Shoah, Schoah, Shoa, Schoa

A Hebrew word that can be translated as chasm, annihilation, deepest darkness, destruction, catastrophe, calamity, downfall and is synonymous to the mass annihilation of the European Jews by Nazi Germany.

“Shoah”, the emblematic, 9hr-long documentary by Claude Lanzmann, features the statements of people who experienced the extermination of European Jews first-hand and managed to survive, whether it’s victims, perpetrators or observers. Many of them talk about it for first time after 30 years. According to the director, the film is not about survival, it’s a testimony about death. Lanzmann  doesn’t settle for simple recollections. Thanks to his interview techniques, witnesses relive their experiences all over again. Lanzmann’s questions revolve around the goings on at the various execution grounds and touch on the bureaucratic mechanism of the mass annihilations. This mechanism was first activated in the ghettos and was later observed in full swing at the concentration camps. The film shows the execution grounds in the last 70s and early 80s. “Shoah’s” illuminating role is based on the combination of the two elements: the testimonials are validated by the experiences of the site of the Holocaust. “I went to these places alone and realised that one must combine things,” said the director.  “You can’t see these places without knowing and you can’t know without seeing them. That’s why the geographical element is so important. This is a film from the ground up, a topographical film, a geographical film.”