Franz Suchomel: If you lie enough, you believe your own lies.
Claude Lanzmann: But a ghetto like Warsaw's, in a great capital, in the heart of the city...
Franz Grassler: That was unusual.
Claude Lanzmann: You say you wanted to maintain the ghetto?
Franz Grassler: Our mission wasn't to annihilate the ghetto, but to keep it alive, to maintain it.
Claude Lanzmann: What does "alive" mean in such conditions?
Franz Grassler: That was the problem. That was the whole problem.
Claude Lanzmann: But people were dying in the streets. There were bodies everywhere?
Franz Grassler: Exactly. That was the paradox.
Claude Lanzmann: You see it as a paradox?
Franz Grassler: I'm sure of it.
Claude Lanzmann: Why? Can you explain?
Franz Grassler: No.
Claude Lanzmann: Why not?
Franz Grassler: Explain what? But the fact is... That wasn't maintaining! Jews were being exterminated daily in the ghetto wrote... To maintain it properly we'd have needed more substantial rations and less crowding.
Claude Lanzmann: Why weren't the rations more humane? Why weren't they? That was a German decision wasn't it?
Franz Grassler: There was no real decision to starve the ghetto. The big decision to exterminate came much later.
Claude Lanzmann: That's right, later. In 1942.
Franz Grassler: Precisely.
Claude Lanzmann: A year later.
Franz Grassler: Just so. Our mission, as I recall it, was to manage the ghetto, and naturally with those inadequate rations and the over-crowding, a high, even excessive death rate was inevitable.
Claude Lanzmann: Yes. What does "maintain" the ghetto mean in such conditions, the food, sanitation, etcetera? What could the Jews do against such measures?
Franz Grassler: They couldn't do anything.
Claude Lanzmann: Why did Czerniakow commit suicide?
Franz Grassler: Because he realised there was no future for the ghetto. He probably saw before I did that the Jews would be killed.
Claude Lanzmann: And this "death panic"?
Franz Suchomel: When this "death panic" sets in, one lets go. It's well known when someone's terrified, and knows he's about to die; it can happen in bed. My mother was kneeling by her bed...
Claude Lanzmann: Your mother?
Franz Suchomel: Yes. Then there was a big pile. That's a fact. It's been medically proven.
Claude Lanzmann: You don't remember those days?
Franz Grassler: Not much. I recall more clearly my pre-war mountaineering trips than the entire war period and those days in Warsaw. All, in all, those were bad times. It's a fact we tend to forget, thank God, the bad times more easily than the good. The bad times are repressed.
Claude Lanzmann: Yes, but do you know how many people died in the ghetto each month in 1941?
Franz Grassler: I don't know now, if I ever knew.
Claude Lanzmann: But you did know. There are exact figures.
Franz Grassler: I probably knew...
Claude Lanzmann: Yes. Five thousand a month.
Franz Grassler: Five thousand a month? Yes, well... That's a lot...