Produced by Ricki Gurwitz and Ric Esther Bienstock
Directed by Matthew Shoychet
Sunday February 3, 2019
9:00PM ET \ PT
In 2015, former SS guard Oskar Gröning goes on trial for the murder of 300,000 people…. in 1944!
- Hot Docs – Top 10 Audience Award (2nd Place)
- UK International Jewish Film Festival – Nominated – Dorfman Best Film Award
- Palm Springs International Film Festival – Nominated – John Schlesinger Award
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival – Nominated – Jury Prize
It’s hard to imagine anyone saying of his time at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, “I like to look back at it with joy.”
But that’s how far-removed ex-Nazi SS officer Oskar Gröning – the subject of the acclaimed documentary The Accountant of Auschwitz – felt from one of the most horrific events in human history. His Auschwitz was “like a small town with a canteen and a cinema.”
His job: To catalogue the property of the Jewish detainees, which was now “the property of the State, because (the Jews) no longer needed it.”
Gröning, who died last year, was one of the first people ever convicted as an accessory to murder for simply being at an extermination camp. He was also the only Nazi war crimes defendant to ever give full and open testimony in court about life in the camps.
In a world where new strains of fascism seem to be rising from the ashes of history, Gröning is a controversial symbol. Holocaust deniers showed up to protest at his trial to support him. And yet Gröning only ended up in court because he decided to stand up to those deniers and tell the world that the Holocaust indeed happened, because, as he says, “I was there”.
With access to all the participants, The Accountant of Auschwitz, takes us on a journey through all the drama and sideshows that put this trial on the front pages of newspapers across the globe. We meet the intrepid prosecutors and the aggressive Holocaust deniers. The townspeople that want to forget this ever happened and the anti-fascists who fear this could happen again. We visit the home of 98-year-old Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, who recalls his frustration trying to bring even a handful of the worst war criminals to some kind of justice in post-war Germany. Ferencz is our guide into the history of postwar trials.
It’s a tangled and shameful history, involving a collective and convenient amnesia, one that is only now being sorted out with the investigations of a handful of nonagenarians who might not live long enough to be tried.
You will meet survivors who relate the strange vacuum that is life without relatives, as well as some bent for vengeance and one who controversially forgives Gröning, embracing him in front of the world’s media. And you will meet the lawyers and activists who’ve made long-delayed justice their life’s mission.
Producer Ricki Gurwitz was covering the Groning trial for CTV news when she decided this was a documentary film that had to be made. “Why was Oskar Gröning, 70 years after the Holocaust, charged with being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews?” Gurwitz asks. “Why is this happening now, and what message does it send to today’s generation, and to those committing war crimes right now? Gröning’s trial is a window into these questions, as well as Germany’s past failures and the race against time to find war criminals who are still alive.”
“There are themes of guilt, revenge, forgiveness, redemption,” says Producer Ric Bienstock. “We wanted audiences to leave The Accountant of Auschwitz with insight and questions, not just about the past, but about our present and future.”