When major wars end and countries want to move on, it’s natural to try and draw a line over events of the past. Forget those atrocities and crimes committed previously and try and come together as a nation in order to move forward. However, this can often just act as a sticking plaster and slowly but surely recriminations will bubble to the surface. The Holocaust was undoubtedly the lowest point in human history. The German response was to try and place the blame on a small number of senior Nazis and exonerate everyone else. Given that most of the post-war judges were party members themselves, this tack was hardly surprising.
The Accountant of Auschwitz, the new documentary by Matthew Shoychet, focuses on the trial of Oskar Grönin. He is a former SS officer charged with complicity to murder 300,000 Jews at the former German camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. His job was to collect and dispose of their precious belongings. Now at the age of 94 he must face his victims in court. With the numbers of surviving victims and perpetrators falling at a rapid rate, prosecutors face a race against time to win an important test case.
Given the resurgence of right-wing politics, The Accountant of Auschwitz is a timely reminder of what happens if we simply stand by and ignore the past. Sure, it’s easier and quicker to just move on but by not addressing the issues we simply store up problems for later down the line. Whilst The Accountant of Auschwitz does a great job of illustrating the importance of seeking justice, Shoychet doesn’t shy away from the moral questions around incarcerating those reaching the end of their lives.
The Accountant of Auschwitz is released on DVD and Digital by Signature Entertainment on 15 April.