Le dernier des injustes / The Last of the Unjust (2013) 2 x DVD
In the opening shot of Claude Lanzmann's "The Last of the Unjust", the 87-year-old legendary documentarian addresses the camera from the train platform in Bohusovice, a station through which, starting in 1941, transports of Jewish deportees disembarked for the camp-ghetto of Terezin or Theresienstadt. Between 1941 and 1945, no fewer than 140,000 Jews took this route to the camp that Nazi propaganda depicted as a "spa," "Hitler's gift," and "an autonomous zone." That the Jewish population had been lured there by the Nazis' deception, effectively volunteering up for deportation after disposing of their property and savings, is one of the most tragic points of the film, parts of which Lanzmann shot in 2013 at key historical sites and at Jewish religious places in Vienna and Prague.

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Claude Lanzmann filmed interviews with people associated with the Holocaust, culminating in his famed 1985 documentary Shoah. At more than nine hours, it’s among the longest films ever to be commercially released—yet it barely scratched the surface of Lanzmann’s material, which reportedly encompasses 350 hours of footage. In the four decades since, he’s crafted several additional features from the conversations he shot back then, including 1999’s "A Visitor From The Living"; 2001’s "Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 PM"; and 2010’s "The Karski Report". Each of these supplements concentrates on a single individual, and each is relatively short: 65, 95, and a mere 48 minutes, respectively. By contrast, The Last Of The Unjust, Lanzmann’s latest report from the vault, runs close to four hours, though it has the same narrow focus as its predecessors. It’s a valuable historical document, to be sure; as a movie, however, it’s a dry, grueling experience, lacking Shoah’s monumental grandeur. Only Holocaust scholars and/or Lanzmann completists are likely to want to wrestle with it.

Lanzmann’s subject this time is Benjamin Murmelstein, former president of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto. Merely holding that particular position makes Murmelstein a collaborator in many people’s eyes, though he was acquitted of war crimes; Council members served as a liaison between their doomed peers and the Nazi regime, walking a tightrope between aiding and hindering the Final Solution. (It’s important to remember that open defiance generally meant instant death.) Murmelstein was the only such official to survive World War II (he died in 1989), and he tells a number of blandly chilling stories about working directly for Adolf Eichmann, always taking care to minimize his own culpability in any atrocities. Lanzmann, as ever, asks questions relentlessly, never settling for superficial or evasive replies. Their exchanges, which take place over a period of several months, sometimes get politely testy, and the overall impression is that of a man who’s spent the better part of three decades building an impermeable fortress of self-justification. At the same time, who can say they would have acted differently?

Director: Claude Lanzmann
Country: France, Austria
Genre: Documentary

DVD9 + DVD5 | NTSC 16:9 | 02:02:33 + 01:36:34 | 7.11 Gb + 4.32 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Francais-Deutsch
Subtitles: English

-- Interview with Director Claude Lanzmann by Colin Keveney
-- Trailer

2 x DVD9 | PAL 16:9 | 01:57:36 + 01:32:44 | 7.44 Gb + 5.59 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Francais-Deutsch
Subtitles: Espanol

-- Trailer

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