Volume 20, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 25 - September 1, 2010
Koch on Film
BY Ed Koch
“A Film Unfinished” (+)
An unfinished Nazi propaganda movie titled “Das Ghetto” was filmed in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. The movie was found among other Nazi propaganda pictures in East Germany, but a soundtrack was never located.
This is a documentary about that propaganda movie, created and directed by a young Israeli woman (Yael Hersonski).
Ms. Hersonski was at the Film Forum where I saw the picture. When the movie ended, she talked about her work and took questions from the audience. She said the film — which was inexplicably never shown by the Nazis — was probably made to be shown to German children long after World War II had ended, Hitler had won, and the Jews were no longer alive. The intent was to increase German disgust of the Jews and reinforce German pride in having destroyed the Jewish people.
In a Nazi-created scene, the propaganda film opens with rich, well-dressed Jews arriving at a cabaret in the Ghetto to dance the night away. They step over starving Jews in rags and some corpses on the sidewalk, showing their indifference to the suffering of their own.
Another fabricated scene involves Jewish men and women, undoubtedly rounded up at gunpoint, required to strip and enter a ritual bath. The women were forced to parade naked in the presence of what the Nazis hoped would be viewed as bestial male Jews.
Many of the non-fabricated scenes from the Ghetto (dead bodies, starving children, the bridge over a major highway connecting two wings of the Ghetto) have been shown in other films.
As a Jew, I sat in the darkened theater and wept for my fellow Jews so demeaned, starved, beaten and ultimately killed (out of the six million killed, 1 ½ million were children).
In Europe today, anti-Semitism is rising again. Many nations today hide their ever-increasing anti-Semitism by directing their hostilities at Israel instead of at Jews, criticizing Israel for actions it takes for which they would not criticize other countries.
The Nazis didn’t intend to have their propaganda film generate support for Jews and the Jewish nation, but it will have that affect on those seeing it. They also didn’t intend to lose the war. Do go see it.
Not Rated. 89 minutes. In English, Hebrew, German, Polish & Yiddish (with English subtitles). Currently screening at Film Forum (209 W. Houston St.). For info, call the Box Office at 212-727-8110.