In this riveting exploration of contested history, the inexhaustible Holocaust documentarian Claude Lanzmann (Shoah) revisits a 1975 interview with Benjamin Murmelstein, the Viennese rabbi who worked with Adolf Eichmann to arrange for the emigration of 120,000 Jews, an ethically thorny collaboration which saved many lives — and landed Murmelstein in prison.
The Last of the Unjust
Claude Lanzmann spent several years interviewing survivors of, participants in and witnesses to the Nazis' attempted eradication of the Jews. The resulting nine-and-a-half-hour film, Shoah, remains a monument to keeping that history alive. Since releasing the film in 1985, Lanzmann has continually returned to the era in films such as Sobibór, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures and The Karski Report; in addition to investigating the Israeli Defense Forces in the film Tsahal and publishing his memoir The Patagonian Hare.
In The Last of the Unjust, Lanzmann revisits an interview he conducted in 1975 but never made public, with Benjamin Murmelstein who emerged from the war as a controversial figure. As a leading rabbi in Vienna at the start of the war, Murmelstein worked with Adolf Eichmann to arrange for the emigration of 120,000 Jews. The scheme saved lives and enriched Eichmann. Later the Nazis appointed Murmelstein as a Jewish Elder in Theresienstadt, the Czech camp used as a propaganda showcase. After liberation, he was widely considered a collaborator for his role overseeing the camp and did a stint in a Czech prison before settling in Rome.
The dialogue between Murmelstein
and Lanzmann is a riveting exploration
of contested history. Adding to the 1975
interview, Lanzmann makes contemporary
visits to Austria, Poland, Israel and
the Czech Republic, sharing his prodigious
research. "During the week I spent with
him, I grew to love him," Lanzmann said
of Murmelstein in a recent interview. "He
does not lie: he is as harsh with others as