Questions without Notice: The Holocaust

From time to time, we receive queries from students about their assignments on various topics. These questions often address matters relating to religion and spirituality. So we commence a new category, “Questions without Notice“. These particular questions addressed The Holocaust.

(From one secondary student)

1. Do you think it is ethical for the Holocaust to be represented as a key plot in Hollywood films? Why/Why not?

Every film has script writers, directors and producers, all of whom have interpretations of the material. These collaborate to create the film. The finished product – the film – is delivered to give an experience to film-viewers. What do the director and producer want people to take away from this film? At film festivals, directors give statements about their films and what they wish to arouse in their viewers.

You have no control over the perceptions of the film viewers, their experience, nor their interpretations. Some may be horrified, some may be in judgement of Nazi Germany, others condemning the “Final Solution”… and still more others condemning Hitler, Himmler (who designed this), and all those in their train who simply “followed orders”.

You are also obliged to consider the work of Elie Wiesel, who scoured the world to bring prison staff and guards to justice. This war finished many years ago. The German government is still paying compensation to survivors and educating the children of survivors. How long does the punishment and vow for justice go on for?

Shoah was a dreadful thing, and you need to consider that 11 million perished in the concentration camps: gypsies (Romany), homosexuals, dissenters, and other non-aryans as determined by the Third Reich. This has to be balanced against other wars that have had atrocities, also. Keep in mind that the German government of today is still paying reparation for the Jews. Do other governments make centuries of reparation? When do the Americans begin reparations to Vietnam? When does America commence slavery reparations? Why, then, are holocaust reparations still continuing? See

2. Can film be considered an accurate form of history for individuals to learn from?

It is not good for films about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust to be shown again and again and again, and the repetitive screening of the horrors of World War II in Europe. This is not good for mental health, this is not good for the psyche. Why do people need to watch this material over and over again? Be aware that the mind takes the form of what it is pointed at, and if it is pointed repeatedly at drama and conflict, then the mind becomes addicted to drama and conflict.

It is never good to dwell on human suffering and mass incarceration, mass deaths. Do they show films again and again about the Cambodian genocide program of Pol Pot? What of the purges, Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution in China? This was – conservatively – 60 million people. Do we pay attention to Stalin’s purges?

Past is past, leave it in the past tells one great teacher of humanity.

3. Have you watched any key holocaust films (Life is beautiful, Schindlers list, Jo Jo Rabbit, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas), if so, what were your thoughts upon these?

NO, we choose not to watch beyond what we have already seen in documentaries.

4. Would you agree with the statement that, Holocaust films should be produced as documentaries only and not for the commodification or entertainment value that is witnessed within Hollywood films?

Documentaries for educational purposes are fine. Humanity must learn from history so that “never again” can be forever held in the memory of all men and women and be the foundation of creating a future of of unity in diversity, harmony in difference.

The horrors of World War II are not a commodity to be traded nor entertainment. They do not advance the cause of peace.

The utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, who delivered an 1867 inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews and stated: “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”

Translation: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” We suggest an extension: “to do nothing but soak up drama and conflict thus shaping their mind and addiction.


Holocaust at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Image Credit: Flickr/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Flickr/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Yad Vashem