BEST DOCUMENTARY Global Village Documentary Festival (1982)
INTERFILM AWARD, HONORABLE MENTION Mannhein-Heidelberg International Film Festival (1982)
In order to facilitate the destruction of Poland's three million Jews, the Nazis forced them to establish Jewish Councils responsible for administration of the Polish ghettos. Through the use of terror, manipulation and humiliation, the Germans forced the Jews to perform duties that would have otherwise necessitated large numbers of German personnel. Chaim Rumkowski, appointed by the Nazis as the Chairman of the Lodz Jewish Council, was responsible for establishing a vast bureaucracy that administered all social services within the ghetto.
Rumkowski also attempted to turn the Lodz ghetto into an industrial center that would become indispensable to the German war effort, thus enabling the Jews of Lodz to survive the war. Unaware of Hitler's determination to realize his "final solution," Rumkowski's strategy for survival was doomed to failure. Utilizing hundreds of photographs taken by Jewish Council photographers and other ghetto inhabitants, the film depicts the activities of the Jewish Council, the conditions of daily life for ghetto inhabitants, Rumkowski's relationship to the Nazis, the gradual disintegration of the ghetto, and final deportation to the death camps.
"Director Peter Cohen has used archival footage and previously unseen photographs taken by people in the Lodz ghetto to document his engrossing, extraordinary look at one tragic moment in the human devastation of World War II."
- Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide
“Except for the brief use of film at the conclusion - almost a home movie that was made, ironically, by a German soldier - the documentary tells its story with old photographs. They are extraordinarily moving. In a way, Rumkowski is not really the subject of the documentary; the Jews of Lodz are. The old photographs, almost all of them taken by the victims themselves, freeze the Jews in time in a way that moving images do not. We have become familiar with, perhaps desensitized to, pictures of death camps, emaciated inmates and piles of bodies. The documentary shows us ordinary-looking people. It makes the horror more real.”
– John Corry, The New York Times (10/04/84)
The Story of Chaim Rumkowski and the Jews of Lodz
Sweden, 1982, 55 minutes, color
Directed by Peter Cohen
Public Exhibition 16mm Rental available