A Filmmaker's Review: "The Accountant of Auschwitz" (2018)
5/5 - A masterpiece of a historical/criminal documentary
This documentary really shakes you, but the feeling you also get from it is anger because it is so late for the trial to happen. The overview is this: the now 93 year-old “accountant” of Auschwitz that was responsible for stealing the valuable items from the Jews as they entered the death camp was now on trial after several years. The background tells us the story of what the survivors of Auschwitz thought of this guy and what happened at the failed Nuremberg trials. It also talks about the case of Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka and Soribor and the trials that went ahead in Israel for that some years before. When we know all of this, we can only imagine that the man who was once the “accountant” of Auschwitz is living rather on borrowed time since he would’ve always been in fear of being caught. We get the opinions of others - Jews and non-Jews on what the general consensus is around putting this man on trial. It is very clear that the non-Jewish people don’t care for it and think that the 93 year-old should live in peace. Whereas the Jewish people, understandably do not think this is the case. There are many many opinions during the film in which the speakers state that a man of 93 who committed a crime at 23 or 33 etc. is still a guilty man and that he should not get away with it. Then we get on to the trial itself.
We see the media attention the trial gets and something I learned from this is that there are still Nazis in Germany. There are still severe right-wing activists who do not believe the holocaust happened and, rightly, were threatened with an arrest. (It really does show you how stupid these people look). When we get inside, we then get the opinions of holocaust survivors from Auschwitz who actually went to the trial and sat there and saw a man they recognised. One of the women stated that the accountant was sitting there with absolutely no regard to his arrest and so, he immediately lost all forms of sympathy for being an old man.
A great thing about this documentary is that it doesn’t go straight into the trial. It shows you the background of everything that happened to begin with. We get not only the World War 2 context, but we also get the context of previous trials and the way in which Germany dealt with the attempted extermination of the Jews. We come to the conclusion that Germany basically tried to sweep it under the rug for ages and very few arrests were made. I can say that this part of the documentary is possibly the most interesting because it really gives you a reason to see this court trial through. It is giving the audience an opinion, drawing them in and making them see what the outcome is - like a thriller movie does.
The next great point about this documentary is that we have so many opinions. Though the documentary is biased towards our regular point of view that what happened to the Jews was absolutely horrible - we also get the view of the other side. We then get the view of people who have no connection to the Jewish race or the trial whatsoever and so, their opinion may not matter, but it is still good to show balance. As the documentary leads us through the Nuremberg trials, we see a number of things going horribly wrong - such as some of the judges being Nazi sympathisers and that only a few people were actually hanged in the end. These things going wrong back then obviously give the audience something to look forward to. The progression of law means that we will hopefully see an outcome more worthy than that of the Nuremberg trials and this man will be at least put behind bars for the rest of his life.
The documentary is a well-made piece of work that leads the audience through history and to the present by showing us the mistakes and offering us a new solution.