Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 pm
At the concentration camp in Sobibor, Poland, the Nazis assembled squawking schools of geese to cover the shrieks of inmates who were being gassed. That’s the kind of detail uncovered by Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah and its newly released follow-up, Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 pm. Built around a 1979 interview with Holocaust survivor Yehuda Lerner, the film documents an event as starkly precise as its title: the violent uprising at the Sobibor camp, in which a handful of Jewish prisoners killed a dozen of their captors and escaped.
For much of Sobibor, we’re simply gazing at Lerner’s benign yet vigorous face as he unfolds his amazing matter-of-fact counternarrative of Jewish defiance in World War II. He describes the secret plotting of the rebellion and, finally, the moment — as told, it unfolds with the slow-mo clarity of a dream — when he lifted a carpenter’s ax to smash the skull of a Nazi officer, a renunciation of victimhood that is brave, scary, and moving.
Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4pm