The Holocaust Story in Microcosm

Gene Siskel on "Schindler’s List"
Published: 1997-03-01

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A recent issue of TV Guide (Feb. 22, 1997) featured a review of 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 merely to review Spielberg’s overblown Holocaust epic; but he wound up as emotionally unhinged and intellectually befuddled as the wildest of the survivor fantasists 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, ‘Goodbye, 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 the film! Oh, we think the Jewesses at Auschwitz are about to enter a “gas chamber,” and they think they’re entering one too. But, 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. He didn’t learn of the scene as a piece of concentration camp scuttlebutt by some half-starved or typhus-ridden fantasist. Nor is Siskel likely lying—why would he lie about a movie that tens of millions of Americans and many of his readers were about to watch?

No, Siskel’s remarkable gaffe has another explanation—holocaustomania. This fearsome affliction, by definition, means seeing what isn’t there—a “gas chamber" in an ordinary shower, homicide in an insecticide, a murdered relative in a bar of soap. A medical formulation of this confusion, described as “Holocaust Survivor Syndrome,” explains: “the true horrors and 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, Polish Historical Society, Stamford, CT 06902).

Siskel can’t suffer from HSS because he’s not a Holocaust survivor—but he’s acquired the necessary delusions through immersion in holocaustomania. And he’s taking it to a new level: he’s beefing up a florid extermination epic novel with juicy new murder scenes.

Dubbing his affliction “Schindler’s List Survival Syndrome” seems too narrow—suppose a colorized version of The Diary of Anne Frank were to make its way onto the screen and Siskel began shivering in print over the human-soap-making scene? Siskel’s Disease? Perhaps properly naming the disease that adds additional Holocaust malarkey to already mendacious Exterminationist agitprop is a task for medical science.

This little incident makes this much clear: a big reason for cutting the Holocaust down to its proper size is that it encourages some people to become liars—and many more to act like fools.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Richard A. Widmann
Title: The Holocaust Story in Microcosm, Gene Siskel on "Schindler’s List"
Sources: Smith's Report, no. 41, March 1997, pp. 6f.
Published: 1997-03-01
First posted on CODOH: Oct. 3, 2015, 6:44 a.m.
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