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Holocaust film offers first-person perspective

Carlos Alfaro, Staff Writer

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Representatives of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum spoke about Holocaust misinterpretations and screened a groundbreaking documentary called “Witness, Collaborator or Perpetrator?” in the Karl Anatol Center at Cal State Long Beach Tuesday night.

According to its press release, the film was a rare perspective from non-Jewish Holocaust observers who witnessed crimes against Jewish people by the Nazis and their collaborators.

The museum has been collecting testimonials from individuals who witnessed the Holocaust in their backyards.

Western regional director Michael J. Sarid said researchers from the museum have traveled across Europe searching for living witnesses of the Holocaust. They traveled to Lithuania, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.

“The researchers have interviewed over 1,300 individuals in 15 countries,” the museum’s director of curatorial affairs Scott Miller said. “This is very different from Holocaust survivor stories. It’s not just about the blood and the guts of the Holocaust, it touches on all aspects,” Affairs said.

The documentary not only featured disturbing descriptions from those who witnessed the Holocaust, but also testimonies from those who helped perpetrate.

One testimonial was from a train driver who transported Jewish people to Auschwitz.

The film said the driver never saw the Jews, except from the train windows. Once he returned with the train from Auschwitz, the driver said, “The box cars were a mess, filled with shit and were eventually cleaned.”

However, the most disturbing interview in the film came from a Lithuanian man who explained with descriptive detail how he executed the Jews.

The last testimony came from two sisters who watched from their bedroom window as Nazis killed Jewish people.

The sisters said it was difficult to reflect on those memories.

Miller spoke about how the museum’s research also hopes to clear up many misconceptions about the Holocaust.

One misunderstanding, he said, is that not many Jews were deported from Hungary. In fact, one of the largest Jewish deportation spots to Auschwitz during World War II was Hungary.

Miller also spoke about the educational power a project like this has for children.

Sarid said he hopes people realize there were millions of bystanders who watched the Holocaust in addition to the perpetrators and victims. He also said he hopes the research will educate and fight Holocaust denial from anti-Semitic groups.

“There is about a 10-year window of opportunity to keep working since many of the witnesses are reaching the end of their lives,” Sarid said. “There is a moral responsibility to gather this data to prevent contemporary genocide and fight Holocaust denial.”

Miller finished the event with questions from the audience, which included some Holocaust survivors.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was founded in 1993 and is located in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Since then, more than 30 million visitors have seen its artifacts, photographs and films chronicling the 20th-century genocide of about six million European Jews, as well as people with disabilities, gays and political opponents.

For more information about The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other Holocaust exhibitions like Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, visit ushmm.org.


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