The Last of the Unjust

2014

The Last of the Unjust (2014)

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1975. In Rome, Claude Lanzmann filmed a series of interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein, the last President of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia, the only "Elder of the Jews"* not to have been killed during the war. A rabbi in Vienna, following the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, Murmelstein fought bitterly with Adolf Eichmann, week after week for seven years, managing to help around 121,000 Jews leave the country, and preventing the liquidation of the ghetto. 2012. Claude Lanzmann, at 87 - without masking anything of the passage of time on men, but showing the incredible permanence of the locations involved -exhumes these interviews shot in Rome, returning to Theresienstadt, the town "given to the Jews by Hitler", a so-‐called model ghetto, but a ghetto of deceit chosen by Adolf Eichmann to dupe the world. We discover the extraordinary personality of Benjamin Murmelstein: a man blessed with a dazzling intelligence and a true courage, which, along with an unrivaled memory, makes him a wonderfully wry, sardonic and authentic storyteller. Through these three periods, from Nisko in Poland to Theresienstadt, and from Vienna to Rome, the film provides an unprecedented insight into the genesis of the Final Solution. It reveals the true face of Eichmann, and exposes without artifice the savage contradictions of the Jewish Councils. (c) Cohen

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Critic Reviews for The Last of the Unjust

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (20)

Murmelstein addresses Lanzmann's skepticism and questions with earnestness, passion and -- as if the rest of it wasn't troubling enough -- what seems like total recall.

Mar 6, 2014 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
Newsday
Top Critic

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.

Feb 28, 2014 | Full Review…

Those who think this is a black-and-white issue will be surprised, as Lanzmann himself appears to have been, by what is said here.

Feb 20, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

[Lanzmann is] the kind of witness the Holocaust needs: The witness who refuses to leave the stand until the full story is told.

Feb 14, 2014 | Rating: A | Full Review…

The new film may not qualify for masterpiece status, but it's an enthralling portrait of a man-an exceptionally brilliant and articulate man-who personified the courage, complexity and moral ambiguity of his tortured time.

Feb 13, 2014

Murmelstein deserves his own movie and now, more than 20 years after his death, he gets it.

Feb 10, 2014 | Full Review…

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