1.              When you’re faced with something as heinous as the Holocaust, it’s tempting to turn it into a simple morality play.  This isn’t to say one can’t pass moral judgments – Hitler and his cohort were undeniably evil.  But judging can become a form of lazy evasion, a way of closing the book on the tricky realities of failure, guilt, and complicity.  
            Those complexities lie at the heart of The Last of the Unjust, the new documentary by Claude Lanzmann, the prickly Frenchman whose 1985 work Shoah is often called the best film about the Holocaust.  But where Shoah is dauntingly austere – its 9 1/2 hours offer no commentary or archival footage – The Last of the Unjust has a vivid immediacy.  It centers on one man, the late Benjamin Murmelstein, a Viennese rabbi reviled for his complicity with the Nazis.  Lanzmann interviewed him for hours back in 1975, getting the pudgy, bespectacled, hyper-verbal Murmelstein to explain his side of the story.

Read John Powers' review of the documentary The Last of the Unjust 

photo by Cohen Media Group via DailyBeast View in High-Res

                 When you’re faced with something as heinous as the Holocaust, it’s tempting to turn it into a simple morality play.  This isn’t to say one can’t pass moral judgments – Hitler and his cohort were undeniably evil.  But judging can become a form of lazy evasion, a way of closing the book on the tricky realities of failure, guilt, and complicity. 

                Those complexities lie at the heart of The Last of the Unjust, the new documentary by Claude Lanzmann, the prickly Frenchman whose 1985 work Shoah is often called the best film about the Holocaust.  But where Shoah is dauntingly austere – its 9 1/2 hours offer no commentary or archival footage – The Last of the Unjust has a vivid immediacy.  It centers on one man, the late Benjamin Murmelstein, a Viennese rabbi reviled for his complicity with the Nazis.  Lanzmann interviewed him for hours back in 1975, getting the pudgy, bespectacled, hyper-verbal Murmelstein to explain his side of the story.

    Read John Powers' review of the documentary The Last of the Unjust

    photo by Cohen Media Group via DailyBeast

  2. fresh air

    review

    john powers

    the last of the unjust

    holocaust

    hitler

    documentary

    claude lanzmann

    shoah

  1. New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick tells Terry Gross about the hyper-nationalist euphoria that has swept up even Egyptian liberals and leftists who spent years struggling against the country’s previous military-backed governments:

    I’ll put it bluntly: It’s how I imagine Europe in the first part of the 20th century might have felt during the rise of fascism. … It may not last. It may be just a momentary national hysteria, but at the moment there is a surreal-seeming enthusiasm for the military … even by people who just a few months ago were calling for the end of military rule.

    Top image via EuroNews; still from The Triumph of the Will

  2. Fresh Air

    Interviews

    David Kirkpatrick

    The New York Times

    Egypt

    Morsi

    Arab Spring

    Triumph of the Will

    Hitler

  1. 
Erik Larson, on being affected by his subject matter: "I pride myself on having a journalistic remove. For example, after my book The Devil in the White City,  people often ask if I had nightmares [and] wasn’t I horrified by the  nature of that serial killer? And my answer was always, ‘I always wear  two hats. The one that says: this is horrific. And the other part that  says: this is great stuff.’ In this case, something very different  happened. I found myself entering a low-grade depression. There’s  something so relentless and foul about Hitler and his people, and the  way things progressed from year to year. It just got to me in the  strangest way.” View in High-Res

    Erik Larson, on being affected by his subject matter"I pride myself on having a journalistic remove. For example, after my book The Devil in the White City, people often ask if I had nightmares [and] wasn’t I horrified by the nature of that serial killer? And my answer was always, ‘I always wear two hats. The one that says: this is horrific. And the other part that says: this is great stuff.’ In this case, something very different happened. I found myself entering a low-grade depression. There’s something so relentless and foul about Hitler and his people, and the way things progressed from year to year. It just got to me in the strangest way.”

  2. in the garden of beasts

    erik larson

    hitler

    world war ii

    germany

  1. I was interested in him because I wanted to find out what was that like, to have met these people when you didn’t know how all of this would turn out? We, of course, have the power of hindsight in our arsenal, but people living in Berlin in that era didn’t. What would that have been like as this darkness fell over Germany?

    — Writer Erik Larson, on why he chose to focus on William Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power, in his latest book. Larson is on Fresh Air today.

  2. erik larson

    hitler

    germany

    nazis

    in the garden of beasts

    william dodd