I had the pleasure and honor of seeing the film KZ at the SXSW film festival in Austin. While one might think: "Do we need yet another Holocaust film when dozens have already been made?" The answer in the case of KZ is certainly "yes." KZ recounts the horrors of Mauthausen a Nazi Concentration camp (now in Austria), but it does it in an unusual way. One sees no pictures from the period. One is transported back in time via the voices of the earnest young tour guides and the footage of the modern day camp. Much is left to the imagination. It allows those of us who haven't toured a concentration camp to gain a little bit of this powerful human experience.
But KZ goes further by exploring the manner in which the citizens of the modern day town of Mauthausen are dealing the horrors of their town's past. We see a variety of reactions from the different residents - both those old enough to have been alive at the time and those who are too young to remember. Some are struggling with the past; some are haunted by it; others are simply trying to forget that their town was once a site of genocide and hope that the ghosts of the past will go away. Many of the individual interviews are quite remarkable. The film also explores the ethos of what can best be described as "Holocaust tourism." The need to remember the awful events of the past is contrasted with the troubling fear that somehow a concentration camp is becoming just another voyeuristic profit-making tourist site that one must while in Europe.
While KZ stays focused closely on the small town of Mauthausen, it is clearly also a microcosm of how Germany/Austria and in a larger sense Europe is coping with the tragedy of the Holocaust. The answers are not simple or easy ones, but they are worth confronting. This film is highly recommended.
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