April 02, 2024

Source: Bigstock

I’ve done three straight weeks of politics, so let’s lighten the mood with the Holocaust.

Wait, that came out wrong. I mean, let’s lighten the mood with Hollywood.

And the Holocaust.

Readers have asked for my opinion of The Zone of Interest, this year’s Best Foreign Film (it was also nominated for Best Picture, a double nom that virtually guaranteed a win). The movie focuses on Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss and his family as they try to lead normal lives as mass murder rages on the other side of the wall of their perfectly manicured backyard.

The film’s ostensibly based on a Martin Amis novel. But not really. Amis told the tale of a love triangle between three fictional Nazis at Auschwitz. The real source material for Zone is the diary of a guy you’ve likely never heard of: Dr. Johann Kremer.

Remember my column in which I wrote about how small people can make a big impact on history, only to then be forgotten by history? Sometimes that impact can be caused by nothing more than an affectation.

“The real source material for Zone is the diary of a guy you’ve likely never heard of: Dr. Johann Kremer.”

Case in point: There used to be a time when failed sportscaster Keith Olbermann had an actual audience. I know, I know…you see that name and you hear AOL dial-up static. But yeah, there was a time. And Olbie would end every show with a deadly-serious anti-Bush monologue during which he’d stare at the camera, dramatically rip off his glasses, and declare, “Have you no shame, sir? At long last, have you no decency?”

Older viewers automatically knew that he was “doing” Joseph Welch, the attorney who had an on-camera back-and-forth with Joe McCarthy in 1954. But to younger viewers, this was Olbermann’s bit, his shtick.

Sometimes a man’s affectation outlives him. That happened to Welch.

Dr. Johann Kremer was a minor figure in the Holocaust. He was at Auschwitz for only three months, in 1942. During that time he observed gassings of newly arrived Jews and sick inmates (those killings were already going on before he got there), conducted a few medical experiments, and he was gone. He wasn’t a Holocaust planner, overseer, or henchman. He was a doctor who blew into Auschwitz, boned the Hippocratic Oath up the ass for three months, and blew out. Very forgettable in the big picture.

Except for his diary. Without meaning to, this unremarkable man wrote a diary that created the affectation used again and again for onscreen Nazis.

The core of The Zone of Interest is the Höss family and their invited guests enjoying the good things in life as smoke plumes and muffled screams emanate from the other side of the garden wall.

“More tea biscuits, my dear?”

(faintly in the background “Oy, help us!”)

“Ah, the little ones do love their new swimming pool!”

(faintly in the background “Just toss the baby in the fire, Heinz!”)

“Oh, what a beautiful new hat, Mrs. Höss! Such stunning florals!”

The movie’s about the power of the human mind to compartmentalize, to see and hear horrible things, to be part of horrible things, while managing to tuck the bad stuff away and enjoy a life of normalcy, even pleasure. And every half-wit who’s reviewed Zone invoked Hannah Arendt’s clichéd “banality of evil” line regarding Eichmann. But Zone isn’t invoking Eichmann, or Höss.

It’s Kremer. The movie’s doing Kremer.

Here are some excerpts from Kremer’s diary. Some are from the same day, some a few days apart, but this is him documenting his three months at the camp:

Excellent food in the Home, this evening, for instance, we had sour duck livers, with stuffed tomatoes, tomato salad etc.

Was present for first time at a “special action” [gassing] at 3am. By comparison Dante’s Inferno seems almost a comedy. Auschwitz is justly called an extermination camp.

Today an excellent Sunday dinner: tomato soup, one-half a chicken with potatoes and red cabbage, dessert and magnificent vanilla ice-cream.

This noon was present at a special action in the women’s camp, “Moslems” [camp slang for the emaciated dying]—the most horrible of all horrors. Thilo, military surgeon, is right when he said to me today that we are located here in “anus mundi.”

Got soap flakes and 2 cakes of soap.

Was present at a punishment and 11 executions.

At 8 o’clock in the evening supper in the Home with Obergruppenfuhrer Pohl, a truly festive meal. We had baked pike, as much as we wanted, real coffee, excellent beer and sandwiches.

In wet and cold weather was on this Sunday morning present at the 11th special action (from Holland). Terrible scenes when 3 women begged to have their bare lives spared.

Went to Kattowitz with Mrs Höss to buy shoulder-straps for an overcoat.

Another special action in the afternoon, the 14th in which I had participated so far. In the evening a cozy gathering to which I was invited. We had Bulgarian red wine, plum brandy from Croatia.

There’s yer Zone of Interest, folks. And Inglourious Basterds. And a thousand hackey films where the murderous Nazi enjoys the finer things in between killing Jews (“zee strudel must have zee cream, Mademoiselle Mimieux”). But nobody remembers Kremer, who survived the war, went on trial, affirmed the authenticity of the diary, served ten years, and died in obscurity in West Germany, age 81.

During his trial, the diary entries attracted the attention of the media. By the 1960s, the “attitude” of the entries had migrated to movies. Then that “character” (“ah, executions! Ahh, baked pike!”) left its originator behind. Today, I doubt even Zone director Jonathan Glazer knows the derivation of his fictional “Höss.”

BTW, even less known is the Kramer diary, penned by Obersturmbannführer Cosmo Kramer.

Today was present at a special action of Manhattan Jews who were vacationing in Tuscany. Jerry and George were on the train. Terrible scene outside the bunker as George begged to have his bare life spared. He tried to convince me he’s Italian. I asked him to name one Catholic saint. He thought for a moment and meekly replied “St. Vandelay?” In he went.

Magnificent supper! Könny Rogers Roasters, Cuban cigars, and Hennigan’s Scotch. G-G-Giddyup!

C’mon, lighten up; it’s spring.

Anyway, I disliked Zone because I’ve seen that recycled pseudo-profound “having tea oblivious to the evil around them” trope too many times. Others, however, disliked it for a different reason:

No Jews!

Zone’s lack of Jews united rightist critics like Ben Shapiro and mainstream critics at, well, there are too many examples to link to (here, here, here).

Having Gentile protagonists in Holocaust films is nothing new; Schindler’s List, Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Zookeeper’s Wife, In Darkness (2011 Best Foreign Film Oscar), Sophie’s Choice, etc. But there’s always a Jew in there somewhere. A Jew to be saved or shot. But a Holocaust film without a single Jew on screen?

Not one?

Critics freaked out.

Then they saw Glazer’s Oscar acceptance speech and they were like, “Ah, got it; dude hates Jews.”

Far-left Glazer’s hatred for Israel is pathological; he obviously didn’t want Zone to elicit sympathy for the Jews of today who are being massacred. Plus, his vision was artsy-fartsy about Nartzis. It was supposed to be an “exploration of the human condition.” And to be fair to Glazer (as much as I dislike him as a director and a human), Jews have always loved getting artsy about the Holocaust. We’re an artsy people. Whaddyagonnado?

Ever see 2001’s The Grey Zone?


It’s an attempt to do a Holocaust film David Mamet-style. Set in Auschwitz, it stars Harvey Keitel—Brooklyn accent raging—as the commandant.

Glengarry Glen Rossberg.

Höss: “A-B-C: Always. Be. Cremating.”

As I said, Jews excuse a certain amount of pretentiousness in Holocaust films, just as Jews have been tolerant of Holocaust movies with Gentile leads. But I suspect that’s going to change.

We’ve been here before, with blacks.

Out of Africa wins Best Picture? Movie makes it seem like there ain’t no blacks IN Africa.”

Cry Freedom? A movie that makes a white man the star of the Steve Biko story?”

“A Medger Evers movie without Medger Evers? Damn, Rob Reiner, you one whitewashin’ meathead.”

Black activists were concerned about not just the lack of blacks in movies ostensibly about blacks, but also the kind of roles blacks in those films portrayed: victims to be saved, sympathetic servants who act as the catalyst for the white lead’s character arc.

But the thing is, blacks had goals regarding film representation that Jews never had. Jews in the biz were far more lax about representation for themselves. Jews never fear that a sick man’s gonna see that his doctor’s a Jew and go, “Oh HELL no. A JEWISH doctor? Get me outta here!

“A Jewish accountant? Forget it. I want someone who knows money.”

“I can’t have a Jew running GigantiCorp Bank!”

Blacks do have those fears, so gradually throughout the late ’90s into the 2000s, black roles became social engineering. Black characters could only be scientists, doctors, superheroes, bankers, judges, DAs, etc. Anything but basketball players or criminals. Having failed at achieving via merit, blacks hoped that if you see enough black doctors on screen, you’ll come to see blacks as doctors.

Jews, on the other hand, always a tad touchy about that “you people run everything” claim, were cool with being humble side characters in Holocaust films. “Oy, look at me, so small, meek, and helpless! Oh thank you handsome Liam Neeson for saving me! Thank you Miep Gies…such a beautiful laaaaaayyyydeeeeee!”

But that was then. Today, Jews in Hollywood worry that they’re being “erased” thanks to the one-two punch I detailed in a previous column: They’re counted as white for “diversity quotas” and thus denied employment, then counted as Jews by Hollywood’s anti-Israel cult and thus denied employment. Jews are in a panic that they’re losing control of the town they built, where they were the Pilgrims—the William Jewster, the Myles Nebbish.

So I think Jews are gonna start caring about “representation” the way blacks—who are now the most overrepresented people in Hollywood—did in the 1990s. Just a few weeks ago, the DGA passed a rule “allowing members to formally self-identify as ethnically Jewish on their profiles.”

Jews didn’t like Jew-hating Glazer’s Jew-bashing acceptance speech for a film about Jew-killing Nazis, so in response they decided to sew yellow stars onto their own clothes.

Hollywood loves irony!

Zone’s win, Glazer’s speech, DEI quotas…thanks to backlash over those things, this is very likely the end of “Holocaust films without Jews.”

But Holocaust films as a genre? That’ll never end, even if at the moment they’ve been pushed to the foreign market by the domestic proliferation of biopics about black doctors who cure cancer on Mars.

Problem is, the public hates those films.

But people like Nazi movies.

So, Herr Doktor Kremer, I’m sure you’ll remain with us for decades to come, as Jews get their karmic revenge by milking your rotting corpse, no credit given, for all eternity.


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