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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Munk Polish Holocaust Movie

"Perhaps we would not be seeing the resurgence of neo-Nazi criminal activity today if a better job had been done convicting and punishing perpetrators for their crimes during the Holocaust.”Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Simon Wiensenthal Center Chief Nazi Hunter
As I viewed the film, The Passenger, I felt outrage, horror, and deep sadness that our human species could be capable of such evil. The Passenger is an unfinished 1963 Polish film directed by Andrzej Munk, who died in a car accident while the film was in production. The completed scenes were combined from parts of original footage and screenplay.

Death march
Death March sculpture, Dohany Street Synagogue, Budapest


It is the story of a German woman who served as a guard at Auschwitz. After the war, while on a luxurious ocean voyage with her new husband, she spots a passenger she thinks she recognizes. The passenger had been an inmate at Auschwitz where the German woman had been her guard and had the power of life or death over her. In a moment of shock, the guard confesses to her husband that she was a guard in the death camps not an inmate. She makes a bizarre attempt to explain her behavior in the best light but she shows no remorse for willingly participating in the killing of thousands of prisoners. 

River bank shoes
Holocaust Shoe Memorial, on the banks of the Danube, Budapest Hungary


In the end, what message does the movie convey? For me the film focuses on one German of many thousands, who committed mass murder but have escaped prosecution, going on to lead lives as respectable citizens. 

The good news: Just recently it has become possible to convict these criminals in Germany without evidence being presented to the court of a specific crime with a specific victim. The 2011 conviction in Munich of Sobibor death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk, has set this legal precedent. Demjanjuk’s case now provides a legal basis for the prosecution of many Holocaust perpetrators who spent lengthy periods in carrying out mass murder, but have escaped prosecution. May justice be done.
Ann Mollengarden, Education Coordinator for the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, hopes to make this film series an annual event, partnering with the Emmet O'Neal Library. A DVD of the film may be loaned from the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center.

Links:
Holocaust Movie Series
Birmingham Holocaust Education Center
Simon Wiesenthal Center
The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of Family and their Sacred Torah Scroll