Accountant of Auschwitz
Against a rising tide of hate crimes and anti-Semitism in recent years, ever-vigilant defenders of human rights have become increasingly vocal in their efforts to ensure that past crimes against humanity are not repeated. It is in this context of heated rhetoric and sometimes life-threatening physical confrontation that Matthew Shoychet’s briskly paced yet deeply ruminative documentary The Accountant of Auschwitz is being theatrically distributed. Ostensibly focusing on Oskar Gröning, a 94-year-old former member of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (SS) who was finally brought to trial in 2015 (seventy years after the end of World War II), this film mounts an incisive critique of the German justice system’s many failings, including its lack of prosecutorial commitment in taking legal action against men like him. Through a skillful blending of archival documents, footage from past and present court proceedings, and contemporary interviews with constitutional scholars, The Accountant of Auschwitz reveals how the titular defendant — a glorified bookkeeper for the SS who rooted through the personal belongings of Jewish internees in the Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Poland and stood idly by when fellow officer Josef Mengele subjected prisoners to ghastly medical experiments — lacks remorse and believes himself to be innocent. Ultimately, though, this moving testament to the perseverance needed to pursue justice at all costs is mainly concerned with the survivors, rather than the perpetrators, of genocidal acts. Their sometimes-heartbreaking reactions to Gröning, ranging from justified outrage to satisfaction in the court’s ruling to one woman’s inexplicable willingness to forgive him, is what distinguishes this film from countless other cinematic exposés of the Third Reich’s killing machine. Building toward an ending that is bittersweet in its partial incompleteness, The Accountant of Auschwitz reflects the still-unresolved feelings that surround Holocaust history, which is as relevant today as it has ever been.
Written by David Scott Diffrient
In English and German
Saturday, April 6
The short film THREE BOYS MANZANAR will open this screening.
Director Matthew Shoychet will be in attendance for
a post-screening Q&A moderated by Carolin Aronis.