Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hot Docs '18 Film Review - The Accountant of Auschwitz

The 2012 trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich represented a paradigm shift in the international practice of bringing perpetrators to trial for crimes against humanity. Before you had to be a trigger man to be brought before the courts. With the Demjanjuk trial, the standard shifted to being present, knowing  what was going on and serving a role contributing to the process leading to Oskar Groning charge and 2015 rial.  and brought to trial. Similar to the fate of a getaway driver if armed bank robbers take a life. Witness were brought in from the U.S. Canada and Hungary to give their accounts and see the proceedings on German soil. The 93-year-old Groning told his story matter of factly commented on his role to sort through the prisoners luggage for valuables as they were not going to be needed them anymore. He was on the ramp as prisoner's were selected into groups of those fit to do labour and the others that were headed to the gas chambers.

Director Matthew Shoychet focuses on a small group of witnesses that travel to Luneberg locals for the trial. They have conflicting emotions. So much was taken away from them but what is the value of putting a 93-year-old man on trial events that he was on the fringes on 70 plus years ago. It's German prosecutor Thomas Walter who presided over the Demjanjuk trial that convinced them to go. This trial is not for you only its also for the future. People who make the choice to be complacent in Crimes against humanity in the future must know that justice will pursue them to the end time.

The narrative looks at events going right back to Nuremberg including on camera accounts from Benjamin Ferencz the prosecutor at Nuremberg who is in his 98th year. they progress through to the mid 60's where the record of convictions that stuck was very low. The SS had 800,000 members, 100,000 were investigated, 6,200 were brought to trial leading to 124 life sentences. The German people were not into the process plus many of the judges were former SS members themselves. The use of visuals for the questions during the trial was very effective, The questions swiped across the screen followed by the answers and Gronings likeness. Holocaust deniers lead by Ursula Haverbeck were also present at the trial. However, her narrative was cut off by the police under threats of imprisonment.

The Accountant of Auschwitz is an important reminder of the consequences of participating even in a seemingly passive role in genocide, mass murder or chrimes against humanity. If found, you will be brought to justice no matter your age or status in life. The goal to serve as a deterrent to current and future generations but looking back at the the last few decades with Kosovo, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Syria it seems like the worst aspects of Human nature will triumph over any fears of facing a show trial at the end of your life. A sad commentary but true and history appears destined to repeat itself over and over again

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Accountant of Auschwitz | Matthew Shoychet | Canada | 2018 | 80 Minutes.

Tags: Holocaust, World War 2, Luneburg, Trial, Prosecution, Sentence, Nazi, Auschwitz, Poland, Israel, Detroit, Toronto, Forgiveness.

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