The Jewish Eye

The Lessons of Survival

Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal

A Film by Inna Rogatchi
Rogatchi Productions, 2013
Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films

Reviewed by Boris Segel – March 2, 2015

Since Inna Rogatchi’s documentary film, Lessons of Survival: Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal finished production in 2013, it has been shown around the world and it has been listed into the Yad Vashen’s online film database. It is a memorable and inspirational work that highlights ones man fight for survival, and for justice against unspeakable evil.

This short, 57 minute documentary, is comprised primarily of excerpts of conversations that Rogatchi had with Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005). These conversations took place over a period of time and they detail Wiesenthal’s experiences during the Holocaust and the events that occurred after his liberation from the Mauthausen concentration camp. They also explore the events that led to Wiesenthal becoming one of the best-known Nazi hunters. In addition, these ‘conversations’ help to explain Wiesenthal’s philosophy on life and the ways in which he felt that the Holocaust was still impacting the world.

In addition to Wiesenthal oral testimony, this documentary also includes snippets of previously unreleased historical footage, and it is illustrated by art work produced by both Rogatchi and her husband, Michael. Rogatchi is a writer and philanthropist, and she was a personal friend of Wiesenthal.

This documentary serves as an excellent introduction to the life and work of Wiesenthal, and it is an important addition to the body of works that provide first person testimonies about the Holocaust. In these conversations, Wiesenthal explains why it was essential for Jews to take a leading role in hunting down Nazi war criminals, both in terms of Jewish self-esteem and in terms of capturing these criminals. Had it not been for Wiesenthal and his compatriots, many of these killers would have escaped justice. This is because after a few big show trials, the allies lost interest in tracking down former Nazis. Worse, in many cases, they where complicit in helping Nazis hide because they had skills that the allies wanted to exploit.

This documentary is well suited for watching by individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The entire documentary is in English. However, there are no subtitles for the hearing impaired. The film is ideal for use in classroom settings (both religious and public) at the high school and college level, and it will be of interest to anyone seeking to learn more about the history of the Holocaust – and the work that went into hunting down and bringing to justice Nazi war criminals.