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Rainer Werner Fassbinder
An important story of successful and heroic concentration camp resistance.
From the director of "Shoah," Claude Lanzmann, comes a documentary on the only successful revolt by Jewish concentration camp inmates. The Sobibor uprising in 1943 in Poland was investigated by Mr. Lanzmann many years ago when he was filming "Shoah" and his interviews with a participant named Lerner date from then. The director felt that the Sobibor uprising, which led to the closure of the extermination camp by the Nazis after many escaped, was too important to be a small part of his epic documentary. Now he has returned to this little known story.
Although Mr. Lerner is alive and well in Israel, Mr. Lanzmann felt that the much earlier footage of his extensive interview with the heroic survivor was all he needed and, in fact, much of the film is the interview itself.
At Sobibor, where Jews were usually gassed almost immediately upon arrival, a small number were selected for slave labor. Knowing that they were doomed and led by an experienced soldier, a Jewish captain of the Red Army, a handful of inmates resolved to kill the few Germans in command of the large and brutal Ukrainian contingent that actually did most of the dirty work.
Despite the horror of the situation and Mr. Lerner's subdued but dramatic recitation of his many escapes from German hands before landing in Sobibor, both he and the audience can not resist a smile when he repeatedly emphasizes that the escape plot could never have succeeded but for the Germans' compulsive, indeed fanatical, penchant for punctuality. That was the key to quickly killing them before any discovered what was coming down. Each was lured to a different camp shop with their "appointments" spaced only a few minutes apart.
The drama in this documentary is almost wholly in the interview, on-site scenes having a largely marginal quality. The film ends with a long recitation, presumably by the director, of the dates, places of origin and numbers of each of the transports to Sobibor. Chilling - and this infamous monument to madness was only one extermination camp.
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