Lodz Ghetto: Docu of Polish Jew Mordechai Rumkowski

Lodz Ghetto chronicles the horror of imprisonment of Polish (and later Czech) Jews, who were controlled and murdered by the Nazis throughout the Second World War.

The focus of “Lodz Ghetto” is on the participation of a Polish Jew named Mordechai Rumkowski. As the community elder, the Nazis relied on Rumkowski’s connection to his people to keep them motivated as forced laborers. They used him as their talking head to minimize hysteria and spread the idea that with work will also come their salvation.

Rumkowski urged adults to volunteer for work camp deportation, at one point offering the sacrifice of 20,000 children under the age of 10, fully believing that their sacrifices would “save the ghetto.”

Because Rumkowski was one of their own, the victims of deportation and execution (which appear to be synonymous in this case, and ironically was Rumkowski’s fate) and those who hid in the ghetto and survived (the aforementioned 800) believed that Rumkowski’s cooperation with the Nazis would ultimately save them.

The film does not condemn the Jews who struggled to live, but reveals how human evil can impose its will through the exercise of absolute power.

The viewer is forced to ponder not just the burden of guilt felt by those who betrayed their fellows, but also the larger question of how any of us would have responded to such an impossible predicament.

Adelson and Taverna used an impressive array of present-day color footage of the ghetto, and mixed those shots with b&w photographs and historical documents (over 1000 stills), which are accompanied by actor-read diaries and writings.

The horror this region experienced during the Holocaust is attainable without actually having to view the executions and torture. When the film tells of a mass hanging, the preparation for the execution is shown, not the actual hangings. The stinging suggestion of what comes after the preparation instills the atrocity of the deed.

If some of the actor dubbing is distracting, it’s largely because of the thick-imitated accent, but, ultimately, it’s the indelible imagery that tells the story and continues to haunt us.