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film review

Bill Glied in The Accountant of Auschwitz.TLNT Productions 2018

  • The Accountant of Auschwitz
  • Directed by Matthew Shoychet
  • Written by Ricki Gurwitz
  • Classification N/A
  • 98 minutes

Rating:

4 out of 4 stars

Why is Germany prosecuting former SS guards now in their 90s, most of whom will never live to serve jail sentences? In this measured, informative and thought-provoking documentary, Toronto director Matthew Shoychet uses the case of Oskar Groning, the so-called accountant of Auschwitz who tallied the prisoners’ confiscated possessions, to examine the rationale behind last-ditch war-crimes trials.

Ironically, Groning came to the attention of authorities because he gave interviews about his experiences to refute Holocaust deniers, but he also took little responsibility for his part in the killing machine. Shoychet and writer Ricki Gurwitz explain how both Germany’s failure to prosecute war criminals in the 1940s and ’50s and the precedent-setting conviction of former camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk in 2011 produced the recent trials. The film considers scapegoating and whether the man in his 90s is the same person as the one in his 20s, but gives more space to arguments in favour of late justice. Using powerful interviews with four remarkably composed Auschwitz survivors, it argues Groning’s conviction serves as both reminder of the past and precedent for the future.

The Accountant of Auschwitz opens June 8 in Toronto

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