Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Release Date-November 23, 2005.
Running Time-1 hour 40 minutes.
Polish/Hebrew/German w/English subtitles.

In our ongoing series featuring films and documentaries on the Holocaust, we have this documentary by Gullaume Moscovitz. Claude Lanzmann was the executive producer for this project, which is meant as an addendum to his epic and controversial work "Shoah". This film focuses on the very first camp built by the Nazis for the sole purpose of extermination of the Jews. Little is known about this camp in Southeastern Poland because the retreating Nazis managed to raze it to the ground and left almost no traces of the crimes that took place there. There was also no organized revolt as Treblinka and Sobibor (not for lack of trying by the inmates, who were ratted out by one of their own on at least one occasion that we know of). But the townsfolk remain, and they have stories to tell about that horrible time...

Interviewed are people who were forced to work for the camp-a local Pole who helped construct some of the buildings, a local bakery that delivered bread daily to the camp, and one of only four known survivors who, as a little girl, was forced to hide buried in a woodshed until she was liberated by the Russian counteroffensive.

Painting of the camp by a Polish resident of Belzec-

This camp was similar in detail to Treblinka, where initially bodies were buried in mass graves and then, when the order came from above, the Jews who worked in the Sonderkommando were forced to dig the pits up and burn as many bodies as possible. And like in Treblinka, there was no gas used in the mass murder of the Jews. It was all done from the exhaust fumes of a tank engine.

Still in all, due the excavations at the camp site meant to locate the exact places where the building strcutures and burial pits were located, it is estimated that around 15,000 bodies were kept buried, packed so tightly together it was impossible to get to the bottom of the pit with a drill.

One of the last surviving Polish construction workers drawing a diagram of a building he help erect on the camp grounds-

Like Lanzmann's documentary, this film is devoid of any archival footage, relying instead on images from the camp site as it existed when the interviews were taken in 2002. After the excavators and archaeologists finished their work, a proper memorial has been erected on the camp grounds to honor the dead of Belzec, whose exact numbers will probably never be known but are listed at approximately 600,000 people in the span of nine months from March to December of 1942.

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