One of my OT posts

Yesterday I went with Michael’s family to be a part of their church directory portrait. I had planned to wear a sundress for the picture but wound up wearing one of the brightly colored plaid shirts I favor instead. The whole process was rather agonizing in large part because Michael’s cat, Carmen, was also participating. She behaved herself about as well as can be expected: that is, she meowed and complained during the drive, then repeatedly refused to look at the camera like she was supposed to. But on the plus side she didn’t claw anyone or make a mess.

As I recall there was one portrait of all five of us together, one portrait of Michael’s parents, one portrait of Michael and me, and one portrait of Michael, me and Carmen. I was tasked with holding her and it was difficult to do so and smile at the same time. But I think the pictures turned out well. They’ll arrive in a few weeks and I’d like to compare them to the last church portrait, from five years ago.

I’ve been watching Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust. In segments, obviously. To say I am enjoying the movie would probably not be proper, but I am certainly intrigued by it. So far Lanzmann has interviewed a bunch of survivors and witnesses, and two low-level Nazis, both convicted war criminals. One didn’t want to talk. The other was willing and actually quite honest and open about his experiences, speaking freely (though without remorse) on the condition that Lanzmann not use his name. He was unaware that Lanzmann was secretly recording the interview with a hidden camera — and of course, he did identify the man for the film. And I thought: Sucker!

Michael and I had a spirited discussion about it last night. I told him what I had seen so far and he feels Lanzmann was wrong, very wrong, to videotape his interview without the person’s knowledge or consent. A violation of journalistic ethics, he says. Which is true. But, well, the man was a Nazi and I can’t muster up a lot of sympathy for him.

As for the other Nazi war criminal — the guy worked at a bar, serving drinks, and couldn’t just walk away even though he dearly wanted to. The film showed him handing out beers while at the same time trying to hide his face from the camera, and repeatedly saying “I don’t want to talk about this” and “I don’t want to answer that question” in response to Lanzmann’s “Do you remember the bodies? What they smelled like?” and such other remarks. When I watched it I thought: You sniveling little coward, look up at the camera and face up to what you saw and did.

Michael thinks the man’s refusal to talk about the war does not make him a coward and that Lanzmann was being a bully by essentially ambushing him at work. He says “ambush journalism” is also an ethics violation. Perhaps it is. But, well, again, this guy was a Nazi.

It’s food for thought anyway. And for what it’s worth, Shoah wasn’t released until years after both these men were dead.

I look forward to watching the rest. I’ve got to get it done as quickly as possible so I can send the discs back to Netflix. They won’t send any more movies until I do.

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5 thoughts on “One of my OT posts

  1. whereaboutsstillunknown July 30, 2014 / 4:26 pm

    I have to agree with Michael in this case. It’s not like these people had an option on whether to be a Nazi or not. They did as they were told just like our troops do. That said, I would not have any sympathy for Hitler himself.

    This book is on my list to read http://www.amazon.com/Tearing-Silence-Being-German-America/dp/068484611X and is told from the German point of view, the shame and grief they felt being part of Germany in that time.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2014 / 5:20 pm

      Neither of these men were planners or instigators, just in the support staff. But I would argue that both of them did have a choice: they could have chosen to go to the Russian Front. A lot of SS chose to work in the concentration camps and death camps because it meant they wouldn’t have to go to Russia, and because they got paid more money and got more leave time.

      If they’d gone to Russia that would have involved a great deal of personal suffering and the strong possibility, but not the certainty, of death. They chose to stay for pragmatic reasons.

      I know I ought to agree with Michael — that rules are rules, two wrongs don’t make a right, etc. But when I think that, I then think: “But Nazis.” I can empathize with the witnesses, the followers, even the collaborators a little bit. But for some reason, try as I might to rationalize what they did, no matter how many times I tell myself I don’t know what I would have done in their place, I can’t bring myself to sympathize with the people who willingly committed those atrocities, and that would include all those assigned to the death camps.

      That book sounds fascinating though. I’ll have to see if the library has it. Or maybe buy one of the one-cent used copies from Amazon.

  2. JoAnne July 30, 2014 / 4:29 pm

    If you want to read a really eye-opening book, read Sarah’s key
    by Tatiana de Rosnay. It is fiction but the events that took place in 1942 are very real.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2014 / 5:20 pm

      I’ve heard of it, haven’t read it though.

  3. Jeannee Waseck August 23, 2014 / 1:04 am

    Thank you for posting personal items including pictures – its helpful for me to know to whom I’m speaking 🙂

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