Friday, January 30, 2015

Weighty Stuff

I just finished watching the new documentary "Night Will Fall," an HBO film about the Holocaust (it's actually a documentary about an unfinished documentary, which will make more sense if you get a chance to see it). I caught part of the documentary on my Kindle while at the gym. I was paddling away on the elliptical as I was watching these horrible atrocities playing out on the little screen. I chose a machine that was tucked away in a corner of the gym. That way, no one would walk by and think, "What on earth?"  I then watched the rest of it at home. I made sure my daughter wasn't around, as I felt like nightmares would surely ensue.

"Night Will Fall" is definitely worth seeing.  It should almost be a requirement. I wonder if there will ever be a time when the horror of the Holocaust becomes less sharp. I mean, I have seen many films about the subject (and have visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC) but I never fail to be horrified and sickened anew each time. I suppose that's a good thing . . . must keep complacency firmly at bay. I learned a couple of new things from the documentary. One, I guess I never knew that when the concentration camps were liberated, the SS officers were made to stay and move bodies around. It makes sense that it was done that way - I just never knew about it. Two, I also learned just how unwelcome the Jews were after the liberation. The US didn't want them, England said, "No, thanks" and so forth. I guess I just never gave that much thought to "where did the survivors all go?"  Many did not want to return to their respective homelands (like Poland) because they were unwelcome. The political climate was rough and the Cold War was right around the corner.  This is why the original documentary was shelved - politics.

Some of the footage, shot by soldiers during the liberation (and slated to be part of the original documentary) was pretty hard to watch. One aspect of the footage that really startled me was how the bodies were handled. It was the same in every camp they showed - Dachau, Bergen Belsen, Auschwitz, etc. Bodies everywhere, many stacked like firewood. In frame after frame, you see soldiers carrying the bodies around, tugging them by arms and legs and dragging them through the dirt. Even though the dead were little more than skeletons when they died, well, a human skeleton still weighs a fair amount. Not easily moved. I guess it just wasn't practical to wrap the deceased or to use stretchers or to move them more gingerly but wow, it was hard to watch. And the sheer number!  Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. It's truly an unfathomable number.

I asked my daughter if she'd ever heard of Adolf Hitler. I didn't suppose she would have heard of him, but I figured I'd ask. I know she'll learn about it in school eventually. Part of me wants to protect her from that and part of me knows she must learn about the Holocaust. It's important. And really, when I think about it, there's a lot of bad news coming her way, unfortunately. The Japanese internment, genocide in the Sudan, Hiroshima . . . the list goes on and on. Nice job, humanity.

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