Judge Dylan Charles learned more from writing this review than an entire semester of high school World History.
Survivors of Auschwitz Confront Hitler's SS
Eighteen years after the end of World War II, in December of 1963, German authorities tracked down twenty-four men who were involved with the Auschwitz concentration camp. Among the men captured were the adjutant Mulka, Dr. Capesius, who was responsible for the use of Zyklon B on people and Wilhelm Boger, a man so vile he has a torture device named after him. The trial lasted for over a year and exposed the world to what happened at Auschwitz during the war.
Verdict on Auschwitz is broken up into three, one hour parts and I recommend watching each of those parts one at a time with a healthy amount of distance between each. It's not that I'm worried your attention spans won't be able to handle a three hour long documentary. It's just a lot to try and absorb in that span of time, a lot of testimonies, a lot of pictures and video reels.
Each sections takes the audience further into the trial, starting with the arrests of the suspects and ending with the verdicts. The directors, Rolf Bickel and Dietrich Wagner, have used footage and recordings taken from during the war and the trial, as well as interviews with the people involved conducted when the film was first made in the early 1990s.
The witnesses describe some truly terrible things, the stories of inhuman brutality displayed by the guards, horrific experiments, conditions so deplorable that rare and vicious diseases were able to breed there, such as pemphigus. Where there are no images, no photos of the crimes, Wagner and Bickel display models and drawings.
As shocking as it is to hear what happened at Auschwitz, it's even more shocking to hear what happened after the war. Those men responsible scattered to the four winds, some deep in hiding, but others, exposed and out in the open, making comfortable livings. That men like Mulka and Capesius even had eighteen years of freedom is appalling.
Verdict on Auschwitz puts on display the attempt to make things right, to actually show there is some justice in the world. It also acts as a record, showing not just the trial, but the discussing the events that lead up to World War II and the rise of the Nazi party. It does a neat job of keeping the linear thread of the trial itself and then periodically going backward to examine the mentality that would lead to places like Auschwitz even existing.
There are some tracking glitches, either the result of the transfer or just because of the tape it was filmed on. There is virtually nothing in the way of extras, just some short biographies of the directors, but, for a documentary that is so thorough and displays its information so competently, I'm willing to forgive the lack of any extra information.
Films like Verdict on Auschwitz take on a different kind of importance, especially as the Holocaust falls further and further behind in history. It acts as a record, one more way to denounce those folks that deny what happened. Especially when it's a documentary as good as Verdict on Auschwitz.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
• Directors' Biography & Filmography
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