Twenty-eight Dutch survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp, where an estimated 50,000 people were killed, tell in detail about their time there, about “daily life” in the concentration camp. No heroic stories, no “happy ending”, but one common conclusion: the greatest chance of survival was simply not apparent. As long as you made sure that you moved through the camp like an invisible ghost, without crazy things, without rude or reckless behavior, then you had a chance.
The stories of the men edited together form a realistic and moving portrait of their history, both the atrocities and the banalities of everyday life are discussed: the endless boredom, the hard work, the excuses for getting away from it and the friendships that became Closed. But also the train that took them there, the mandatory shower and shaving sessions, during which it was checked en passant who was possibly circumcised in order to get the Jews out, the fleas and lice and lack of sanitation. The stories show how the lives of the – then – young and unprepared men were reduced to an inhuman existence, where the disappearance into the background, the lack of attention became the most important.
Sometimes it feels as if the director, who made the film on behalf of the NIOD (Netherlands Institute for War Documentation), has little connection with the subject. He himself admits this to a certain extent: he has not addressed this subject on his own, nor has he any personal connection with the theme. The interviews had already been conducted by NIOD, Bakker has efficiently reduced the hours of material to fifty minutes, interspersed with archive footage and photos. While this shouldn’t be a problem in itself, the film still feels quite distant. A subject like this calls for a certain urgency on the part of the makers and if that is lacking, it leaves an unsatisfactory feeling. You would like to comfort the men who tell their story, moved to tears, but the film does not allow that and that is a shame.