Shoah“It’s a gas!” – Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler

As of writing, your humble reviewer has waded his way through discs one and two of the Criterion Collection’s 6-disc DVD release of Claude Lanzmann’s 9.5-hour Shoah (1985), which purports to tell the true story of the “Holocaust” of six million Jews through the testimonies of survivors, eyewitnesses, and participants, all adding up to a “fiction of the real”, as Lanzmann himself put it.

Claude Lanzmann 2Lanzmann scheming

Lanzmann, a French Zionist, communist, and personal messenger for Mao Zedong who interviewed movie stars for French magazines in the 60s, had during the 50s been, with “with [mentor Jean-Paul] Sartre’s blessing – Beauvoir’s lover, ‘the only man with whom [feminist lowlife] Simone de Beauvoir lived a quasi-marital existence’.” According to Beauvoir in her memoir, Lanzmann’s “rancour with respect to the goys never went away.” Shoah, if nothing else, is certainly evidence of that. Beauvoir also says that the wayward, paranoid, and tantrum-prone Lanzmann would sometimes wake from nightmares screaming “You’re all Kapos!”

Claude LanzmannLanzmann in uniform

Shoah plays like this man’s smirking, smoldering, self-absorbed, joyous, and seemingly interminable slow-motion nightmare. To watch it is to experience intermittent boredom and fascination, as sluggishly panning shots of fields and roads intermingle with alternately colorful or mundane interviews.

SrebnikSimon Srebnik looking forlorn for the camera

The first pitiful Jew viewers are offered for adoration is shifty-eyed Simon Srebnik, who claims to have seen fire shooting from death camp chimneys into the sky. “I dreamed, too, that if I survived, I’d be the only one left in the whole world,” Srebnik (obviously enjoying the attention) remembers fantasizing.

Then there is the idiotically grinning Michael Podchlebnik, whose clear giddiness at being filmed for a movie prompts Lanzmann to ask why he is smiling. Fortunately for the sake of Shoah‘s credibility, Podchlebnik has found his motivation for the next segment in which he is featured and manages to work himself up into a pretty good cry. Other survivors follow, none of them particularly compelling. One claims to have seen a wall of rainbow-colored flame erupt on the occasion of the first mass incineration. Another says water gushed up from a pit to seize the bodies dumped into it.

PodchlebnikMichael Podchlebnik, movie star

The best parts of Shoah are Lanzmann’s interviews with common Poles who lived in the vicinity of railways, camps, and “gas van” operations. What is so refreshing about these people, who come across as lovable, Slavic rednecks, is their earthiness, their unstudied eccentricity, and the obvious fact that most neglect to take the “Holocaust” very seriously.

Poles

Polish “Holocaust” witnesses – possibly inebriated

“Above all, they were dishonest,” one Pole reports of his old Jewish neighbors. Laughing women recall that their men enjoyed chasing the beautiful, idle Jewesses, but another interviewee opines that the Jews were unattractive. Lanzmann, meanwhile, constantly prods them, trying to get anybody and everybody to admit that the Polish people do not really lament the extermination of the Jews and in fact benefited from it because they were then able to move into the houses of the deceased and so up the social ladder.

PoleJews smelled bad, says this Pole

Lanzmann’s anti-Christian agenda becomes overt in the portion of Shoah comprising disc two of the Criterion release. He arranges, for instance, to interrogate a gaggle of Chelmno Poles in front of a church in which Jews were once corralled, but chooses the day of a Catholic festival for his interview, so that reminiscences of Jewish internment and theft of valuables are juxtaposed and interrupted by a devout procession with icons.

HilbergRaul Hilberg doing his Raul Hilberg impression

Anti-gentile historian Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction of the European Jews, is also interviewed and voices his view that the “Holocaust” is only the culmination of a festering anti-Semitism present in Europe and Christendom for a thousand years or more. It was “a logical progression” of Christianity toward “closure” of the Jewish question, Hilberg explains.

Hilberg, to his credit, acknowledges that no paper trail exists for a “Final Solution” as that term is generally interpreted by mainstream (i.e., corporate, Zionist-subsidized) historians and that “one cannot find a specific document, a specific plan, outline, or blueprint which states, now the Jews will be killed.” He goes on, “Everything is left to inference from general words. General wording [. . .] leaves something to the bureaucrat that he must infer.” Orders-by-inference would seem to be a novel, unorthodox, and unreliable protocol for an operation calling for military discipline, but Nazis, Hilberg gives the viewer to understand, work in mysterious ways.

Shoah coverEpic dullness in high-def

Lanzmann’s Shoah is the ultimate slog, with Pauline Kael rightly describing the documentary as one “long moan” in her assessment. Rewarding as time spent among the affable Polish villagers can be, much of the remainder (at least, based on this reviewer’s experience of the first two discs) is tedium defined. Typical of Lanzmann’s style are long panning shots over empty expanses, desolate fields and forests, ratty houses, lonely roads, snowdrifts, etc. One shot pointlessly follows a van on a road for about a minute, followed by a shot of the van boringly parking, after which the camera slowly zooms in on the stationary van – revealed to be the director’s high-tech detection Shoahmobile!

One wonders at times if the sinister intention of all this monotony is not to lull the unsuspecting viewer into a dulled, semi-conscious state of susceptibility to the Zionist propaganda. Only the contents of the next four (ugh) discs will tell.

[Read this reviewer’s further reflections on Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah here.]

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