Verdict on Auschwitz isn’t a film so much as it is a discovery. From 1963 to 1965, the first Auschwitz trial played out inside a Frankfurt courtroom, where a tribunal of judges heard from over 300 witnesses, including more than 200 Auschwitz survivors, who testified against 22 men put on trial for the mass extermination of Europe’s Jewry. In 1993, directors Rolf Bickel and Dietrich Wagner pondered the significance of the trial—the investigation leading to the arrest of the accused ghouls (all of whom learned that saying and admitting to nothing was in their selfish interest), the toll the 20 months of proceedings would have on everyone from witnesses to the public, and the serving of the verdict and its outcome—through a mix of archival footage, photographs, interviews with people present at the trial, and excerpts from 430 hours of audiotapes. The film doubles not only as an autopsy of a trial but an examination of how the mass slaughter that took place at Auschwitz-Birkenau could not have been possible without the meticulous paperwork the Germans kept—records that would prove to be their undoing in courts of law from Nuremburg to Frankfurt. The documentary’s aesthetic isn’t groundbreaking, but when set atop the image of the empty Frankfurt courtroom as it appeared to the filmmakers in the early ‘90s, the voices of the trial’s witnesses resonate like wails from a haunted house. In the documentary’s third part, it is revealed that the horrific would become routine to the public as the trial dragged on, and though there are enough Holocaust documentaries to match the number of days it took for the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial to come to its conclusion, the voices Bickel and Wagner allow us to overhear never cease to shock and awe.
- First Run Features
- 180 min
- Rolf Bickel, Dietrich Wagner
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: