For almost half a century, an unfinished Nazi propaganda film of the Warsaw Ghetto, simply titled “Das Ghetto” and discovered by East German archivists after the war, was used by scholars and historians as a flawed but authentic record of ghetto life. Shot over 30 days in May 1942 — just two months before deportations to the Treblinka extermination camp would begin — this hourlong silent film juxtaposed random scenes of Jews enjoying various luxuries with images of profound suffering.There's more HERE.
Like the flickering shadows in Plato’s Cave, these images were subjected to a radical rereading with the appearance of another reel in 1998: 30 minutes of outtakes showing the extent to which scenes had been deliberately staged. Over and over, in multiple takes, we see well-dressed Jews enter a butcher’s shop, ignoring the children begging outside. In a similar scenario, prosperous-looking passersby are directed to disregard the corpses abandoned on the sidewalk. The propagandists’ manipulation of their half-million prisoners was now clear, even as its eventual purpose — perhaps more than just to manufacture scenes showing callousness on the part of wealthy Jews toward their less fortunate brethren — remained as murky as ever.
In “A Film Unfinished,” the Israeli director Yael Hersonski embarks on a critical analysis of “Das Ghetto” that is remarkable as much for its speculative restraint as for its philosophical reach. Moving methodically reel by reel and acknowledging the “many layers of reality,” the director creates a palimpsest of impressions from multiple, meticulously researched sources representing both victims and oppressors.
Though excerpts from a taped interview with Willy Wist, one of the cameramen who worked on “Das Ghetto,” are as evasive as one might expect, other witnesses did not hold back. Readings from personal diaries, like those of Adam Cherniakov, the head of the Jewish Council (whose apartment was used by the Nazis to stage several scenes), and from the minutely detailed reports of the ghetto commissioner Heinz Auerswald, provide vivid insight into the restrictions of daily life and the methods of the Nazi filmmakers.
I am so grateful that I found this again and that it had not been mistakenly deleted.
And so it goes.