The Holocaust Tourist

The Holocaust Tourist


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Sometimes ideas are so good – or so resonant – that more than one person hits upon them at the same time. So it happens that in the same year Rex Bloomstein took a look at how the history of the holocaust chimes with the way we live and view it today in KZ, Jes Benstock covers some similar territory in this excellent short film, which accomplishes as much as Bloomstein in a much shorter runtime.

“I didn’t want to make a film about the holocaust,” says Benstock at the outset, “but if you’re a film-maker and Jewish it comes with the job description.”

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It is the nature of ‘holocaust tourism’ that interests - or perhaps that should be 'unsettles' - Benstock. Is it right that tourist shops have sprung up to cash in on visitors to Auschwitz? The town of Krakow is a bustling hub of tourism. Holidaymakers eat in Jewish-themed bars and restaurants before making a ‘pilgrimage’ to the death camp. But is pilgrimage the right word, or is this just another stop off on the tourist trail “blazed by Hollywood”?

Benstock has assembled an impressive set of interviewees, from a sculptor who laments the commercialisation of his craft, to professor of the faith and member of the Auschwitz committee Jonathan Webber and several people who work and maintain Auschwitz. Each paints a bleak picture of a tragedy, if not forgotten, then diminished somehow.

Benstock cleverly mixes animation and live footage to hold the attention and the use of quick cuts between kitsch ornaments, people smiling for the camera under the infamous Arbeit Machs Frei sign and letting children run about without a thought for those on a true pilgrimage of remembrance shine a startling light on our ignorance.

The abiding image is the same as that seen in KZ, our need to remember fighting with our desire to gloss over things so the enormity of horror is reduced. Even in such a short runtime there is no sense of Benstock being reductive or of him drawing glib conclusions - he wants us to see for ourselves.

Anyone not old enough to remember this dark period of modern history would do well to take note.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2006
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A look at how 'tourism' has affected Auschwitz.

Director: Jes Benstock

Writer: Jes Benstock

Starring: Professor Jonathan Webber, Miroslaw Obstarczyk, Emmanuel Elbinger, Wande Hutny, Chris Schwarz

Year: 2006

Runtime: 10 minutes

Country: UK

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