Hebrew Cover

Got Gas?

After taking a break of a week or so to recuperate, your humble reviewer has finally mustered the courage to venture back into the Danger: Boredom Zone and finish watching the communo-Zionist “Holocaust” propaganda documentary Shoah. Following are a few of his observations on the contents of disc four, comprising the exciting conclusion. (Discs 5 and 6 of the Criterion Collection set promise “special” [i.e., T4-worthy] features.)

Fredy Hirsch

Fredy Hirsch, Auschwitz’s tragic Prom Queen

This straggling stretch of the much-lauded, long-winded, and stupendously self-important film, irrespective of the intentions of director Claude Lanzmann, provides some valuable insights into how and why false rumors of extermination by gassing spread among European Jewry during the war. Rudolf Vrba, a dishonest-faced Jew who was given duties as a registrar in Auschwitz, recalls attempts by communist inmates to secure the cooperation of Fredy Hirsch, a homosexual Zionist with leadership ability, for a violent uprising within the camp. Unfortunately, Vrba’s claims that a mass gassing of prisoners was to occur within two days only drove Hirsch to commit suicide. It also comes out in the interviews that the Czech internees in the camp were unmoved by Vrba’s gassing stories, spotting these as they did for wild prevarications.

Rudolf Vrba

Smiling liar Rudolf Vrba

Explaining his decision to escape rather than go forward with a revolt, Vrba says that his intention was to spread abroad rumors of mass exterminations at Auschwitz: “I thought zat if zis will be made known by any means wizin Europe and especially wizin Hungary, from where a million Jews were supposed to be transported to Auschwitz immediately [. . .] zat zis might stir up ze resistance outside and bring help from outside directly to Auschwitz.”

Filip Muller

Sonderkommando (i.e., Jewish Nazi lackey) Filip Muller

Another of Lanzmann’s seemingly endless procession of talkative tellers of tales of heroic “Holocaust” survival is Filip Muller, who claims to have worked as a sonderkommando, forced by the SS to assist in the gas chamber exterminations. Before proceeding to unleash his terrors, Muller makes a dramatic show of being too emotionally discombobulated to continue with his story (a pretentious objection repeated by more than one of Shoah‘s interviewees – always valiantly overcome for the sake of history and remembrance!), but then promptly sets about rambling again and rattling off a self-aggrandizing anecdote.

Muller, claiming to have witnessed one brutalization too many at the entrance to the gas chamber at Auschwitz, says that he resolved to die and to join in the chamber the Czechs he was supposed to be gassing. The Czech women, however, objected and told him, “Your death won’t give us back our lives. [. . .] You must get out of here alive, you must bear witness to our suffering, and to the injustice done to us.” For this reason – to warn and enlighten posterity – and for this reason alone did Muller refuse to die along with those women, he says. So, if this yarn-spinner is to be given credence, it would seem that some of the Nazis’ victims had the leisure of making melodramatic speeches at the gates of Hell itself and that others, furthermore, actually had the privilege of deciding for themselves whether or not they would be exterminated.

Jan Karski“They didn’t look like human beings,” Polish courier Jan Karski says of the Jews whose indignities he witnessed in the Warsaw ghetto.

Also pulling the I’m-too-overcome-with-horror-to-continue shtick, but somehow mustering the fortitude to persevere, is old Jan Karski, who during the war acted as a secret courier moving between the Polish underground and the government in exile. Karski conjures from the hideous mire of his memory a 1942 meeting he had with two Jewish leaders, a communist Bundist and a Zionist, respectively, who sought his assistance in lobbying the Allied governments for arms and for special strategies and actions to liberate the Jews in the concentration camps. “They were whispering. They were hissing. It was a nightmare for me,” Karski recalls of the meeting.

Among these Jewish provocateurs’ uncompromising demands, recounts Karski, were the following: “Let dem [the Allies] make offeeshal declaration, again, offeeshal, public declaration, dat if de German nation does not offer evidence of trying to change de policy of their government, German nation will have to be held responsible for de crimes their government is committing. And now, if der are not such an evidence, to announce publicly, offeeshally, certain objects [i.e., civilian targets] will be bombed, destroyed, as a retaliation for what de German government is doing against de Jews. Dat bombing which will take place is not a part of de military strategy. It deals only with the de Jewish problem.”

Warsaw ghetto“Stench, stench, dirt, stench . . .” Karski recalls of the Warsaw ghetto.

Karski was instructed to visit as many politicians, influential Jews, and leading intellectuals as he could and spook them with the incipient legend of the Final Solution. And so as to instill in Karski a personal understanding and appreciation (sense memories, a Method actor would say) of the squalor of the Warsaw Jews’ situation, he was secretly taken on two private tours of their ghetto. “It wasn’t humanity,” he says in an awkward attempt at pathos in describing the scene he witnessed. “German officers were dere,” and on the streets were the naked bodies of people whose relatives were too cheap to pay the tax for their burial. Other horrors included the sight of peddlers desperately selling cookies and onions and flat-chested Jewesses publicly breastfeeding “babies with some crazy eyes.”

Adam CzerniakowDiarist Adam Czerniakow: the face of nerd revenge deferred

Elsewhere in Shoah the camera goes for a pornographically lurid stagger through a Warsaw cemetery, arriving at the tombstone of Adam Czerniakow, a Jewish community leader whose diary provides a valuable record of the day-to-day happenings in the ghetto. Slack-jowled, oily-nosed Raul Hilberg, editor of the English edition of the diary, puts in another appearance in order to plug the book and to attempt to extrapolate from its contents – its “anxiety”, “rumors”, “premonitions”, and anecdotes about drunken hearse drivers – a kind of preternatural foreknowledge on Czerniakow’s part of the hellish ovens awaiting his people. Ironically, Hilberg, in the midst of painting one of his tableaux of agony, admits that Czerniakow “hasn’t any criticism of the Germans themselves” or how they administered the ghetto – but this, no doubt, is only an implicit indictment of the most ingenious subtlety!

Raul Hilberg

Raul Hilberg assumes the ironic position

One of Shoah‘s most appalling sequences has the sullen Lanzmann badgering a friendly-faced old gentleman named Franz Grassler (sounds a little too suspiciously like “Gasser”, no?), who as Deputy of the Nazi Commissioner of the Warsaw ghetto played a role in trying to keep the residents in good health and free of typhus through hygienic measures. The idea, Grassler explains, was to maintain the Warsaw Jews as a workforce, not to kill them. “Ja,” Lanzmann answers sarcastically, suggesting throughout the interview that Grassler is trying to cover up his complicity in the Final Solution.  Confronting Grassler with Czerniakow’s diary, reading aloud an innocuous passage, and feigning to yank from it some smoking gun like a rabbit from a magician’s hat, Lanzmann finally stabs Grassler with this devastating and unanswerable charge: “You were part of the vast German power structure.” So shut up and feel guilty, you old archfiend!

Franz Grassler

Lanzmann hatchet victim Franz Grassler

Meandering and non-chronological to the end, Shoah concludes with the reminiscences of an Israeli veteran of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising. “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you,” this boring man deadpans, blaming the Germans for his alcoholism. This could have been the tag line for Shoah itself: “Lick the poison heart of the Jews! Sadomasochistically savor the holy blood of Shoah – if you dare!” Either that or “Writhe in penitent boredom, you gentiles!” In the final analysis, however, this reviewer arrives at the judgment that this oldie-but-goodie would probably be most appropriate to describe Lanzmann’s 9.5-hour opus:

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