Screen of remembrance

This year, Channel 1 has found two movies that present aspects of the history of the Holocaust from little-known angles.

Eichmann movie 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eichmann movie 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This Thursday, Channel 1 presents the film Eichmann’s End at 9:30 p.m. Adolf Eichmann is a historical figure who has understandably fascinated generations. The architect and the executioner of Hitler’s Final Solution, Eichmann is intriguing because his persona seemed so mildmannered, the consummate bureaucrat. His trial inspired Hannah Arendt’s famous meditation on the “banality of evil.” He was also portrayed by the soft-spoken and decidedly low-key Stanley Tucci in Conspiracy, a dramatization of the Wannsee Conference at which the details of the Nazi death-camp system were decided upon.
In this new docu-drama, Eichmann’s End (2010), directed by Raymond Ley, his last days in Argentina are dramatized. This dramatization is mixed with actual interviews with those involved in his capture. Based on an unlikely story, the film focuses on Eichmann’s son, Nick (Johannes Klausner), who falls in love with a young woman, Sylvia Hermann (Henriette Confurius) in Buenos Aires. Sylvia turns out to be the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She and her family figured out the identity of her boyfriend’s father and brought the information to the authorities. This story is mixed with rare interviews between Eichmann and a Dutch journalist (and former SS officer) that took place in Eichmann’s house in Buenos Aires in the late Fifties.
The text of the interviews is taken directly from the journalist’s recordings. Do they provide an insight into the mind of a mass murderer? Yes and no. While the interviews are interesting, there can never be any real answers about a man like Eichmann.
“I’m an idealist,” he declares at one point, and that may be as close to an insight as we’ll ever get.
On May 1, at 9:45 p.m., the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the film, The Rabbi and the German Officer will be shown. Many know that the then-Lubavitcher rebbe, Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson, was able to flee safely from Warsaw to the United States in 1939.
This film, directed by Larry Price, tells the details of this rescue. According to the sources interviewed in this movie, a German officer, Ernst Bloch, whose father was an assimilated Jew, was instrumental in the rescue. The rescue was approved by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, in response to pressure from prominent Jews and government figures in the US. It’s a bizarre story for several reasons. The account of how Bloch got the rebbe and his entourage to the US, via a detour to Berlin, is incredible. On the one hand, it’s a heart-warming story of the rescue of a revered rabbi. According to reports, he was not seeking to leave, and had repeatedly instructed his followers not to emigrate to America or Palestine prior to the Holocaust.
On the other, the whole subject of the rescue of prominent people, while those without connections were left behind, has been fraught with controversy. And while clearly there were some members of the German army and the Nazi party who were able to conceal the fact that they had some Jewish blood, this is a fact that has been used (or misused) by Holocaust deniers to show that the German army was full of Jews. Perhaps because this subject is so controversial, Yad Vashem refused to recognize Admiral Canaris among its Righteous Gentiles.
While this is an interesting film, it raises as many questions as it answers. But both films deal with the details of stories that may be new to many viewers.