Some films you never forget. And you shouldn’t. Forty-five years ago I saw such a film as a senior in high school. Night and Fog.
Films about the Holocaust sear themselves into your brain. At seventeen, the horrors depicted in that film were unfathomable. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Gauthier showed us the documentary film, to shock us and inject into our young minds a dose of reality. The nadir of human existence.
Many people turn away from the subject. It’s horrifying and they don’t want to think about it. It could never happen again, those people think.
Jump ahead to 2019 and there’s a debate in our country about whether white supremacists are evil or just good people. Really, there’s a debate, after a Civil War, a World War and the horrid Jim Crow years of terror. Pull up the names of the past dozen or so mass shooters and you find one thing in common with most of these white men.
At this point in life I’ve gone through many books, pictures and films pictures of the death camps, the starvation and suffering, the German guards brutalizing and murdering at will. I graduated from college with a minor in modern European history, and World War II was my concentration. Millions of people died at the hands of the Nazis. You’ll never convince me that anyone advocating white supremacy and marching with Nazi-type symbolism are fine people.
There were those that survived the death camps, somehow they endured and found a way through this madness. I’ve written about Big Sonia before, she survived and married another camp survivor. Her personal story is riveting and in her 90’s she is still telling the fascinating events of her life.
Big Sonia Read her story
Night and Fog is a short film in terms of run-time. Yet, it’s powerful message is clear. It was skillfully directed by famed French filmmaker Alain Resnais. It is no ordinary Holocaust film and it’s important to understand the climate, France in 1955, in which it was made. The war was only a decade in history and France was still dealing with the bitter divide of the role of the Vichy government in collaborating with the Nazis. Resnais had many challenges to navigate in making this film. France was trying to heal and fashion a post-war relationship with Germany.
Watching the film today is a very different experience. Being older, more knowledgeable about the Holocaust, and having my own views of fascism and hate, the film impacts my soul in a different way.
Bad things happen while people are looking the other way, or fall in love with charismatic and manipulative leaders. These are people who will say anything. And then do anything. Night and Fog shows one such horror story.