On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, looking back at Claude Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’

Posted on January 27, 2020

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Read the full article on Firstpost, here: https://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/on-international-holocaust-remembrance-day-looking-back-at-claude-lanzmanns-french-documentary-shoah-7961471.html

Have you heard the term “death panic”? Try Googling it up. You’ll get sites that describe it as a pathological fear of death. You’ll get a link to a game called Darkest Dungeon – something about killed by monsters in a dingy crypt. There’s even a link to a news story about a mother who realised her teenage daughter, one of the survivors of Anders Behring Breivik’s gun massacre in Norway, has “death panic” – the girl literally panics about death. But few links talk about the term as used to describe what one feels when you are minutes away from certain death, like what Jewish prisoners felt when herded into one of the gas chambers at a concentration camp.

There’s a conversation about this phenomenon in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, the one-of-a-kind 1985 documentary about the Holocaust. Lanzmann is interviewing former SS officer Franz Suchomel, who talks about the “funnel”, a path lined with barbed wire, leading to the gas chamber. The men were first whipped and chased through the funnel. The women had to wait until a gas chamber was empty, and they experienced this “death panic”, which made them void themselves from the front or the rear. Suchomel says, “So often, where the women stood, there were 5 or 6 rows of excrement.” Again and again we are reminded that before the loss of life, there was the loss of basic human dignity.

Continued at the link above.

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