“A little white house… lingers in my memory…”
January 2, 2011 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 film about the Holocaust, can be seen on YouTube, in 59 parts and lasting more than 9 hours. This is not for the faint of heart or for folks with short attention spans. Reminded of it through Ebert’s latest post. On Wikipedia. (Previously here)
posted by growabrain (42 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
This the year that I watch this film. Thanks for bringing back to the front of my mind.
posted by zerobyproxy at 11:38 AM on January 2, 2011


Also see this nice recent piece from the New York Review of Books blog.

Been waiting for this to show up on Netflix watch instantly but I doubt it will. I did get the discs from Netflix back in 2006 but for some reason they aren't available now. Incredible film, needless to say. I try to experience it every 10 years or so. 9 hours seems long but the film has a meditative quality that bends time.
posted by jmccw at 12:18 PM on January 2, 2011


That is a hell of a film, in both senses. I saw it in two sittings at a moth-eaten fleapit, back in the eighties. An experience.
posted by Decani at 12:37 PM on January 2, 2011


Everyone on the planet should watch the entire film at least once.
posted by The World Famous at 12:48 PM on January 2, 2011


I saw it in two sittings in the 80s; came out dazed, shocked, barely able to talk. I'm not sure the same effect can be achieved in 59 internet clips. You need to feel like there's no escape- that you have to watch it even thought you don't want to watch it any more.
posted by acrasis at 1:08 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great post. Shoah will make you weep. or it better.
posted by clavdivs at 1:17 PM on January 2, 2011


Everyone on the planet should watch the entire film at least once.

Yes, indeed.
posted by ob at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2011


tl;dw

Sorry, no. The Holocaust sucked. What happened to Native Americans sucked. The Khmer Rouge sucked. What happens every day to people in the Middle East sucks.Slavery sucked, and continues to in some parts of the world. Dead babies left to petrify in the sands of Darfur suck. Lynching in the American south sucked. There are enough examples of man's inhumanity to his fellow man to last ten generations.

I'm glad this movie exists as a historical artifact, but it doesn't convince me that the life of a Polish Jew in WWII is worth more than that of an Apache a hundred years earlier.

Every once in a while, some psychopath gets a bunch of lunk headed followers who decide that the only way to save the earth, is to physically exterminate a racial, or religious, or somehow different group.

Take your pick...
Catholic Crusades,,,
Hitler....
Manson...
Falwell
Palin.

They are all certifiable mental cases, with the lowest rung of human evolution their avid supporters. We must kill you because you are different. Yes, it makes absolutely no sense. When does killing each other EVER make sense?

The only thing more incomprehensible to me, is one group trying to say their ancestor's death is somehow more important, and more horrible, than another ethnic group's. Murder sucks. Hate sucks. Genocide sucks. Everyone who died as a result of those things, is a martyr to the stupidity of nationalism and religion. No one is special in that realm, they are all just dead.
posted by timsteil at 1:59 PM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm glad this movie exists as a historical artifact, but it doesn't convince me that the life of a Polish Jew in WWII is worth more than that of an Apache a hundred years earlier...one group trying to say their ancestor's death is somehow more important, and more horrible, than another ethnic group's.

Yeah, that's what the film is all about.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


The only thing more incomprehensible to me, is one group trying to say their ancestor's death is somehow more important, and more horrible, than another ethnic group's.

This seems like a strange message to take away from this post. Does the movie say that?
posted by jsturgill at 2:12 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tim, I get your point, but you seriously undermine yourself by lumping in Falwell and Palin with murderers. Despite the hateful rhetoric of the Right, it hardly rises to the level of the Shoah. Plus, you come off sounding like a holocaust denier, like "ooh, holocaust: no big deal." That may not be what you mean, but until you find literal skeletons in Sarah Palin's closet, how's about cooling your jets.
posted by rikschell at 2:14 PM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


The point of Shoah (in my admittedly stunted understanding of it all) seems to be that the survivors of the Holocaust are in a fortunate position to document and humanize a massive genocide in ways that weren't really available previously in history.
The point isn't to pedestal the victimhood so much as it is to make it real in ways you can't otherwise. You see that in the doc when the director pushes for more and more data and in some cases less sentiment.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:26 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only thing more incomprehensible to me, is one group trying to say their ancestor's death is somehow more important, and more horrible, than another ethnic group's.

so, who's keeping score? -was anyone keeping score?

sheesh
posted by pyramid termite at 2:31 PM on January 2, 2011


Coming around the corner, we have Hindu Kush. Hindu Kush, around the corner, Shoah nipping at her heels. And in the lead, we have the North American Indigenous Native population, North American Indigenous Native population tipping the scales at 100 million. And it's hard to see anyone in this race catching up with North American Indigenous Native population...
posted by stinkycheese at 2:41 PM on January 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


timsteil is now doing performance art along the vein of what we get from Faze Productions?
posted by hippybear at 2:42 PM on January 2, 2011


Everyone who died as a result of those things, is a martyr to the stupidity of nationalism and religion. No one is special in that realm, they are all just dead.
posted by timsteil

The importance of ‘Shoah’ was the totality of the dehumanizing process that must take place for any genocide, in any time. Your statement upon genocide is valid but the Nazis went one step further and set up a bureaucracy of death unparallel in history. It was the methodology used, the implementation of science and history that made this unthinkable even when confronted with empirical data. Empirical data exists about what the Khmer Roughe were doing as early 1976 in the Ford Archives. How much blame becomes the issue in genocides past and present this is not the point of ‘Shoah‘. ‘Shoah’ has a ominous cinematic theme, haunting and unnerving and this is the trains. The trains that do not stop even when bombed. The Trains, whistle and stop in front of death camp signs, these people were taken to slow killing prisons (sonnderkommandos aside) but quick methodical death. In episode 59 the last word spoken “I’ll wait for morning and the Germans” then silence. The trains continue and though filmed 40 years after the fact they haunt and remind, even into the credits, the trains still move. (4:05-5:16)
The were slaughtered and all “we” have left to utter is “we could not stop the trains”.
posted by clavdivs at 2:54 PM on January 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've just been handed a piece of paper... and, forgive me folks, that was Continental American Indigenous Native population, once again, Continental American Indigenous Native population for the win. Forgive me please, I do get so excited sometimes...
posted by stinkycheese at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


'were not' rather
posted by clavdivs at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2011


Continental American Indigenous Native population
a genocide yes, but they fought back, ask general custer.
posted by clavdivs at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2011



I'm glad this movie exists as a historical artifact, but it doesn't convince me that the life of a Polish Jew in WWII is worth more than that of an Apache a hundred years earlier.


what
posted by Wordwoman at 3:04 PM on January 2, 2011


timsteil, not that I want to dignify your silly comment with a response, But your point essentially boils down to - because there have been vast examples of inhumanity throughout the ages, we can demote the hypocaust to a sort of "yada yada yada" status.

Also, to compare Palin, Falwal or Mansonl to the crimes of Hitler is really devalues the currency of your point further. I note you didn't mention Stalin or Mao.

And to say that the Holocaust "sucked" ah fuck it. I doubt you have the attention span to read this far.
posted by the noob at 3:11 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was raised to believe the 'never again' concept about the holocaust was never anyone, never anywhere again. Not that the Jews were more important, just that they were, as mentioned above, in a unique position to be able to document it. So much of the writing about the shoah (including the piece that got so used on MeFi as to lose all meaning, about "When they came for X, I did nothing, because I was not X") is written as a warning of how it happened, and could happen again.

For myself, I've seen the film. When I was seven. I'm still very, very conflicted about my mother's insistance that I see it, and taken part in the Yom Hashoah services at that young age. I know I've forgotten a lot of it, but I do clearly remember the director/interviewer walking down train tracks, covered in weeds, talking to a survivor.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:32 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, how does one go about watching a nine hour emotionally intense documentary?

In groups, with discussion after; in solitaire? This seems worthy of watching, I just want to be able to do it in as accessible a manner as possible.

Thx.
posted by el io at 5:20 PM on January 2, 2011


In pain and utter fury and hopefully a very loud silence. That is the easy part.
posted by clavdivs at 5:34 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


They are all certifiable mental cases, with the lowest rung of human evolution their avid supporters.

Categorising people in evolutionary stages to disparage them is tasteless, especially in a thread about the Holocaust. And I don't mean this as a pile on.
posted by ersatz at 6:01 PM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everybody should have the right to document their own experience.
posted by newdaddy at 6:15 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm glad this movie exists as a historical artifact, but it doesn't convince me that the life of a Polish Jew in WWII is worth more than that of an Apache a hundred years earlier.

If this is one of the top 1,000 messages you take away from the film, you probably need to watch it again. And again. And again. And again. Because no one's saying that, and it certainly isn't the point - and I say this as a victim of genocidal actions that didn't receive anything like the attention they merited.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:33 PM on January 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


timsteil, the next time you want to tell us all what a particular movie is about, I suggest watching it first.
posted by tzikeh at 7:16 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I tried to find this online a while ago and failed. I'm so glad it's out there. It needs to be.

There's a level at which it's possible to get desensitized to archival footage. It's the same film over and over again, it's black and white, it's always a little bit too much to take in. But it's much harder to mentally box, compartmentalize (and thus avoid) a calm personal tale from a man who could be your uncle or your grandfather, told in a quiet and peaceful place.

There's a bit in that first youtube clip that sums that up perfectly. A man walks down a road in the woods. He stops and turns, and says "It's hard to recognize it. But it was here. They burned people here.. This is the place." The camera pans around to an open field with a few unobtrusive low walls and a pine forest in the background.

And it all comes rushing in at that point. You move emotionally from the quiet oldish guy telling his singular tale in the calm rural setting, to the tens of thousands, and the hundreds of thousands, and the millions, suffering and dying in hell on earth.

At least for me, it's all about that. It's the way Lanzmann repeatedly leads you from the individual and normal to the massive and evil. It's about that style being infinitely more effective than other documentary styles used to convey this area of history. It's about it more thoroughly bringing home the full horror of the holocaust than anything else ever has.

If you watch it, you're open to it, you give it your full attention, it just changes something inside you. Changes it permanently. Initially it leaves you devastated, later it leaves you committed to the idea of never letting this shit happen again. I can't really conceive of it not working that change on others.

We need stuff like this.

My thanks for posting this, growabrain.
posted by Ahab at 12:03 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Ahab. You beat me to it. I had a similar reaction when I was reading We Regret to Inform you that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families, and when I watched the documentary attached to "Hotel Rwanda". See also: The Book Thief, or, Sarah's Key, or The Zookeeper's Wife.
All of these works, both fiction and true, serve the same function: they put a human face on something unimaginable. Incomprehensible. To the point where people can be dismissive: "the holocaust was really, really bad, m'kay?"
Putting a human face, an individual, with a life having the same value as every other person on this planet on these stories makes you sit up and take notice, and understand that it cannot be understood in broad, sweeping gestures, let you forget those were human fucking beings being robbed of their lives in a situation that defies any understanding. To do that, to NOT bear witness to these horrors, is to doom certain factions of the human race to try it again, and again.
see also: Rwanda
see also: Sudan
see also: Burma
I could go on, you get my point.
And oh, yeah: Lo Tishkach.
posted by the_royal_we at 3:15 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose you can't help yourselves but pile on Timsteil. After all, he dares to challenge the dogma. That must not be allowed! Get a noose!

Dogma is the first step on the journey that ends with piles of corpses. Of course you folks can realize that, you're really a bunch of good, bright people. He didn't say it was a trifle, or that it didn't happen. He sure as hell didn't condone genocide. To me, he seemed to suggest that our way of looking at the holocaust may run contrary to our sincere desire to end this kind of horror.

For that, he gets a pile-on.

If you don't think he has a legit point, than go ask a Palestinian, struggling to survive in Gaza, what "Never again" might mean.
posted by Goofyy at 3:41 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


After all, he dares to challenge the dogma.

there's no dogma to challenge here - just testimony and documentation of something horrible that happened

For that, he gets a pile-on.

no, for what was essentially a straw man argument

If you don't think he has a legit point, than go ask a Palestinian, struggling to survive in Gaza, what "Never again" might mean.

at least he can struggle to survive and have reason to believe he will

but i don't think timsteil has a legit point - i don't think it's possible to come up with some kind of hierarchy of suffering and genocide by which we calculate if one group of victims is getting too much attention at the cost of others - i don't know why it would be a zero sum game - i don't know why attention to the holocaust prevents one from paying attention to the genocide of the american indians - i don't know why he was expressing resentment over focusing our attention on this movie or this historical incident, but it's clear to me that he was

if he's suggesting that our way of looking at it might not be effective, he needs to explain why - and he also needs to explain why his way of not looking at it is going to be effective in preventing similar things
posted by pyramid termite at 7:57 AM on January 3, 2011


Or maybe you should explain how your narrow focus on one incident of genocide doesn't make it too easy for every everyone else to say "We're not like them!". Or explain why so many people seem to believe that, as long as Jews aren't being killed, we need not worry about fascists.

And then explain why it's so reasonable that I was over 20 years old before I ever heard about pink triangles, while sure as hell I heard all about stars of David.

And then explain why that old Jew at the Holocaust museum seemed to feel that those of the pink triangle "got what they deserved".
posted by Goofyy at 9:12 AM on January 3, 2011


Or maybe you should explain how your narrow focus on one incident of genocide

you can stop right there - i'm addressing the subject of the post - this does not mean that is the only thing i am focused on

go peddle your straw men somewhere else
posted by pyramid termite at 9:14 AM on January 3, 2011


And then explain why it's so reasonable that I was over 20 years old before I ever heard about pink triangles, while sure as hell I heard all about stars of David.

Well, as far as the pink triangle thing goes....

Much of the full history of what exactly Nazi Germany was up to wasn't simply immediately known right after the war. It took a long time to piece together what was being done. And the sheer numbers involved mean that the under 100,000 homosexuals who were in concentration camps were pretty much lost in the sea of yellow stars. Not to mention that many of the homosexual prisoners were re-imprisioned by the powers that came along after the war.

And homosexuals, having been a loathed minority in nearly every country until very recently, have had to struggle for simple existence in a way which the Jews have not. It wasn't until basically the 1970s that homosexuality started to become something which wasn't shunned, relegated to invisibility, or treated as a criminal act. And it really wasn't until nearly the 1980s before the pink triangle began to be reclaimed by the Pride movement as a symbol, at which time it moved out of the shadow of six million dead and began its own life in the public consciousness.

Now, you don't say how old you are in your profile, Goofyy, but I'll be 43 on Saturday, and I'm keenly aware that everything that has happened in the GLBTQ liberation movement has happened during my lifetime. And growing up in southern NM, there simply wasn't opportunity for me to be exposed to a lot of the things which were going on while I was growing up, through into my teenage years. By the time I was in high school in the mid-80s, I certainly had heard of the pink triangle (along with the other colors used for other classes of prisoner), but the concept of it as a Pride symbol was, of course, not being taught in the public schools. Here in the US, it seems the single springboard into learning about the Holocaust is The Diary Of Anne Frank, which is naturally about the Jews. And as they are the largest group to have been rounded up, it's understandable that they get all the attention.

Plus, specifically, Shoah (I believe) is a term which refers specifically to the attempted extermination of the Jewish people. So that's why this particular document focusses on those people.

If you haven't seen "Paragraph 175", which is a film of interviews of homosexuals who were in the camps, then you really should. It's not 9 hours long, but it's as close to an equivalent film that the pink triangles will likely ever have. (Watch it here -- Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Now... as far as why the old Jew at the museum said the pink triangles got what they deserved? You'd have to ask him that. Bigotry knows no bounds, regardless of the history of one's people.
posted by hippybear at 10:01 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, you don't say how old you are in your profile, Goofyy, but I'll be 43 on Saturday

there is very little reason to ask this info, sorry goofyy if im walking down Dort highway naked, but im saying it, Tim doesnt have to explain himself, he is outraged by genocide and what is wrong with that. I had similar views, alot of people do, it is part of trying to even think of this hell.


And then explain why that old Jew at the Holocaust museum seemed to feel that those of the pink triangle "got what they deserved".

goofy, there is a bar in Flint now, called the Pink Triangle.
for what is worth.
posted by clavdivs at 10:27 AM on January 3, 2011


Now, you don't say how old you are in your profile, Goofyy, but I'll be 43 on Saturday

there is very little reason to ask this info


Sure there is. If Goofyy is in his 60s, it's not surprising that he didn't hear about the pink triangle until he was in his 20s. If he's only 30, then there is indeed something interesting going on with his exposure to the pink triangle.

But then, I didn't ask anyone anything.
posted by hippybear at 10:44 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then explain why it's so reasonable that I was over 20 years old before I ever heard about pink triangles, while sure as hell I heard all about stars of David.

I can't explain your lack of knowledge about these things, perhaps you could have found out about pink triangles and brown triangles and purple triangles because you were interested in what happened during that period? Dunno. I certainly knew of these before I was twenty, but I suppose I'm a history nerd.

The post is specifically about the the film Shoah, yes there have been genocides through history, but that's not what this post is about. timsteil offered a silly derail and is not around to back up the argument, but luckily you are around to blunder in for him.

And then explain why that old Jew at the Holocaust museum seemed to feel that those of the pink triangle "got what they deserved".

Probably because he was homophobic, but you probably knew that and didn't need it explained. Does the fact that he says something diminish the horror of the event somehow?

If you don't think he has a legit point, than go ask a Palestinian, struggling to survive in Gaza, what "Never again" might mean.


"Never again" would be good if the Palestinian situation didn't derail a discussion about the holocaust. That particular horror deserves its own thread.

Is your point that because the Israelis Jews are repressing the Palestinians the holocaust was like some sort of pre event comeuppance of Israel's role in Gaza and the West Bank?
posted by the noob at 11:02 AM on January 3, 2011


Shoah is powerful and moving. It is not a detraction of the film to note that Lanzmann himself discourages any research into the Holocaust as he believes it diminishes the uniqueness of its horror in human experience: the most immoral evil ever conceived or actualized. So the director, at least, seems to think that the horror visited on his people is worse than anything else ever.

Whatever. It all seems like the empty math of ghastliness to me. Everyone should see Shoah. The length of it is less daunting than you would think.
posted by umberto at 4:33 PM on January 3, 2011


Well, I was certainly expecting a bit of piling on, so I am neither surprised nor hurt by anything said, because it seemed all in all, reasoned.

If anything, I prefer the word Shoah, because it refers to what happened to Jews under German rule, and not genocide in general. I think that considering that particular period in history as "The Holocaust: is wrong, because it was not the first, and, given mankind's ability to use their genius to produce more lethal weapons, and their ignorance and hatred to come up with more reasons to kill other humans on a mass scale, I promise you, it will not be the last.

Yes there was a distinct evil to what the Germans did. The cold mechanics of it, trains to camps to gas chambers to air pollution. It's unthinkable to do that one person, much less millions. As far as the oft quoted number, "6 million Jews", personally, I think that number is wrong -- is is probably way higher, but in that enormity of horror, how long can anyone keep counting?

There were probably many relatives who dissappeared, and all those left never knew if they escaped, or were killed, and were dead themselves before they could ever relay the news to anyone outside who could keep that history. So much of that depended on eyewitnesses, and the eyewitnesses were also gone. Trying to differentiate between the Jews, and the Poles, the Gypsies and the Gays, or anyone who was deemed different enough to earn a death sentence, I don't know if enough factual records exist to make that even possible. If it even was, what difference would it make, if it was 6 million, or 6,000,089?

It's a fools errand to try to quantify a heirachy of horror in genocide. My first thought, would be to ask "Well, how many people died?" Six million give or take under Hitler. Bad. Thirty million give or take under Stalin? Five times worse. as far as Cambodia, or Darfur, China or Rwanda, or any other hell on Earth where the names are never recorded and will never be known much less counted, how do you assign a ranking to that.?

Beyond the sheer number of people, could there be a greater evil beneath it all? While Hitler surely intended, he failed to eradicate the Jewish people from the Earth. While Russians tried the behead the Polish intelligentsia in Katyn, they didn't. As the Taliban blew up the Buddha's of Bamiyan, they only strengthened the resolve of Buddhists worldwide.

I think that, the willful eradication of a people, and any remnants of their culture is the pure evil that transcends mass murder. Three good bombing runs tonight, could eradicate the Hmong people, any remnant of their culture or language for all time.

They could kill 200 million Americans tomorrow, but I guarantee you the Constitution will live on in print, and a week later there will still be Farsi-subtitled reruns of Seinfeld playing in Qom.

I know any comment regarding Judaism or Israel that is not entirely positive is a hot button issue with some folks on both the blue page and the blue planet, and I'll take whatever guff folks feel necessary to give me as a result of my making one.

All I'm saying is, don't let a focus on "Never Again". turn into a blindness to the larger historical context, or what is happening in the present.
posted by timsteil at 4:27 PM on January 4, 2011


If anything, I prefer the word Shoah, because it refers to what happened to Jews under German rule, and not genocide in general.

And Shoah is specific to this FPP. But if you're going to talk about how many died under Hitler? You have to add on another 3 to 5 million to account for homosexuals, gypsies/roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, political prisoners, and other groups which were also rounded up into the same camps.

I don't think anyone is trying to claim that the Shoah is any better or worse than any other genocide. And I don't think anyone is trying to use this particular film as a way to be blind to other genocides which have happened or are happening or will happen in the future. It's a specific document about a specific event, and as such, can be used as a springboard into contemplating any and all attempts at eradication of a people.
posted by hippybear at 4:36 PM on January 4, 2011


But if you're going to talk about how many died under Hitler? You have to add on another 3 to 5 million to account for homosexuals, gypsies/roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, political prisoners, and other groups which were also rounded up into the same camps.

I think I just did that. Perhaps you mistook it for performance art.
posted by timsteil at 4:44 PM on January 4, 2011


« Older Dog Videos...  |  How to do accents.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments