The Holocaust in Microcosm
A recent issue of TV Guide (Feb 22, 1997) featured a review of the film, Schindler's List by well-known movie reviewer, Gene Siskel. Siskel's article, entitled, Schindler's List: Cut, but no Commercials is a fine example on a small scale, of how the mystification surrounding the Holocaust story breeds confusion and self-delusion among adepts and amateurs alike.
No doubt Siskel set out to merely to review Spielberg's overblown Holocaust epic; but he wound up as emotionally unhinged and intellectually befuddled as the wildest of the survivor fantasts and exaggerators. To wit, he saw a "gas chamber" where, literally, there was only a shower. Siskel writes:
"Even if it doesn't totally capture the Nazi horror, many of its shocking images do linger: Jewish heads recoiling from bullets; a Polish girl shouting, "Good-bye, Jews!"; a Jewish child hiding in a cesspool; gas-chamber fumes enveloping naked Jewish women." (p. 16)
"Gas chamber fumes enveloping naked Jewish women?" No such scene exists in this film! When we are confronted by the obligatory "gas chamber" scene in the film, we see women herded into the shower room at Birkenau. Amidst screaming and crying and melodramatic music, we see cleansing water, not poison gas, sprinkle from the shower heads. No "gas chamber fumes" envelop anyone in this film.
It's likely that Siskel has seen Schindler's List more than once. He most likely saw the film in 1993 when it was a nationwide sensation. He's had the advantage of being able to view the shower scene from his arm chair. Siskel's amazing transformation into a holocaust survivor was apparently accompanied with the affliction known as "Holocaust Survivor Syndrome." Siskel's particular version of this ailment might be categorized as "Schindler's List Survivor Syndrome."
Ukrainian-American psychiatrist Dr. O. Wolansky has explained "Holocaust Survivor Syndrome" as follows:
"[...] the true horrors and the stress of the concentration camps were forgotten by survivors with the passing of the years, and were supplanted by group fantasies of martyrdom borrowed from heard or read materials or by delusions confabulated anew." (News Release, January 25, 1993, Polish Historical Society, Stamford, CT 06902, USA. See also, Ernst Gauss, Grundlagen zur Zeitgeschichte (GzZ), Grabert, Tuebingen 1993. p. 137.)
Surely, Gene Siskel is displaying symptoms of this widely occurring affliction. Siskel, an experienced movie reviewer, now believes that he has actually seen something which is not there. Siskel has had the advantage of being able to review the film Schindler's List as often as he likes. Perhaps, our esteemed reviewer actually owns a copy which he can watch at his leisure. Siskel also has the advantage of little time having passed between the viewing of this 1993 film and his recent testimonial regarding what he saw.
One can only wonder what "lingering images" would be conjured up in Siskel's mind had he seen this film but once, over fifty years ago. This is the stuff of which legends are made.
This article appeared in a slightly different version in Smith's Report, No. 41 March 1997
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Richard A. Widmann|
|Title:||The Holocaust in Microcosm, Gene Siskel on "Schindler's List"|
|Sources:||Smith's Report, No. 41 March 1997|
|First posted on CODOH:||March 30, 1997, 6 p.m.|