Scrapbookpages Blog

February 27, 2016

My thoughts about the movie entitled “Son of Saul”

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — furtherglory @ 8:34 am

If there is anyone in the world who has not heard about the movie entitled “Son of Saul,” you can read about it on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Son_of_Saul

I wrote about this movie in a previous blog post at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/how-europe-killed-itself-committed-suicide-is-the-theme-of-a-new-film-by-laslo-nemes/

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I finally had a chance to see this movie yesterday, and I was APPALLED, as Simon Cowell used to say when he was a judge on the American Idol TV show several years ago.

The movie was playing at a large theater complex which has several theaters.  I assumed that this show would be playing in the largest theater and that I would have to arrive early in order to get a good seat.

I arrived early, but there was no indication, at the theater, that this movie was playing that day.  According to the online information about this theater, the first showing would be at 11 a.m. At a quarter to 11, there was no sign of a movie, so I decided to have something to eat at a nearby restaurant.  An hour later, I went back to the theater and found that the movie would be starting soon.

I had gotten there just in time, but to my surprise, the movie was playing in a small theater which had no access for the disabled.  I can barely walk, and I had to take my life in my hands to walk into a darkened theater which had no hand rails to hold on to. Most of the people in the audience were senior citizens. Young people would have no chance of understanding this movie.

Finally the movie started — and the picture on the screen was out of focus.  When I used to go to the movies, back in the old days, this would happen very often.  The people in the theater would stomp their feet and shout at the man in the booth who was in charge of showing the film.  I was expecting this to happen, but no one in the audience said a word.

Finally, the picture came into focus, and the first thing that I saw was the main character breathing heavily.  This went on for a long time until everyone in the audience was sick of it.  I interpreted all this to mean that the film maker wanted everyone in the audience to know that this is a Jewish film, and if you don’t like it, get out now, you unworthy goyim!

The following quote, about the film is from Wikipedia:

Son of Saul (Hungarian: Saul fia) is a 2015 Hungarian drama film directed by László Nemes and co-written by Nemes and Clara Royer. It is set in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, and follows a day-and-a-half in the life of Saul Ausländer (played by Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando.[5]

The members of the Sonderkommando were Jews who served for 3 months, and were then allegedly killed.  Only the last batch of Sonderkommando Jews was marched out of the camp, so that these men could tell their stories to future generations.

The main character in the movie has a red X on the back of his shirt and that is what we see throughout more than half the movie. The actor, who plays the part, is a handsome man, and I assumed that the film maker did not want to show too much of him because this is supposed to be a horror movie.

There are no handsome German characters in the film, except for one man, and all of the Germans speak in a harsh voice.  There are virtually no female characters in the film.

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When we finally get to the scene where the rabbi performs the Jewish ritual for the dead, this lasts for only a few seconds.

The whole theme of the movie is this:  Germans are bad and Jews are good. The Germans killed the Jews for no reason and now the whole world has to suffer by watching movies like this.

February 18, 2016

I’m still waiting to see the movie entitled “Son of Saul”

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — furtherglory @ 10:31 am
Scene from Son of Saul movie

Photo from Son of Saul, a movie about the Holocaust

The movie entitled “Son of Saul” is supposed to play in my city in February 2016.  I keep checking the movie schedule for the theater, in which it is allegedly scheduled to be shown, but there is nothing listed for this film.  I have been waiting so long that I am beginning to lose interest in the film.

This quote is from a review that you can read in full at https://newrepublic.com/article/130019/son-saul-not-just-another-holocaust-movie

Begin quote:

While the premise is relatively simple, Nemes presents it in a radical manner as the film focuses primarily on Saul, presented the majority of the time in medium close-up (from the waist up) with much of the background blurred. Thus, when he is on his hands and knees, scrubbing the bloody stains from the floor of the gas chamber, we see vague images of bodies dragged out behind him.

[…]

What I found more troubling was the narrative leap we’re required to make where Saul’s movements are concerned. He seems to have free range where roaming around the camp is concerned, and while that might be vital to telling the story, it stretches the plausibility of the entire affair. Unnecessary subplots bog down the story as well, as screenwriters Clara Royer and Nemes set the action during the events of Oct 7 and 8, 1944, in which an inmate revolt took place and four astonishing pictures — the only ones known to be taken in any of the camps depicting Nazis disposing of Holocaust victims — were taken. Saul finds himself at the center of both of these events, which distracts him from his primary focus.

End quote

The ruins of Krema IV are a reconstruction

The ruins of Krema IV are a reconstruction

The subject of “the Sonderkommando revolt” is quite controversial. The revolt took place in Krema IV, which was located just north of the clothing warehouses, which were in a section at Auschwitz-Birkenau that the prisoners had named “Canada” because of all the riches to be found there.

Across the road from Canada was the Central Sauna which had a shower room and disinfection chambers where the prisoners’ clothing was deloused. Krema IV had a fake shower room which was actually a gas chamber, according to Holocaust True Believers.

According to Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, in their book entitled The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? the Krema IV and Krema V buildings were 220 feet long by 42 feet wide.

The Krema IV building was completely demolished, blown up with dynamite which several women prisoners had stolen from the factory where they were working. All the bricks from the building were removed by Polish civilians after the war, and the ruins that visitors see today are a reconstruction, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

The prisoners who worked in the crematory buildings, removing the bodies of the victims who had been gassed, were members of a special group called the Sonderkommando. According to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, who was allegedly a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau who did autopsies, each Sonderkommando group was killed after a few months and replaced by a new crew.

Knowing that they were soon going to be killed, the members of the next-to-last Sonderkommando revolted and blew up the Krema IV building. A sign at Krema IV says that there were 450 prisoners who were killed by the SS during the revolt or afterwards in retaliation.

For some unknown reason, the men in the last Sonderkommando group were not exterminated. Around 100 of them were marched out of the camp when it was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945. Several members of this Sonderkommando group survived and three of them gave eye-witness testimony at the 1947 trial of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, about how the prisoners were gassed at Birkenau.

 

 

February 6, 2016

Holocaust survivor who was on Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 7:38 am

I have a section on my scrapbookpages.com website about Schindler’s List, which you can read at  http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler

This morning, I read a news story about Rena Finder, a woman who survived the Holocaust because she was saved by Oskar Schindler; she had the good fortune to have been put on the famous Schindler’s List.

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg Photo credit: Reuters

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg [Photo credit: Lucas Jackson – Reuters]

The following quote is from the news story cited above:

Begin quote
[Rena] Finder was among 300 women at Auschwitz in imminent danger of being sent to gas chambers. Schindler received word of them, and he convinced Nazi commanders that he needed workers for his factory in Brünnlitz, in Czechoslovakia. But his usual bribes (mainly alcohol) did not work.

So, Finder said, he sent his secretary, Hilde Albrecht, with everything from food and diamonds to black-market goods to allow Finder and the 299 other women to leave Auschwitz [Birkenau] in 1944.

[You can read about Hilde Albrecht and Oskar Schindler on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oskar_Schindler ]

Finder said she was there for 3½ weeks, but “3½ weeks in Auschwitz was a very long time.” Her father was killed there, but she and her mother escaped, with Schindler’s help.

Schindler — whom she described as an outgoing, friendly and handsome man with a great smile — a few weeks earlier had help save 700 men from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, where they had spent a week.

“He had papers that these workers were to come to Czechoslovakia,” Finder said of Schindler.

“We left the way we came, on a train. This time they didn’t pack us as much. This time I remember we were able to sit on the floor.”

Movie director Steven Spielberg made Schindler’s compassion known internationally in the 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” based on the 1982 book “Schindler’s Ark” by Thomas Keneally.

“Schinder’s List” received 12 Academy Award nominations and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg.

End quote

I have written several blog posts which are under the tag Schindler’s List: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/schindlers-list/

January 11, 2016

“Son of Saul” wins only one Golden Globe award

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:21 am

You can read the full list of the Golden Globe winners at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/golden-globes/12041121/golden-globe-nominations-2016-winners-live.html

When it comes to awards for movies, any film about Jews or the Holocaust is bound to win in at least several categories.  Last night, the movie Son of Saul won an award for Best Foreign Film, but nothing else.  What a revolting development this is!

You can read a review of the film at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/18/movies/review-son-of-saul-revisits-life-and-death-in-auschwitz.html?_r=0

Photo from the movie Son of Saul

Photo from the movie Son of Saul

I have not seen the film because it has not yet played in the city where I live.  I will finally get to see it in February.

December 31, 2015

“the Ungraspable Horrors of Auschwitz”

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 1:53 pm

“Son of Saul” and the Ungraspable Horrors of Auschwitz

The words above are in the headline of a news article which you can read at http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/son-of-saul-and-the-ungraspable-horrors-of-auschwitz

Is ungraspable even a word?

I wrote about the Sonderkommando revolt in this previous blog post:  https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/sonderkommando-revolt-holocaust-revenge-video-game/

Brody-Son-of-Saul-1200

Quote from the news article about the film:

In the realm of Holocaust dramas, László Nemes’s first feature, “Son of Saul,” is ambitious and provocative but nearly superfluous. Credit Photograph by Sony Pictures Classics / Courtesy Everett

The title of my blog post comes from the news article which has this quote:

While emptying the gas chamber of bodies, Saul sees a boy who is still breathing; the boy dies moments thereafter, but his body is taken by a camp doctor for autopsy—and Saul, visiting the doctor (who turns out also to be a prisoner), tells him that the boy is his son and that he wants to spend a few minutes with the body. What Saul actually wants is something more drastic and seemingly impossible: he wants to take the body and give it a proper burial. Moreover, for that burial he needs a rabbi, and, making use of his position as a Sonderkommando (which allows him to move not quite freely but at least widely throughout the concentration camp), Saul obsessively searches among Jewish deportees to find one.

But, early in his quest, he happens upon other Sonderkommando members who are organizing an armed uprising to destroy the gas chambers, and they recruit him to that cause. Though Saul never makes his reasoning clear (once, he explains, “I have to eat”), he seems to join the uprising neither from commitment nor to save himself but to win his colleagues’ aid in his efforts to bury his son, and to gain the measure of mobility, as a part of their plot, that will help him to do so.

I wrote about the Sonderkommando revolt on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Tour/Birkenau/RuinsIV.html

The revolt was the occasion when the Sonderkommando Jews blew up the Krema IV gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The ruins of Krema IV are a reconstruction

The ruins of Krema IV are a reconstruction

According to Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, in their book entitled The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? the Krema IV and Krema V buildings were 220 feet long by 42 feet wide.

The Krema IV building was completely demolished, blown up with dynamite which several women prisoners stole from the factory where they were working. All the bricks were removed by Polish civilians after the war, and the ruins that visitors see today are a reconstruction, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

According to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner who did autopsies at Birkenau, each Sonderkommando group was killed after a few months and replaced by a new crew. Knowing that they were soon going to be killed, the members of the next-to-last Sonderkommando revolted and blew up the Krema IV building.

A sign at the site of Krema IV says that there were 450 prisoners who were killed by the SS during the revolt or afterwards in retaliation.

For some unknown reason, the Jews in the last Sonderkommando group were not exterminated.

Around 100 of them were marched out of the camp when it was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945. Several members of this Sonderkommando group survived and three of them gave eye-witness testimony at the 1947 trial of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, about how the prisoners were gassed at Birkenau.

This is my last blog post of 2015.  Happy New Year, everyone.

December 28, 2015

My blog posts about the movie Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:03 am
Photo of the real Oskar Schindler

Photo of the real Oskar Schindler

I check the stats for my blog every morning to see what people have been reading. This morning, I noticed that my blog posts about the movie Schindler’s List have been getting a lot of hits.

A scene from the movie entitled Schindler's List

A scene from the movie entitled Schindler’s List

I have written many blog posts about this movie which I have grouped under the tag Schindler’s List:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/schindlers-list/

I have also written about Schindler’s List on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

My photo of the place where scenes in Schindler's List were filmed

My photo of the place where scenes in Schindler’s List were filmed

December 27, 2015

photos taken by Sonderkommando Jews at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:55 am

I have just read a review of the movie Son of Saul which tells about photos, taken at Auschwitz-Birkenau, by the Sonderkommando Jews; the photos show the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

These photos are shown in the background in the movie as the main characters in the movie are shown in the foreground.

You can read about the movie at

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/film-reviews/holocaust-drama-son-of-saul-a-story-of-remarkable-resilience/article27922380/

The following quote is from the article in the link above:

The film is based on actual accounts of the Sonderkommando’s gruesome role, its members forced to collaborate with the killing machine or be killed, and marked for extermination themselves every three months as “bearers of secrets” who could not be allowed to survive. The photographer was an actual person, identified only as Alex from Greece, who took four images that were smuggled out to the Polish underground.

You can see these photos on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Sonderkommando_photographs

Photo taken by Sonderkommando Jews shows prisoners being herded toward a gas chamber

Photo taken by a Sonderkommando Jew shows prisoners being herded toward a gas chamber

Photo taken from the doorway of a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Photo taken from the doorway of a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau shows the burning of bodies

The photos shown above were allegedly taken with a 35 millimeter Leica camera by Sonderkommando Jews.

Four of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau were underground, but there were two gas chambers that were above ground: Krema IV and Krema V.

Krema IV at Auschwitz-Birkenau had a gas chamber that was above ground

Krema IV at Auschwitz-Birkenau had a gas chamber that was above ground

This quote is also from the news article:

Begin quote

In Laszlo Nemes’s remarkable Holocaust drama, Son of Saul, there’s a minor character who risks his life secretly taking photographs of the corpses.

[…]

Watching it [the movie] is a harrowing experience, and the first 20 minutes or so are particularly difficult. The film is shot from the narrow perspective – and the narrowness is the only thing that makes it bearable – of Saul Auslander, a Hungarian Jew who works in the Sonderkommando that herds new prisoners into the “showers,” collects the victims’ clothing, moves the bodies to the crematorium and scrubs out the gas chamber before the next transport arrives. We see the reality of this gruesome job slightly out of focus, as though in Saul’s peripheral vision, as the camera always stays tight on Saul’s face. Often the sounds around him, and our own foreknowledge of the place, are what make the half-glimpsed scenes particularly wrenching.

End quote from news article

Note that those mean ole Nazis forced the Jews to “scrub out the gas chamber” after each gassing.  I don’t think that scrubbing the gas chamber was necessary, but this just shows you how depraved the Nazis were.

The following quote is from my scrapbookpages.com website:

Krema IV was located just north of the clothing warehouses, which were in a section that the prisoners called Canada. Across the road from Canada was the Central Sauna which had a shower room and disinfection chambers where the prisoners’ clothing was deloused. Krema IV had a fake shower room which was actually a gas chamber.

According to Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, in their book entitled “The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It?” the Krema IV and Krema V buildings were 220 feet long by 42 feet wide.

The Krema IV building was completely demolished, blown up with dynamite which several women prisoners stole from the factory where they were working. All the bricks were removed by Polish civilians after the war, and the ruins that visitors see today are a reconstruction, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

The prisoners who worked in the crematory buildings, removing the bodies of the victims who had been gassed, were members of a special group called the Sonderkommando. According to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner who did autopsies at Birkenau, each Sonderkommando group was killed after a few months and replaced by a new crew.

Knowing that they were soon going to be killed, the members of the next-to-last Sonderkommando revolted and blew up the Krema IV building. A sign at Krema IV says that there were 450 prisoners who were killed by the SS during the revolt or afterwards in retaliation.

The men in the last Sonderkommando were not exterminated. Around 100 of them were marched out of the camp when it was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945. Several members of the Sonderkommando survived and three of them gave eye-witness testimony at the 1947 trial of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, about how the prisoners were gassed at Birkenau.

 

December 19, 2015

A blast from the past –the movie Valkrie

One of the readers of my blog made a comment in which an old movie entitled Valkrie was mentioned. This movie came out on Christmas day in 2008.

Tom Cruise in the movie Valkrie

Tom Cruise in the movie Valkrie

Unfortunately, this movie did not last long in the theaters. I think that it is because the younger generation does not care about the past.  Tom Cruise did an outstanding job of acting in this movie, so it is a shame that it didn’t last long.

I saw the movie Valkrie on opening day in 2008, and then promptly wrote about it on this page of my website:  http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Valkyrie.html

The following quote is the web page, cited above:

On Christmas Day 2008, two new movies with stories related to World War II opened in America. One of these movies was Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, which is about the attempt to kill Hitler by Claus Schenk, Graf von Stauffenberg on July 20, 1944. The other was a movie entitled The Reader, based on an autobiographical novel by German writer Bernard Schlink.

The movie Valkyrie was a big disappointment to me. It is an action movie with no human interest at all, but if you like James Bond movies, you will love Valkyrie.

The movie gets its title from Operation Valkyrie which was the code name for a plan, hatched by German Army officers, to kill Hitler and take over the German government. The word Valkyrie (Walküre) was taken from Hitler’s code name for his contingency plan to use the Replacement (Ersatzheer) soldiers stationed at Army Headquarters on Bendlerstrasse in Berlin in case of civil unrest or an attempted coup. The Army officers who were plotting to kill Hitler intended to use the Replacement Army, commanded by Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm, to take over the government after Hitler was dead.

Tom Cruise plays Claus Schenk, Graf von Stauffenberg, who volunteers for the assignment to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944 at his field headquarters in East Prussia. Cruise bears a remarkable physical resemblance to the real Stauffenberg, except that Stauffenberg was much taller. This is not a problem because, in the movie, Cruise is frequently photographed from a low camera angle, which makes him appear to be taller.

I thought that Tom Cruise did a great job of acting the part of Stauffenberg, although there was no occasion for him to show his famous smile. Tom accurately portrays the contempt that Stauffenberg had for the Nazis and Hitler. In the scenes with Stauffenberg’s wife, Baroness Nina von Lerchenfeld, who outranks her husband, Tom acts like an aristocrat in an arranged marriage, which is accurate. Unfortunately, Stauffenberg appears to be the same height as his wife, which is not accurate.

Most of the professional movie critics have complained about Cruise speaking English like an American instead of affecting a British or a German accent. Have they been to Germany lately? After more than 60 years of American occupation, that’s the way the Germans speak English now. In fact, I was once told by a German in the British zone of occupation that my English is easy to understand because I speak like an American, not with a British accent.

An important point that is not mentioned in the movie is that the men involved in the plot to kill Hitler and take over the government were almost all aristocrats with a von in their names, including Otto von Bismarck and Gottfried von Bismarck, the grandsons of the “Iron Chancellor.” Von means from and it is always followed by the name of the ancestral castle or estate. Stauffenberg was a count (Graf) and his ancestral home was named Stauffenberg. His wife Nina was a Baroness from an ethnic German aristocratic family in Lithuania.

The characters in the movie mispronounce Stauffenberg’s name which is inexcusable. The German er is pronounced like the English word air and the German au is pronounced like the ou in ouch.

The purpose of the assassination of Hitler was to put an end to World War II before the Soviet Army could invade Germany. At this point in time, Germany had no chance of winning the war: the Normandy invasion had recently taken place on June 6, 1944 and American troops were fighting their way across France, while the German army in the East was in retreat. The Army of the Soviet Union had just crossed the Polish border and was advancing toward Berlin.

Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters wanted to negotiate a separate peace with the Western allies to save Germany from complete destruction. Hitler had already made several attempts to negotiate peace, allegedly even sending his deputy Rudolf Hess on a peace mission to meet with the British on May 10, 1941, but Winston Churchill had instructed his Foreign Office on January 20, 1941 to ignore any peace offers from Germany. Hitler’s government was not acceptable to Churchill and Roosevelt, who were both upper class aristocrats, living in a completely different world than Hitler, the “people’s Chancellor.”

In January 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had announced at a conference in Casablanca that only unconditional surrender by the Germans would be acceptable to the Allies. Stauffenberg thought that Roosevelt and Churchill would be willing to negotiate with his band of aristocrats after Hitler was eliminated. However, none of this is explained in the movie.

The plotters were mainly officers in the regular German army, called the Wehrmacht. Germany also had another army, called the SS, which was commanded by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The Waffen-SS, an elite volunteer army that was loyal to Hitler, was the equivalent of the Roman Praetorian guard. Another unit of the SS served as concentration camp guards.

The plot to kill Hitler was known as “the Conspiracy” by the thousands of people who were involved. When the plot failed, there were 5,000 people arrested. There were many other low-level clerks involved in the conspiracy, who were never identified.

Hitler was the first common man to become the leader of Germany. For thousands of years, the Germans had been ruled by royalty until November 9, 1918 when the Kaiser was overthrown by a small band of Social Democrats in a “bloodless revolution.” The German aristocrats had a hard time accepting Hitler, who was an Austrian high school dropout of low class ancestry. The previous Chancellor of Germany in 1932 was Franz von Papen, a member of the nobility, and the German president was Paul von Hindenburg, an aristocrat who was a German general in World War I. German generals were traditionally aristocrats, but Hitler had allowed common men to become high ranking army officers for the first time.

In Hitler’s Germany, class distinctions were eliminated. Workers marched in parades carrying a shovel over their shoulder, right behind the soldiers who were carrying rifles. Everyone had to work, including the aristocrats. Hitler called the German people the “Herrenvolk.” Herren means aristocratic when used as an adjective, and volk means both folk and nation.

By April 1944, Heinrich Himmler, the number two man in Nazi Germany, was also trying to negotiate with the Allies. In June 1944, Himmler had made an unsuccessful attempt to contact the British with an offer of peace; some people suspected that Himmler knew about the assassination plot, and that he let it happen because he wanted to take Hitler’s place as the leader of Germany. None of these facts are pointed out in the movie.

Hitler’s Wehrmacht generals had been plotting against him since 1938. Hitler temporarily won them over by giving them money and property. After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles limited the German military to 100,000 men. When Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the German Army was secretly expanded and the soldiers secretly trained in the Soviet Union. So, from the very beginning, there was secret plotting going on, sometimes with Hitler’s knowledge and sometimes not.

The plot to kill Hitler and set up a new regime had been in the works since 1941, long before Stauffenberg, a Colonel in the Wehrmacht, joined the traitors in 1943 after becoming disillusioned while fighting on the Eastern front.

The movie opens with a scene in North Africa in which Stauffenberg is writing in his journal; he deplores the way the war is being fought by the Waffen-SS soldiers on the Eastern front in the Soviet Union. Stauffenberg is a Bavarian Catholic whose family history dates back to 1250. He thinks that the Germans should fight like gentlemen in the East. Instead, the German Waffen-SS soldiers are killing Russian partisans who are fighting illegally, while the men in the Einsatzgruppen, who followed the soldiers into the Soviet Union, are shooting the Communist Commissars and members of the NKVD, which is the equivalent of the German Gestapo, as well as Jewish women and children. This is total war, with neither side following the Geneva Convention, although, according to the Germans, the crimes of the Soviet soldiers were far worse. Of course, none of this is mentioned in the movie.

Audiences are led to believe that Stauffenberg and his band of traitors must kill Hitler in order to stop “the greatest evil ever known,” which most people will assume is a reference to the Holocaust. However, the first concentration camp (Majdanek) was not liberated until July 22, 1944, three days after the attempted assassination, so there was as yet no proof that millions of Jews were being gassed, although the BBC had been broadcasting news of the gas chambers since June 1942.

One of the big problems with the movie is that it is hard to identify the participants in the plot. Throughout the movie, the date and location of the scenes are shown on the screen, but some of the minor characters are not identified. Unless there is some reason for their names to be mentioned by one of the characters in the movie, we don’t know who is who. Some of the players, such as Josef Goebbels, can be identified by the actor’s resemblance to the actual person, but this is not always the case, and the audience cannot be expected to know the names of the conspirators and Hitler’s henchmen.

For example, the man who comes to arrest Joseph Goebbels in his Berlin office is Otto Ernst Remer, the Commanding Officer of the Guard Battalion which is part of Hitler’s Walküre contingency plan. Goebbels has just spoken to Hitler and knows he is alive. When Remer learns that Hitler is alive, he acts to stop the plot to take over the German government. Students of the Holocaust will be familiar with Remer because he became a prominent Holocaust denier after the war and persuaded Germar Rudolf to do a forensic report on the Auschwitz gas chamber, which eventually led to Rudolf’s imprisonment. When I saw Valkyrie on Christmas Day, 99% of the audience consisted of high school and college students, who might have been interested in knowing that it was Remer who was sent to arrest Goebbels.

It would have helped if there had been a few scenes showing what was going on in the world while the plotters were making their several attempts to kill Hitler. In the scenes of Berlin, there is no bomb damage shown even though there had been vast destruction of the city by that time. Only one of the Generals is ever shown on the battlefield and there is hardly any indication that there is a war going on in Europe. We have no idea of what the middle class German civilians are doing while all the bombs are dropping on their cities, or if they have turned against Hitler. We never see any of the 5,000 low level conspirators, who are mostly aristocrats, as they try to maintain the lifestyle of the nobility in the midst of war. Just one scene showing Count Gottfried von Bismarck in his Potsdam mansion having tea with some of the aristocrats who were in on the plot would have helped immensely to explain the assassination attempt. On the other hand, the scenes involving German airplanes are spectacular; the planes look authentic.

Stauffenberg’s family lives in Wannsee, an expensive suburb of Berlin. Every time his family is shown, we see a shot of his house, taken at night, but we are not told where the house is located and what the significance of this is. Students of the Holocaust will know that Wannsee was the location of the villa where the details of the Final Solution were planned.

The movie doesn’t mention that the Hungarian Jews are being transported to the gas chambers at Auschwitz during the time that the plans to kill Hitler are being made, nor that Himmler is trying to trade Hungarian Jews for trucks (blood for goods) so that the German army can continue its hopeless attempt to defeat the Russians on the Eastern front. We don’t know that the German army is desperately trying to hold on until the American army gets to the German border, because many Germans believe that the Americans will eventually join them in fighting the Communist Soviet Union. In short, the movie provides no context at all and most of the scenes are about the actual assassination attempts. This is not history, but rather an action movie, which some people might find thrilling, but others will be bitterly disappointed.

There is virtually nothing in Valkyrie, the movie, which shows what ordinary life was like in Germany in July 1944. There are no extras playing the part of a German Fräulein wearing a dirndl; no Germans drinking beer and singing in a beer garden. There is nothing to indicate that the action is taking place in Germany. Another movie, Revolutionary Road, which was released around the same time, is authentic 1950s America, down to the smallest detail.

The only scene in Valkyrie that comes close to showing Germany as it was in 1943 is when Stauffenberg goes to Hitler’s home called the Berghof to get his signature on a document. We see the famous picture window that looks out on the Bavarian Alps. Hitler’s henchmen are gathered around him at the Berghof and Albert Speer can be identified: there is a bit player who bears a resemblance to him.

Hitler is accurately shown as a broken man, petting his dog, an Alsatian Sheppard. One bit of information that I didn’t know until I saw this movie is that Stauffenberg put in his glass eye whenever he was in the presence of Hitler. He obviously wanted Hitler to have a good opinion of him, and in the scene at the Berghof, Hitler tells him that he wishes that all his Army officers were like Stauffenberg.

In the trailers that were shown for weeks before the movie opened, there is a brief scene where someone kills a mosquito with the lit end of a cigarette. Undoubtedly, there were many people who thought that this was a cruel act committed by Hitler. As it turns out, it was a German guard at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters in East Prussia who killed a mosquito on his arm. The Wolf’s Lair was located on swampy ground and that’s why there were mosquitoes. This scene may have been included by the film makers before they learned that Hitler didn’t smoke. In any case, the scene is totally out of context and has no relevance to the movie plot.

The web page, that is quoted above, was created on May 19, 2009

December 18, 2015

New Holocaust movie “Son of Saul” is in theaters today

CoverPhoto

Update January 18, 2016:  This news article calls the movie Son of Saul “Jewish Propaganda.”  http://www.jewishpress.com/news/hungarians-denounce-oscar-nominated-son-of-saul-as-jewish-propaganda/2016/01/18/

I greatly admire the photo above which is shown at the top of this news article about the film entitled Son of Saul, which was directed by Laslo Nemes:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/movies/in-son-of-saul-laszlo-nemes-expands-the-language-of-holocaust-films.html?_r=0

In preparation for seeing the film, I read about it on the news article cited above.

Photo from the film Son of Saul

Photo from the film Son of Saul

The following quote is from the news article about the film:

In “Son of Saul” Laszlo Nemes Expands the Language of Holocaust Films

“Son of Saul” is filmed in long, restless takes, with no soundtrack besides the grim cacophony of a death camp — the slamming of doors, the sifting through possessions — and is set over the course of a day and a half in October 1944. It follows Saul Auslander, a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the Jews forced to dispose of the human remains from the gas chambers, as he tries to rescue a dead boy’s body from meeting the fate of the ovens.

[…]

The film plays out on the face of Saul, a debut film performance by Geza Rohrig, a Hungarian poet whom Mr. Nemes met while studying at New York University’s film school. During the 28-day shoot, he had Mr. Rohrig rehearse for hours before filming takes, three to four minutes each, with a 35-millimeter camera placed about 20 inches from his face.

“I had to be superfocused, because every little bit of change” mattered, Mr. Rohrig said. “Like on the surface of water — even if you blow the water, you can immediately see, it shows everything.”

Mr. Rohrig, 48, who took a leave from his job teaching Jewish studies at a Brooklyn private school to promote the film, volunteers for a Jewish burial society. He spent months visiting Auschwitz as a student in Poland in the 1980s and wrote a book of poems about it. He said he regarded the Sonderkommando as victims, not perpetrators, adding that they were the only Jews in the camp to understand that they faced certain death and that his acting had to reflect that knowledge.

End quote

December 16, 2015

Only two days before the movie “Son of Saul” is ready to view

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 3:49 pm

You can read a review of the new movie “Son of Saul” at http://www.newsweek.com/review-film-son-saul-takes-unflinching-look-holocaust-405290

This quote is from the article cited above:

Saul is a Sonderkommando, a Jewish inmate compelled to work as slave labor in a death camp. Although the camp in “Son of Saul” has been identified as Auschwitz, it might as well be Treblinka or Belzec or Sobibór or a number of other places. If this is indeed Auschwitz, we are late in World War II, probably the summer or fall of 1944, when the tide of war had turned decisively against Germany and Hitler’s administrators devoted considerable resources to exterminating as many Jews as possible during the time left to them. Of course the Nazi regime had already committed unforgivable war crimes by that time, but one measure of its insanity lies here: Faced with imminent defeat, the Germans did not make the logical decision to abandon the Final Solution and pour all available money and manpower into military counterattack. It would appear they decided that killing Jews was more important than winning the war.

[…]

Is it obscene to consider the gas chambers of Auschwitz as a factory, not inherently unlike one where trousers are sewn or automobiles banged together? (Or where cattle are slaughtered, to take the obvious parallel.) Of course it is, but that was precisely the displacement mechanism that allowed the officers, guards and inmates to move from one day to the next in a semblance of normal behavior. The industrial process in which Saul works is mass murder, to be sure, and its principal output is dead bodies by the thousands, which create an increasingly difficult disposal problem. (The men, women and children to be dragged from the gas chambers are always described as “pieces” by the guards.) As in any industrial process, there are important byproducts as well. One of Saul’s jobs is to pull down and sort all the clothing that new arrivals have hung on hooks before being sent to the “showers,” looking for hidden gold, jewelry and other valuables.

End quote

The clothing of the Jews was hung on hooks before they were gassed?  I set out to find some proof of that.  I found it on my own website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Selection3.html

Begin quote from my website scrapbookpages.com

Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz was 18 years old when she was sent from Czechoslovakia to the Birkenau camp in 1943 and tattooed with the number 34042 on her left arm. In a newspaper article in the Salisbury Post, Scott Jenkins reported on a talk that Cernyak-Spatz gave to sixth-graders at Corriher-Lipe Middle School in May 2000. She stressed to the Corriher-Lipe students that the Holocaust was not a single event, but an efficiently conceived and executed process that began “the minute Adolf Hitler came to power” as Germany’s dictator in 1933.

The following quote is from the newspaper article by Scott Jenkins in the Salisbury Post:

So fierce was Hitler’s hatred, trains carrying Jews to the death camps were given priority even over troop trains carrying soldiers to battle, Cernyak-Spatz said. When she stepped off the train and onto the platform at Birkenau, the results assaulted her senses.

“The first thing you noticed was an absolutely incredible stink,” she said. The noxious, sickly sweet odor hung in the air with a dusky vapor billowing from smokestacks and staining the distant sky, she said.

Then, the selection began. The Nazis separated families, those who could work to one side, those who couldn’t to another. The second group loaded onto trucks.

The women on the trucks asked where they were going. Don’t worry the drivers told them, you will be reunited with your families.

After a nice hot shower.

“Then they took them directly in the direction of that smoke,” Cernyak-Spatz said. Soon, those who survived learned what burned in those buildings.

Guards led prisoners into the large buildings, told them to take off their clothes, hang them on hooks. And remember, tie your shoe laces together, they said, so you don’t lose a shoe.

The Nazis had told Jews to dress in their warmest clothes for the journey to the “work” camps, Cernyak-Spatz said. After the gas chambers, they gathered those clothes for their own use.

For the years during the war, “that is how the whole German nation was clothed … in the clothing and property of dead Jews,” she said.

End quote

Hungarian women were given uniforms to wear after putting their clothes on hooks

Hungarian women were given uniforms to wear after putting their own clothes on hooks

 

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