A place: Theresienstadt. A unique place of propaganda which Adolf Eichmann called the "model ghetto", designed to mislead the world and Jewish people regarding its real nature, to be the ...
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A place: Theresienstadt. A unique place of propaganda which Adolf Eichmann called the "model ghetto", designed to mislead the world and Jewish people regarding its real nature, to be the last step before the gas chamber. A man: Benjamin Murmelstein, last president of the Theresienstadt Jewish Council, a fallen hero condemned to exile, who was forced to negotiate day after day from 1938 until the end of the war with Eichmann, to whose trial Murmelstein wasn't even called to testify. Even though he was without a doubt the one who knew the Nazi executioner best. More than twenty-five years after Shoah, Claude Lanzmann's new film reveals a little-known yet fundamental aspect of the Holocaust, and sheds light on the origins of the "Final Solution" like never before.Written by
The title of Claude Lanzmann's documentary is a playful reference to André Schwarz-Bart's classic French novel "The Last of the Just", first published in 1959. Schwarz-Bart was the son of a Polish Jewish family murdered by the Nazis. It was Schwarz-Bart's first book and won the Prix de Goncourt, France's highest literary prize. See more »
Harrowing Aspect of the Final Solution in Nazi Germany
I am not sure what to make of THE LAST OF THE UNJUST. It tells the story of Theresienstadt, now in the Czech Republic, which was designated by Adolf Eichmann as a "model ghetto," an idealized place which was deliberately designed to mislead the world about the ways in which Jews - especially the elderly, as well as children - were being treated. A propaganda film, released in the early Forties, shows a happy community of people contributing to the nation through regular work and ample leisure-time in which people were free to do as they wish.
In truth the "model ghetto" was just another death-camp in which Jews were herded together and either left to die or gunned down in cold blood. Benjamin Murmelstein, the last president of the Theresienstadt Jewish Council, was forced to negotiate day after day from 1938 until the end of the war with Eichmann. When the war ended he was ostracized by the Jewish population and forced into exile into Italy.
Three decades later director Claude Lanzmann tracked him down and interviewed him in Rome. Like many of those involved in the Final Solution, Murmelstein protests his innocence as well as trying to justify his behavior. But of course nothing can ever redeem him from the guilt of what happened.
Lanzmann's footage remained dormant for nearly four more decades until Lanzmann, now an elderly man himself, decided to put it in a film. THE LAST OF THE UNJUST is a long piece of nearly four hours duration, wherein the Murmelstein interview is split up with historic footage, as well as Lanzmann talking direct to camera about the reminiscences of those unfortunate enough to be members of the community, both living and dead.
The message is a harrowing one, reminding us of the depths to which humanity can sink in its lust for power. What renders the film even more difficult to fathom, however, is our awareness that similar atrocities have taken place elsewhere in the world since 1945, and continue to dominate the headlines. It seems that no one really wants to learn from the lessons of history despite Lanzmann's laudable attempts to make us do so.
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