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Hot Docs 2018 Review: “The Accountant of Auschwitz” (2018) ★★★★



Oskar Gröning’s name might be familiar to some of you. Some might know him as the “Accountant of Auschwitz.” I wonder, how you, dear readers, would react as you read what he has to say about the gruesome events that happened in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the WW2. Here is a quote of what he shares: “During the first time in the ramp in November 1942, there was a special event. After arriving at the ramp, a Jewish mother hid her baby in a suitcase. The baby started crying. An SS corporal took the baby by the legs and smashed it against the iron door of a truck. And the crying stopped.

I believe you might need a moment to process these words. Those, who have witnessed such things with their own eyes, will probably see nightmares throughout their whole lives.

Written by Ricki Gurwitz, edited by Ted Husband and from the producers Ric Bienstock and Ricki Gurwitz, the film “The Accountant of Auschwitz” directed by  Matthew Shoychet follows the bookkeeper Oskar Gröning. This person was once in charge of collecting all the money and valuable items from the Jews. He knew for sure they were not going to need those things any longer. This film captures the most important trial since the infamous Nuremberg. trials. It features interviews with the survivors of Auschwitz. We meet the war crime investigator Benjamin Ferencz, the Chief Prosecutor of  Einsatzgruppen Trial Nuremberg (1947-1948), and many others, who give enough information for us to realize that the Statute of limitations should not take place when it comes to prosecuting war criminals.

The documentary reveals facts that are heartbreaking. From the very beginning of the film, we learn what Auschwitz meant for an SS officer – it was like a small town that had its own cinema, entertainment programs, and sports club. The residents of that town had a daily job, which was reducing the number of Jewish people on Earth. Of course, they did follow orders. But as the film reveals, there has been not a single officer who would go against the order to kill an infant or an elderly person or just an innocent human being. Quoting Oskar Gröning’s words again: “The children were not treated as an enemy at the moment. The enemy was the blood that was inside them.” That was all that mattered to an officer who committed the cold-blooded murders.

In this documentary, you will also meet Holocaust deniers. These people passionately reject the idea of a mass murder or that the Holocaust itself ever took place. Those words do not change the reality as we watch Oskar Gröning testify about what he has witnessed at the Auschwitz camp. He has never taken a single life with his own hands  – being the accountant, his participation was not to hold him accountable.

Documentaries like this one are worth thousands of books.  Within its one and half hours of running time, you will get a chance to learn about multiple things. It talks about being kind and gentle to people, as well as about facing the reality of war and the lack of compassionate people during it, and the terrifying results of it. When you watch this film, you should be prepared to see painful archival footages and to hear interviews about children who have lost their parents and their entire families.

It is difficult to review such a powerfully narrated film. It will make you think about what we have done in the past, and what we should do to prevent such inhumane acts from happening again. Next, the film highlights some statistics. With basic math skills, one can see how many people lost their lives during those events. 172.000 Jews were murdered in the concentration camp named Chelmno in Poland. Another camp in Poland – Treblinka took the lives of 925.000 people. More than 1.100.000 people were killed in Auschwitz; 80.000 lives were lost in Majdanek; Sobibor claimed 167.000 lives, while in Belzec 435,000 innocent people were murdered.

In conclusion, “The Accountant of Auschwitz” from the executive producers Randi Kirshenbaum, Jordan Nahmias, Berry Meyerowitz and Jeff Sackman is a must-see documentary about a man who is guilty if not in killing 300.000 people himself, but of doing nothing to save those lives, when, in fact, he could have done it in the same way Schindler did. This documentary provides so much overwhelming information that it is going to be really hard to process it. But we must do it, as watching it, we all put a big, bold stamp in our minds and hearts to ensure these horrors will stay in our memory forever.

Films like this also remind us that justice will always find its way to be served. Every single person who is responsible for the Holocaust and other massacres and genocides committed in this world should be hunted down. No one is above law. And if somebody thinks otherwise, then perhaps they are not educated enough to know that the Statute of limitation will not save them from what they have done.

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