Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, May 1944. Most were “selected” to go straight to the gas chambers. (from the Auschwitz Album)
I watched the PBS documentary “Memory of the Camps,” last night. (Watch Memory of the Camps for free on FRONTLINE’s website here, and learn more about the film’s remarkable history here. It turns out that some of the editing of the film was done by Alfred Hitchcock.)
The documentary is composed of film footage taken by Allied forces when they marched into the concentration camps in Germany in 1945. There are simply no words to describe what they found. “The footage was as horrifying as it gets: Gas chambers. Pits full of the bodies of thousands of systematically starved men, women, and children. Crematoria designed to burn large numbers of corpses. And haunted, emaciated survivors.”
The film was originally aired by FRONTLINE in May of 1985. At that time The New York Times said, “Memory of the Camps is a filmed monument that does more than tell the story of what it is recalling. It is the story itself,” and the Boston Globe called it “an uninterrupted silent scream that one can’t turn a deaf ear to or look away from.”
I will refrain from philosophizing about the horror that humans bestow upon each other. But none of it is surprising, as anyone familiar with the Millgram and Zimbardo experiments (or human history) will attest. And the evils of the past continue unabated to this day. In our own time the most powerful country in the world kills, tortures, imprisons, enslaves, humiliates, and starves both its own citizens and people around the world. It is almost as bad to be a citizen of the empire as it is to be its subject.