The Accountant of Auschwitz proposes a moral dilemma about whether to follow through convicting a 94-year-old man with crimes against humanity for contributing to the horrors of the Auschwitz death camp. The man in question, former SS guard Oskar Gröning, is physically frail, stoic, and would undoubtably live out his final years in prison, but are these current details relevant when discussing justice for 300,000 people who were murdered for their culture?
There are segments in Matthew Shoychet’s documentary that are packaged as a debate with balanced opinions on both sides of the judicial argument, but The Accountant of Auschwitz is really about communicating how difficult the journey has been for Holocaust survivors and anti-fascists to put these historic crimes on trial. With a range covering partisan Nuremberg trials to recent struggles with sentencing the elderly for their grotesque past, Shoychet draws comparisons between the past and present; hoping to strike a conversation about the importance of principle and memory, and how we have the right to hold people accountable for their toxic actions.
This is a powerful feature-length debut for Matthew Shoychet, an imaginable new filmmaker who uses engaging methods (including how he illustrates Gröning’s trial) to keep his movie from falling into the wash of courtroom docs and historical documentaries. However, it’s evident that he and his producers are more hopeful that the film’s humanistic influence will resonate most with audiences.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie