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Review: The Accountant of Auschwitz

June 8, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Focusing on the 2015 trial of Oskar Gröning, a former SS guard who served as a bookkeeper at Auschwitz and was put on trial in Germany at 94 years old for his involvement in the Holocaust, The Accountant of Auschwitz is a fascinating and multilayered documentary.

Facing charges for the murder of 300,000 Jewish people, Gröning’s trial attracted widespread media attention, as Holocaust survivors were brought in to testify against him, and others argued that there was no reason to prosecute such an old man, especially so long after the fact.

But despite the fact that Gröning never personally killed anyone, he was still complicit in the extermination at Auschwitz, tasked with going through and registering the possessions left behind by the prisoners and becoming a first-hand witness to the mass killing going on around him.

The trial also served as a way to silence the erroneous claims of Holocaust deniers, who nevertheless protested outside of the courthouse, with Gröning not only confirming the atrocities that took place at the concentration camps, but also openly admitting to his involvement in them.  Through interviews with historians, Holocaust survivors, and also Benjamin Ferencz who served as the lead prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials, director Matthew Shoychet has delivered a complex and thought provoking exploration of whether the statute of limitations should apply to war crimes.

Not only is this an interesting look at the challenges and moral implications behind trying to charge somebody for their involvement in crimes decades after the fact, but it’s also a sobering exploration of how the majority of the people responsible for one of the most horrific events in human history were never actually punished for it.

The Accountant of Auschwitz is now playing in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

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