The Last of the Unjust | Chicago Reader

The Last of the Unjust

Claude Lanzmann's monumental Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985) generated enough excess footage for four more stand-alone documentaries; the latest considers Benjamin Murmelstein, a Viennese rabbi who worked with Adolf Eichmann in facilitating the deportation of Austria's Jews and served as the last administrator of the Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia. "I am guilty, but I cannot be judged," Murmelstein says during one of his conversations with Lanzmann (shot over ten days in 1975), and the entire movie seems to grow out of this paradox. Murmelstein was motivated by fear, yet he admits to having enjoyed certain privileges that came with his position; he sent innumerable Jews to their deaths but exploited what power he had to prolong the lives of a few thousand others. As in Shoah, Lanzmann organizes the material achronologically, presenting Murmelstein's narrative out of order and intercutting it with footage of Theresienstadt shot in 2012; this complex structure evokes a sense of moral vertigo that's nearly impossible to shake. In English and subtitled French and German.


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