In addition to Stranger by the Lake, the Music Box will present the first Chicago run of Claude Lanzmann’s The Last of the Unjust starting this Friday. The fourth stand-alone documentary assembled from unused footage Lanzmann shot for Shoah, Unjust centers on Benjamin Murmelstein, the Vienna rabbi who worked with Adolf Eichmann in facilitating the deportation of Austria’s Jews and served as the last administrator of the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. It’s also the second Lanzmann work (after A Visitor From the Living) to deal with the unique case of Theresienstadt, the so-called model ghetto. The Nazis designed the camp to resemble a peaceful village and filled it with artists, intellectuals, and prominent business leaders. They then presented images of Theresienstadt to the rest of the world to create the illusion that Jews didn’t suffer in the camps.
On Thursday at 5 PM the Film Studies Center of the University of Chicago will screen the notorious Nazi propaganda film about Theresienstadt from 1945 (which originally circulated under the unofficial title The Führer Gives the Jews a City), a topic of discussion in Unjust. Natascha Drubek, a Heisenberg Fellow at the University of Regensburg, will discuss the film, along with an earlier, lesser-known work about the camp. Drubek regards these as “counterveiling examples of compliance and resistance via film,” yet both are valuable for providing images of Theresienstadt. One of the most horrifying aspects of the Nazis’ extermination of European Jews was how premeditated it was—the elaborate pretense of the “model ghetto” makes this painfully clear.