For our first movie night—although what do you call a movie night when all the selections have to be related to a class that’s about genocide—we watched the “The Seven Dwarves of Auschwitz”, a documentary film narrated by Warwick Davis, chronicles the journey of the Ovitzes, a famous singing and dancing troupe who lived in Transylvania, or modern-day central Romania. The Ovitzes, who were Jewish Dwarves, were imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1944 and were subjected to experiments for eight months until they were freed by Soviet soldiers in January of 1945. The documentary included a video account of their experiences during the Holocaust from the point of view of Perla Ovitz, the youngest of the Ovitz family who died in 2001. One of the more interesting points of the story is the use of their singing and dancing talents in order to prolong their “usefulness” to the Nazis and thus their lives.
I was struck by the Nazi soldiers’ shielding of the Orvitzes—and most of the Jews really—from the horrors that they were about to experience. It seemed like every time one of the Orvitizes asked a Nazi soldier where they were going, the reply was something to the effect of “best that you not know”. In one specific instance, a Nazi captain said to one of the Orvitzes while they were being experimented on: “As long as you are here and not there”, referring to the gas chambers. I thought that it gave the Nazis a bit of humanity that is typically lost in a regular textbook about the Holocaust. It almost makes me wonder about their perceptions of the atrocities committed were and how they attempted to avoid committing them if they could.
Despite my anger and shock at the atrocities committed towards the Orvitzes—Mengele poured boiling hot water on their faces, drew their blood frequently, and pulled their teeth, eyelashes, and eyebrows all in the name of science—I could not blame Perla Ovitz for feeling grateful to Mengele for keeping her and her family alive. Her family was one of the few to exit the Holocaust intact. Many families were ripped apart minutes after arrival at a Nazi concentration camp, mothers and young children were gassed while men and young adults were worked to death. This happy ending made the movie a bit more emotionally manageable.
Overall, I had mixed feelings towards this movie. On one hand, I thought that it was superficial for a forty-five-minute documentary. I thought that the documentary would focus more on the atrocities perpetrated against the Ovitzes and other dwarves in Auschwitz, however, the documentary only spends about two minutes at the most talking about the experiments before describing the Orvitz’s “saving grace”. However, I was also glad that the documentary was not graphic because I was not ready to be thrust into the throes of “What the fuck?” and “Why the fuck did this happen?” moments. However, I still thought it was a great story to hear about.
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