Lanzmann's nine-hour documentary meditation on the Holocaust is a distillation of 350 hours of interviews with living 'witnesses' to what happened at the extermination camps of Treblinka, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Chelmno and Belzec. Feeling that the familiar newsreel images have lost their power to shock, Lanzmann concentrates instead on the testimony of those survivors who are 'not reliving' but 'still living' what happened, and on 'the bureaucracy of death'. One of the two Jews to survive the murder of 400,000 men, women and children at the Chelmno death camp describes his feelings on revisiting Poland for the first time. A train driver who ferried victims to the concentration camps is seen making that same journey to 'the end of the line' again and again; a retired Polish barber who cut the hair of those about to enter the gas chambers describes his former work; an SS officer talks about the 'processing' of those on their way to the concentration camps; a railway official discusses the difficulties associated with transporting so many Jews to their deaths. The same questions are repeated like an insistent refrain, the effect is relentless and cumulative. One word of caution as you watch the witnesses giving testimony; bear in mind Schiller's observation that 'individual testimony has a specific place in history but doesn't, alone, add up to it'.
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