This rather-long documentary features interviews with Jewish sonderkommando survivors of Auschwitz, Polish peasants, Jan Karski (the legendary Polish Underground courier who tried in vain to warn the world about the Holocaust), Holocaust historian Raul Hillberg, a German official at Treblinka, and others. He points out that only 40 minutes was shown of the taped interview.This entire work is centered on the premise that Jewish suffering was special, and above that of other peoples. Nazism itself is treated superficially, and the Holocaust is instead blamed on Christianity. Lanzmann’s anti-Christian bias is ostentatious.
CHERRY-PICKING AND DUBIOUS EDITING
The flawed methodology of SHOAH itself is obvious. Lanzmann should have examined fewer topics, and done so more thoroughly and objectively. He used only 9.5 hours out of 350 hours of taping, making one wonder what he left out. His work comes across as very Polonophobic. Students of the Holocaust deserve better, and I now provide some context, a few of the necessary corrections, and links for further study from solely Jewish sources. From there, read my reviews. Lanzmann, a Frenchman, is silent about the collaborationist Vichy regime and its sending of 75,000 French Jews to the death camps.
THE TROPE OF THE WEALTHY JEW–ALSO HELD BY JEWS
The Polish peasants interviewed by Lanzmann exhibit a “Jews owned everything” mindset. (pp. 89-90). An interviewed Polish peasant is made to look foolish or bigoted for “remembering” a Jew showing him a chest full of money. What Lanzmann does not tell the viewer is that Jews ALSO had their own memes of wealthy Jews–having barrels full of gold coins. Click on Journey to a Nineteenth-Century Shtetl: The Memoirs of Yekhezkel Kotik (Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology).
Let us put all this in proper context. There were many wealthy Jews and, even with the formal and informal discriminatory policies enacted to reverse Jewish economic dominance, the average Jew remained wealthier than the average Pole. See Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939 (Studies in the social sciences). In Poland, most peasants lived in poverty, and were stuck in it because the next-higher economic niche (the shopkeepers, tailors, shoemakers, etc.) was largely pre-occupied by Jews. This, rather than simple prejudice against or jealousy of Jewish successes, explains frequent Polish peasant resentments against Jews. Also, the employer-employee, buyer-seller, and lender-borrower relations are partly adversarial ones. When there are different ethno-religious groups on each side of the divide, this will naturally generate frictions between groups.
POLISH ANTI-SEMITISM WAS HARDLY UNIQUE
One interviewed German tries to relativize German conduct. (pp. 182-183). In fact, despite the fact that anti-Semitism existed in countless nations since time immemorial, it was only in Germany (Haman excepted) that it ever developed into a never-before-seen effort to exterminate the Jews. Also, the sources and course of anti-Jewish policies in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany, and those in prewar Poland, were entirely different. See The Jewish war front.
A CLARIFICATION OF THE YOU-WILL-DIE GESTURES
Poles are portrayed as generally laughing at Jewish deaths (p. 31) and mocking Jews with the you-will-die gesture. (p. 34). Against both misrepresentations, see Am I A Murderer?: Testament of a Jewish Ghetto Policeman. The cut-throat gesture was a common warning, and Poles, even according to most Jewish sources, were generally sympathetic to the plight of Jews.
As for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the conduct of the Polish Blue Police is incorrectly conflated with that of the collaborationist Ukrainian police. For the truth, see Martyrs and Fighters. Also, mention is made of some Poles turning-in Jews who had fled after the Uprising (p. 198), but not the circumstances behind it. Besides imposing the automatic death penalty for the slightest assistance to individual Jews, the Germans had created draconian collective terror against the Polish population of Warsaw for any semblance of assistance to, or connection with, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Some Poles made life-or-death decisions to turn Jews in rather than risk large groups of Poles shot by the Germans in reprisal for the Germans killed by Jews during the Uprising. See Muranowska 7: The Warsaw ghetto rising.
NOT ONLY JEWS SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF THE NAZI GERMANS
Finally, Lanzmann’s analysis is so Judeocentric that it is completely sanitized of any reference to Polish suffering. Did you know that Poles lived in daily fear of their lives, under near-starvation conditions, during the German occupation? Did you know that 3 million Polish gentiles (including about half of all educated Poles) were murdered by the Germans? There’s much more: See the Peczkis Listmania: FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST…
For further analysis of Lanzmann, please click on Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah: Key Essays (Casebooks in Criticism), and read my detailed review.