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The Lessons of Survival: A Primary Source, and Tranquility of Justice

Posted 9/1/2016

Inna Rogatchi's Film Arrives to Italy

By Roberto Olla

Rai News - Dialogo - January 9, 2016

Whenever we are reading a book, an article, or we are watching a film, we are having a pre-existing feeling telling us that we need to choose a place for its collocation. It is a concrete, material act. The book has its own physicality that requires its space. The article is to be cut out and filed in a certain category, that nowadays more and more often becomes a digital folder, on our desktop. 

A film has less physicality. Of course, it may be recorded in a form of a DVD, a file or an USB key. Or maybe, it exist as a link simply. But, apart of the material aspect, it is a cultural collocation that matters, overall. 

The big and important archives are also organised in the similar way, would it be the Washington National Archives or the Central Archives of the State of Italy. When a student or a scholar enters a hall of a researching institution, he finds there already existing selection of titles, documents and books, selected and offered by the archivists.  And there is a certain knowledge among the researchers on the titles and works in the given collections which are particularly useful; it is clearly right to keep them always ready at the display.

Once you have watched the Inna Rogatchi's film "The Lessons of Survival. Conversation with Simon Wiesenthal", you need to decide for yourself where to collocate it.  

This is a film and this is a document at the same time. Because of this double-quality, this work should be defined as 'a primary source', following the old journalist jargon. The film's language is both simple and essential. In it, Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary person, is speaking to us. We can also see the places mentioned in the Wiesenthal's narrative. The emotions there are expressed with the help of  the paintings by Michael Rogatchi. Yes, the Inna's husband. Yes, Inna was Simon Wiesenthal's collaborator: a privilege, as she tells us in the beginning of the film.
 
In the very beginning of the film, Simon Wiesenthal immediately made his approach and the concept crystal clear: "I survived, but my thoughts are going for  those who did not ( survive)". How deeply right it he. The thing is that the real witnesses of the Shoah are the drowned ones, those who did not make it.

During all the  years of the Simon Wiesenthal's life and activities, the theme of forgiveness had been crawling under the surface, as if a flow of an underground river. Sometimes it was re-emerging, sometime disappearing. 

Apart of the circumstance that no Nazi executioner has ever asked for forgiveness, the fact remains that forgiveness is never given through intermediaries. Forgiveness may be only received from the victims. Nobody can ever take their place. 

There is also much new material in the Inna Rogatchi's film, from new details on the search of Adolf Eichmann to other facts telling on search and capture the officer who has arrested Anne Frank. For this reason, The Lessons of Survival is also a primary source. 

But then, on the top of everything, there is the voice and the eyes of Simon Wiesenthal. While minutes are passing by, we start noticing that his story develops with peace and serenity, as if he willing to calm those who are listening.
 
He is talking about mass murderers and death camps, but he does it by transmitting towards us such a steady tranquillity which  only can be produced by justice. When it is applied. 

Rome, Italy, 
January 2016
 
ROBERTO OLLA is distinguished Italian writer, journalist, film-maker and​ broadcaster, the author of the Oscar nominated Auschwitz & Chocolate documentary and the host of Telegiornale Storia at RAI.