"The White Rose"
Director: Shana Furlow

"Mr. Dorman believes it is time to pay more attention to the perpetrators. Film, he says, has proved "an ideal medium" for allowing the victims to tell their stories, but where, he wonders, are the far more complex stories of the criminals? Books have been written about them yet filmmakers have exhibited a greater reluctance than historians to examine this aspect of the Holocaust. Perhaps they are fearful of humanizing the inhuman."

By Barry Gewen
"Holocaust Documentaries: Too Much of a Bad Thing?"
New York Times. February 15, 2003

I've come to believe that there are two major approaches to exploring the Holocaust through the film medium: understanding the victims and understanding the victimizers.

In the first approach, helping audiences sympathize with the victims enables them to feel the inhumanity of the experience--the hope being that someone who has emotionally experienced the victims' horror would never allow another Holocaust to occur. In the sixty years of cinema since the Holocaust, there are many films that brilliantly do just that; these films are acts of moral witness.

The second approach explores how an otherwise normal person becomes an accomplice--or worse, a participant--in Genocide. The Holocaust is the ultimate example of what can happen to a country under extreme national pressure. Again and again, history, even recent history, shows that people can rationalize the commission of crimes and atrocities so heinous as to stagger the imagination. Yet there are virtually no films set inside pre-war Germany that seek to understand why some average Germans became Hitler's willing executioners. Where are these stories?

Most Holocaust films prefer to depict Nazis as uniformly evil, fearful of showing complicit Germans as human and thereby minimizing the evil of their acts. But if all the Hutus, Serbs, and Germans were purely sociopathic monsters then genocide would have little moral significance. The humanity behind such unimaginable acts is what's so unsettling and precisely what we must understand in order to stop another people from going down the same dark path.

© Copyright 2006 - Shana Furlow