Good morning everybody!
You may remember my reviews of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli’s memoirs as a Jewish physician at Auschwitz, and how deeply it affected me. I couldn’t help but wonder why so many Jews went passively to their deaths.
Well, on Saturday afternoon while I was doing my weekly deep cleaning and washing clothes, I happened to turn on the television and what was playing but a movie called The Grey Zone, and I realized very quickly that it was based on Nyiszli’s book.
If you’ve ever wondered what David Arquette could do, watch this movie and you will never ask yourself that question again. He turns in a brilliant performance.
The film focuses not on the plight of the prisoners, but rather on the Sonderkomandos, the Jews who work in the crematoria. They have a very low life span indeed–just four months, during which they are allowed to dress in normal clothing, eat like kings (comparatively speaking) and plunder the treasures of the prisoners who obediently file into the room where they undress and prepare for what they think/believe/hope will be decontamination showers.
There were 13 Sonderkomando units, and each unit, save one, allowed themselves to be murdered at the end of their tenure. The 12th Sonderkomando, however, chose to rebel. They managed to destroy a major portion of the largest crematorium, and took out a number of SS before they were each systematically shot to death.
One day as the 12th Sonderkomando are removing corpses from the gas chamber, they discover a teenage girl who has somehow managed to survive. They rush her to Dr. Nyiszli who saves her. They are desperate for her to live. But the SS’s policy that no one who knows what truly happens at Auschwitz interferes with that hope.
So: Book vs. Movie? You may never hear me say this again, but movie. And I have to say that Arquette’s performance is what tipped the balance.