the Holocaust—to obliterate the Jewish people entirely—is reflected in the empty landscape of Chelmno, where only the foundation stones of the killing area still remain.

The Chelmno camp was located in the small Polish village of Chelmno nad Neren (Chelmno on the river Ner), 60 kilometers northwest of Lodz, a major city in what is now western Poland. The camp, which was opened by the Germans some time in October or November 1941, was in the Warthegau, a district in the part of Poland that had been annexed into the Greater German Reich after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

Monument at the location of the Chelmno camp

Monument near the Chelmno camp, overlooking the Ner river Photo Credit: Alan Collins

The “purpose” of the Holocaust was genocide.  Lanzmann’s original documentary is a collection of the stories of the survivors. Every survivor has his or her unique story, but every story is about how the survivor escaped death in the gas chamber.

The article about Lanzmann begins with this quote:

Only the Stories Still Exist

A lone man rows himself down [the river Ner] in a boat, singing a Polish folk song. His voice slips across the banks of the river, into the forests beyond, and disappears. No echo returns to indicate that the man, Simon Srebnik, is drawing closer and closer to the forest clearing in Chelmno, Poland, where poison gas was first used by Nazi forces to murder Jews. One of the first Jews to be brought to the Chelmno killing center, Srebnik speaks with teary eyes about moving the bodies of the dead at the command of German soldiers and Polish special police.

A young man when the Holocaust began, Srebnik enchanted his captors with his beautiful singing voice. Strains of his song were heard by the non-Jews in Chelmno, several of whom still vividly remember the mixture of beauty and desperation they sensed in the boy’s voice. Srebnik himself calls singing for the soldiers while they were killing his people “true German irony”.

Like all of the witnesses who speak about the Holocaust in Shoah, Srebnik was intimately close to the process of Jewish extermination. As the film unfolds, more and more survivors tell stories about working in crematoriums and surviving the death camps. Filmed in their homes, at the camps or on stages designed to illicit their testimony, Shoah visually and figuratively approaches the Holocaust from multiple angles without losing its sense of purpose.

Simon Srebnik was a Sonderkommando, one of the Jewish helpers who assisted the Nazis in burning the bodies of the dead.  The Nazis kept no records of the Jews who were killed.  The proof of the Holocaust depends on the testimony of the Sonderkommando Jews and the numerous survivors who witnessed the “extermination” of the Jews, but somehow managed to escape.

Each of these survivor stories must fit the basic premise that the Nazis had a plan, called “The Final Solution,” which was the plan to genocide the Jews.  This plan was discussed at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.  Yet, the gassing of the Jews began at Chelmno on December 7, 1941, before the conference was held.  Fortunately, the Nazis left witnesses alive to tell about it.

Jewish workers lived in the granary, the building in the background

Jewish workers lived in the granary, the building in the background  Photo Credit: Alan Collins

The Jewish workers, called the JudenKommando, who did the work of burning the corpses at Chelmno, were housed in the granary during the second phase of the killing at Chelmno. The granary is shown in the background of the photo above.

On the night of January 17 and 18, 1945, the SS men began taking the 47 Jewish workers out of the granary building and shooting them in groups of five, according to the two survivors, Shimon Srebnik and Mordechai Zurawski. The Jews defended themselves and two of the SS men were killed. According to the two survivors, the SS men then set fire to the granary.

The price of Lanzmann’s documentary, with the testimony of numerous survivors, has now dwindled down to less than $40.00 but I have lost interest, and probably won’t buy it.  I’ve got better things to do.

P.S.  If you like fairy tales and such, read this blog post by Carolyn Yeager:  http://www.eliewieseltattoo.com/elies-adventures-in-buchenland/