Monday 2 February 2015

On re-watching 'Shoah': 'managing' the Warsaw Ghetto

I watched the last hour of 'Shoah' (dir. Claude Lanzmann) last night. On previous occasions I've watched an hour here or there and have yet to see the whole thing.

I find myself being very interested to hear from the perpetrators' side. There's an interview with the deputy commissioner of the Warsaw Ghetto. Lanzmann tries to get him to see that this guy 'doing his best' was in fact part of the process of genocide. Instead, he says that what he was trying to do was create a system of 'self-management' by Polish Jews. Lanzmann says but people were dying at the rate of 5000 a month in the Ghetto. The deputy commissioner agrees that this was awful and terrible and people should have had more food. But what about the idea of a 'ghetto'? Lanzmann asks, Well, says the Dep., there have always been ghettos….and so on and so on.

When people say, how are such things possible? I would show them this particular interview. This is a 'good man'! We learn that he had a Ph.D in Law when he was doing this job and after the war he ran a magazine on mountaineering. He loves the open air and walking. He was doing his 'best' and in no way sees himself as part of the genocide.