Talk:Shoah (film)

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Who is Responsible for the Tone of the Last Section?[edit]

I mean I'm sorry, I'm not a Jew and I hate the state of Israel and think the reflex accusations of anti-Semitism for anything criticizing Israelis or Nazi-hunters is annoying, but- was this section tampered with by someone anti-Semitic? It's clearly biased against the filmmaker, it defends (and attempts to elicit sympathy for) the Nazis and the Polish 'bystanders' (ie, those who stood by and watched an entire race get murdered), and generally is really creepy and weird and wrong. Fix it or I will. Or hell, why not go the rest of the way and make a section about how Shoah might be a vast hoax, since the Holocaust never happened. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:24, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

  • Please, add your comments below, not on the top.
  • "the Nazis and the Polish 'bystanders' (ie, those who stood by and watched an entire race get murdered)" - would you be so kind to learn, how were the Polish 'bystanders' exterminated, robbed and deported during WWII, not only by the Germans? Why the Polish bystanders are attacked rather than the ones outside Poland? Xx236 (talk) 10:23, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

"Fix it or I will." I thank God that the illustrious composer of the sentence "Updike sucks." in the John Updike article has made his way here to the Shoah (film) article and is giving us his (unsigned, of course) take on responses to The Holocaust. Schoolyard bullies wearing Notre Dame jackets are now barging into encyclopedia editing rooms and redefining the world the rest of us live in! Saints Be Praised! But wouldn’t you feel more at home scrawling your insults on the urine-stinking rest room walls of your local Fighting Irish tavern? CMUMailman (talk) 00:39, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

Any evidence Lanzmann actually said it's not a documentary?[edit]

I wrote the current intro on the supposition of someone who insisted that Lanzmann denied it was a documentary. This seemed plausible to me (artists often like to say that their work is genre-breaking), and so I tried to work it into the article in an NPOV way. However, looking around a little, I'm not so sure. Is there any evidence that Lanzmann ever actually made such a statement?--Pharos 20:27, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

An article from Yale French Studies (Volume 79, 1991) titled "Seminar with Claude Lanzmann, 11 April 1990" transcribes a seminar Q&A Lanzmann held at Yale. On page 96 of the article, we find

Karen Fiss: You told us about one story that wasn't included in the film. I'm wondering what you did with all the other information that you gathered? Was it recorded?...What are you doing with the film that wasn't included in the final...
Lanzmann: With what is not in the film? You want to know my deep wish? MY wish would be to destroy it. I have not done it. I will probably not do it. But if I followed my inclination I would destroy it. This, at least, would prove that Shoah is not a documentary.

Although this comment, in terms of substantiating your introduction, is more cogent within the context of this article, I think it's essential to note that Shoah is not a documentary, according to the typical use of this term. Hopefully this quote helps. --Ibickerstaff 02:36, 4 April 2007 (UTC)
I find this entire 'documentary or not' discussion a bit academic, to be honest. Of course Shoah is a documentary. That Shoah mainly consists of 'talking heads' doesn't make it in anyway special or different. There are numerous similar documentaries, also without historical footage or reenactments. I can understand Lanzmann's reluctancy to call it a documentary, because that's box-office poison. Documentaries don't sell well. But let's call a spade a spade. There's no shame in making documentaries and Shoah is a bloody good one. (By the way, if a trainride to Treblinka isn't a reenactment, then I don't know what is.)  Channel ®    20:00, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
It's not documentary because Lanzmann made the movie to made a point. He didn't "document", he only took those materials which suited his point and ditched all others. Szopen (talk) 09:05, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
A documentary contains creative image of the others - eg. dumbs Pollacks. A biased movie about yourself is a biased movie, propaganda, lies. Why did he select the Poles of more than twenty nations of bystanders? Xx236 (talk) 06:50, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

[1] Jerzy Turowicz' article.Xx236 (talk) 10:06, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

Lanzmann clearly says his film is not a documentary [University College Utrecht here]. Though he doesn't wholly make clear why not, he does say many things about his purpose. Pincrete (talk) 17:03, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Poles about Claude Lanzmann and Shoah[edit]

Anna Bikont with Claude Lanzmann: "AB: Can you recognise, that there are other points of view?" "CL: There is no other point of view, there is only proper point of view." About Polish movie about Korczak: "AB: Do you consider as improper solely the fact, that the movie about Holocaust was made by Poles?" "CL: I don not want to go into this, but I wouldn't be so audacious to made a movie about Palestinians"

Janicka, Polish translator who worked with Lanzmann: "Yes, I did sometimes changed Lanzmann questions. He despised his Polish interviewers. For example he asked them those golden teeths you were given, were they still blooded"?"

He ignored ALL fragments about Poles helping Jews. Karski talked a lot about that; Gawkowski, Pole who drove a train with Jews was talking about Jews who were helped during escape by Poles. One Jewish survivor asked Lanzmann to find a daughter of Pole, who helped him. NONE of this was in the movie.

Lanzmann about why he cut Karski "I wasn't making a document." Bartoszewski, who was member of Zegota, organisation which helped the Jews "Lanzmann asked me >>did I witnessed execution of Jews? No? then we have nothing to talk about<<"

And that's why this was not a documentary. Szopen (talk) 09:26, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

I've also read your other contributions and basically what you keep saying is that Lanzmann paints an unfair picture of the Polish people. I think you're right about that. Shoah mainly shows indifferent Poles who don't care that much (if at all) about the Jews being gassed. Lanzmann completely ignores the Polish resistance and gives the impression that everybody in Poland agreed with the nazis. Simply put, in Shoah there are only bad Germans, indifferent Poles and innocent Jews. I agree with you that this an unbalanced view.
However, it's Lanzmann's view. Every documentary has a point of view and every director will cut out stuff that doesn't fit this view. In some cases it's more obvious than in others. A documentary may be biased, but it's still a documentary. It doesn't matter if the viewer agrees with the content or not.
Lanzmann does not present fiction as fact. The Germans he interviews ARE nazis, the Poles he interviews ARE indifferent, the Jews he interviews ARE innocent victims. There must have been others too, of course. Good Germans and bad Jews. But they don't fit in Shoah. That doesn't matter. Somebody else can make a documentary about them. The point is that the people in Shoah are speaking THEIR truth, THEIR facts. It's not fiction. It may only be one side of the story, but it's a true side. Which, in my book, makes it a documentary.  Channel ®    11:12, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Good propaganda is always based on facts.
There is a novel The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum - the power of media is terrible. Somebody else can make a documentary about them. - the documentaries exist, but you don't know them, the same as millions of other people, including some Holocaust academicians, who quote Shoah as an ultimate prove of the evilness of all Poles. Xx236 (talk) 06:43, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

For Lanzmann the setting in Catholic Poland was crucial, not incidental, to the Holocaust. He makes no reference to Catholic regimes in Croatia, Slovakia or Vichy France. For him Catholic antisemitism means Polish, peasant antisemitism. - see Jewish Quaterly [2]. Xx236 (talk) 11:59, 23 October 2008 (UTC)

The English article currently cited to support the statement that "some Poles have accused Lanzmann of being selective in his use of Polish subjects, that he mistranslated some dialogue and that he edited the film to create the impression that Poles willingly co-operated with the Nazis, cutting out anything which contradicted this view" doesn't include these specific accusations. As far as I can see, the closest it comes is in the 3rd paragraph:

after the Paris premiere of Shoah, the conclusion presented in the French mass media was that the Poles had their share in the guilt and responsibility for the extermination of the Jews. (E.g., the title in the Paris daily Liberation: “La Pologne au banc des accusés“/ “Poland in the dock.”) In several interviews and statements Mr. Lanzmann himself has also practically subscribed to this opinion.

Does the mistranslation claim come, rather, from the Polish article that Szopen links to? Dependent Variable (talk) 04:41, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

Complaints about bias in this film are well-founded, whether it's a documentary or NOT. It is strange that Lanzmann would focus only on Polish people's participation in the Holocaust. I think that it's obvious to state that many French went along with it too. That Lanzmann's film centers particulary on Poland and its people seems, to put it mildly, unfair. I'm not Polish, and have no Polish ancestors and live in the U.S. But from reading the synopsis of the film it sounds like Lanzmann has an anti-Polish bias or prejudice that he does not want to admit. This obvious bias actually undermines the credibility of his entire film. Why would I want to see a film that does not give the story from all sides? Why would critics call this a good film when it really sounds like a piece of one man's very skewed opinion of history and an entire people? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:14, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

Intro paragraph "documentary" question needs revision[edit]

The current formulation: "director Lanzmann considers it to fall outside of that genre,[1] as, unlike most historical documentaries, the film does not feature reenactments or historical footage..." seems like a cop-out. While I appreciate the sensitive and indeed emotional nature of the issues, they are important enough IMO to merit a more careful introduction of the "documentary" issue.

Reading the Lanzmann quotes above in the Talk section, and elsewhere (for instance where Lanzmann is quoted thus: “Making a history was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to construct something more powerful than that” – Claude Lanzmann) makes it clear that his rejection of the term "documentary" is not due to its lack of reenactments or historical footage - rather that his intention explicitly differs from that usually attributed to (purely) documentary works. For starters, I would remove the word "as" from the quote above, and start a new sentence with the word "Unlike" - this at least decouples the two phrases.

Perhaps including the Lanzmann quote "...something more powerful..." would help in expressing CL's intention to produce an artistic, evocative work of non-fiction, rather than a comprehensive historical narrative. I agree that every documentary work has a viewpoint, but it might be said that maintaining a neutral POV was not one of CL's expressed goals in making the work. (talk) 13:31, 18 October 2008 (UTC)

Archetypes section[edit]

Just perusing the "Archetypes" section, it struck me as unencyclopedic. It reads like a high school essay. No references. As I understand it, this kind of material doesn't belong in Wikipedia and should be removed. (Sorry!) --Smithfarm (talk) 08:04, 8 May 2009 (UTC)


This article in New Left Review says that Shlomo Sand "later drew the ire of Claude Lanzmann with his 2002 book in Hebrew, Film as History, in which he not only passed scathing judgement on Lanzmann’s Shoah, but also revealed that the film had been secretly funded by the Israeli government." I'm not sure if that indirect reference is enough; does anyone know more about this? Zerotalk 07:35, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

i agree (mike) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:46, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Fixing this article[edit]

This entire article needs help. This is an extremely important film to the world as it shows real life interviews of holocaust survivors, bystanders and perpetrators, something that could never be recreated as these people have now (for the vast majority) passed on. This is an extremely important and unique film. Yet this article has a poor wandering synopsis and I recently deleted a 'Controversies' section that was incredibly poorly written and biased. It is of the utmost importance to note controversy, but both sides of the controversy need to be explained in order to remain neutral. The intro appears to be the only part of this article that is acceptable. User:Flessner89

Fixing by removing rather than rewriting. The poor "Steretypes" section hasn't been removed? Why streotypes of dangerous Afroamericans or greedy Jews are wrong but stereotypes of dumb Pollacks are O.K.?Xx236 (talk) 13:12, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

I would like to see this article moved away from "who is really to blame for the Holocaust" narrative completely. I don't think that discussion has a place on this page. While I do recognize that this discussion takes place, I don't see that this is the page to have it. I just think that's a historical discussion, and because this is a documentary of a historical event it has never been seen as a complete narrative. At the end of the day, it is a film project and shouldn't be hijacked by political or historical discussions. I have found no significant amount of opinion claiming Shoah is bias whatsoever and none from a reliable source. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fancynancywhy (talkcontribs) 01:19, 28 April 2012 (UTC)

Henryk Gawkowski, who drove one of the trains while intoxicated with vodka[edit]

Now we know who is responsible for the Holocaust - intoxicated Henryk Gawkowski, whose face accompanies the article. Xx236 (talk) 13:22, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

Lanzmann and Bartoszewski about the film[edit]

I haven't produced a documentary, It's fiction in which the reality of the Shoah is being lived on once more(?). It's an object of art. (Lanzmann to Anna Bikont, published in 1997 in Gazeta Wyborcza ).

I don't work with goyim (Lanzmann to his future interpretator in Poland Barbara Janicka).

The film shows only very primitive people (in Poland). What harm if one diplomed technician or one Righteous among the Nations were present in the movie? (Władysław Bartoszewski).Xx236 (talk) 11:59, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Reception and Awards[edit]

I added this section. I hope everyone is happy with it. This is a very serious film and deserves serious consideration. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fancynancywhy (talkcontribs) 00:52, 28 April 2012 (UTC)


How could Pauline Kael's parents be Holocaust survivors, when according to "Pauline Kael" entry in Wikipedia: "Kael was born on a chicken farm in Petaluma, California, to Isaac Paul Kael and Judith (Friedman) Kael, Jewish immigrants from Poland. Her parents lost their farm when Kael was eight, and the family moved to San Francisco.[2] In 1936 she matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied philosophy, literature, and the arts but dropped out in 1940 before completing her degree"? Pauline Kael was born in 1919, and unless her parents decided to go back to Poland before the outbreak of WW II, which is highly unlikely, they were Jewish immigrants NOT Holocaust survivors. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:08, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for noticing that. Correction added with reliable third-party source. Poeticbent talk 19:30, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

Missing background information[edit]

This article does not say why the Holocaust scholars living in Poland were not contacted for the making of this film in 1985. The same idea of interviewing only peasants was picked up by Robert Faurisson, another Frenchman, who visited Poland in 1988 and spoke through his personal interpreter only with "non-intellectual" locals — again, quite intentionally. The aging Polish farmers who never read any "paper historians" (as Faurisson said) and therefore knew little if anything about the broader picture, could tell a much more suiting story for his own research. Both foreign guests got the idea of making a trip to Poland roughly at the same time. Undoubtedly the trial of John Demjanjuk in 1985–1988 was directly related to the renewed interest in the subject, in France as well as elsewhere. Poeticbent talk 17:35, 30 November 2013 (UTC)

Although at the exact opposite ends of the same Holocaust spectrum, both Faurisson and Lanzmann knew exactly where they were going with their research, but it was Faurisson who found the winner in a Polish farmer by the name of one Marian Olszuk (allegedly born in Wólka Okrąglik near Treblinka, a young boy in 1942-43) who reportedly "did not notice" any signs of "homicidal activities" there (said Faurisson). Faurisson, who does not understand Polish (neither of them does), got excited, and in his subsequent writings called Olszuk a "clear-headed", "exceptional witness, and indeed a guide". – However, nothing is found in the Polish language about one "Mariam" (Marian?) Olszuk online as if he never existed... not a single mention of such a name anywhere in the country. By the way, Holocaust denial is punishable in Poland (Dz. U. z 1998 r. Nr 155, poz. 1016). Poeticbent talk 22:04, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Sight & Sound poll cited in the lead paragraph[edit]


I will assume good faith regarding your reversion of my edit, and presume that you found my cited source unreliable only by mistake. If this is not the case, I must then inform you that the British Film Institute's decennial Sight & Sound polls – regardless of my own thoughts on their rankings – are arguably the single most respected source for the films considered the best. Film critic Roger Ebert has even famously called them the only ones taken seriously by most aficionados of cinema.

Also, it is highly advisable for openings of Wikipedia film pages to give the extent to which such films are revered by today's scholars. The lead section of Shoah previously had only discussed reception upon initial release – which, while relevant, has oftentimes in film history been different from retrospective reviews. One of the first paragraphs of the page for Andrei Rublev (1966), for example, informs the reader that the work is now considered one of the greatest movies of all time, and notes the film's high placements in the Sight & Sound polls.

For these reasons, I have undone your edit – once again assuming good faith and your mistake. AndrewOne (talk) 00:22, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

If you happen to work for, Wikipedia recommends that you reveal your conflict of interest. – Also, did you actually read what that blog says? It is called the Greatest Films Poll. They invite you to "Support and join" i.e. to become one of their participants. Film "Shoah" is listed as 29th by their "Critics" poll, and 48th by their "Directors" poll. It is not, therefore "one of the greatest films ever made" according to their own members. And please, do not play possum with me next time. Thanks, Poeticbent talk 01:27, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

While not a fan of your conduct, I will nonetheless take the time to respond to your remarks. You have made these reversions without truly knowing what you're talking about – and please do not believe I say this as an insult, or as part of a "possum" game.

Firstly, I do not work for, and no conflict of interest exists on my part. In fact, I would like to add that I disagree with many of the rankings of the 2012 Sight & Sound polls – and so it would have been a conflict of interest on the opposite side of the spectrum, if anything.

Secondly, is the official website of a charitable organization, not simply a blog. It appears you lack knowledge regarding how the institute conducts the decennial Sight & Sound polls. It is not a poll of BFI benefactors and/or "members". Every 10 years, the institute asks hundreds of critics and directors, from around the world, to select the 10 films that they consider to be the greatest. As I have said before – with factual basis rather than a conflict of interest – these polls are among the most widely respected on the subject of world cinema. If you still believe that it is unheard of, or wrong, to cite them in the lead section of a Wikipedia page, just take a look at the lead sections for Man with a Movie Camera (1929), The Godfather (1972), Mulholland Dr. (2001), and The Tree of Life (2011), among many others.

Now, your assertion that the film's placements show it is not truly considered "one of the greatest" ever made is debatable at the very least (as opposed to objectively wrong). Some people would indeed say that only a film in the top five, or top 10, is "one of the greatest." I would note, however, that thousands of movies are produced every year, and that the art of film has been around for nearly 130 years. With this in mind, to place a film within the 50 greatest of all time is still very high praise. Because whether Shoah is considered "one of the greatest" is disputable, I will forego the phrase and simply add either that the film is widely regarded by critics as a "masterpiece," or cite a BFI poll of the greatest documentaries – once again, not due to a conflict of interest, but because the British Film Institute's polls are a reliable source which add relevant and scholarly information to the article.

I will assume good faith and your mistake. AndrewOne (talk) 03:20, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

  • I am going to report you to administration. Please consider yourself forewarned. The new link you just added is a nasty trick. Poeticbent talk 05:12, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

The onus was on me to prove that the British Film Institute was a reputable source whose citation added relevant information to the article, and I satisfied that onus. You can bust the inclusion of truly unreliable sources all you want, but you cannot consider the Sight & Sound polls to be a mere "blog" because it isn't true.

The statement that "the Sight & Sound polls are influential among film aficionados" is a fact. It is not something with which you agree or disagree. No one is forcing you to agree with the rankings (as in many cases I don't), and nobody said that Shoah is objectively one of the greatest movies of all time. You would not, however, refer to someone's citing one of the polls as "a nasty trick" unless you were uninformed of film scholarship. AndrewOne (talk) 05:50, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

I now understand you had called the link "a nasty trick" because you had falsely believed that the link would infect editors with a virus. That was cleared up on the administrators' noticeboard, so I won't go into it now.

In any event, your addition gave the sentence a rather awkward wording (e.g., too many "by"'s). The inclusion that the polls are conducted by a British organisation is not necessary for a lead section as the organisation asks critics and directors from all over the world.[1] AndrewOne (talk) 03:41, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ "Sight & Sound 2012 poll – all voters". British Film Institute. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
In my opinion it is not appropriate for the lead. Properly reported and sourced, it might be appropriate somewhere else in the article. Zerotalk 03:50, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Support the Zero0000 comment. The poll is not appropriate for the lead. It did not require the same effort as critical analysis attributed to Polish and American critics. The poll is not being identified as British in the lede, as if, in an attempt to hide its scope. I tried to find a middle ground by keeping the poll in there with clarifications (although it was, and still is inappropriate for the lede in my view), but I was being reverted by AndrewOne, which – under the circumstances - could no longer be attributed to good faith but rather his unwillingness to seek agreement. I'd like to encourage you to step back and look at the broader perspective. Poeticbent talk 06:50, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Addendum. I don't have time for a far-reaching study of that poll right now, but by simply looking at specifics it can be shown that the results are localized. In the 2012 Poll not a single Polish professional voted for it. A fair number of participants were not critics at all, but programmers (by their own self-description). Among the 39 votes in section critics, 8 came from the UK. There were 7 votes from actual critics in the US, the rest were programmers and others including Graham Fuller from the CIA. I think the poll could be better described in bodytext, on a side note which I already proposed earlier before revert (see the full list of participants). Poeticbent talk 19:23, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

AndrewOne, please see the Bob Dylan example in WP:PEACOCK. "Wordiness" is needed to avoid peacock terms. I've revised this in the lead section. Erik (talk | contrib) (ping me) 20:45, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

We don't have here to judge on a personal level but to give a balanced state of the art of what is the current general critical opinion about this movie. This opinion, I think I can say, is that, even having provoked at its appearing some harsh critique, regarding the exposed Polish interviewees' antisemitism and the lack of an historical general context, the film is considered now a ”masterpiece” (Witness by Richard Brody, 2012-03-19, The New Yorker). The article by Pauline Kael, so oftentimes cited, is also considered as an ”'almost comically obtuse negative review of the movie, published in this magazine....” (Look Again by David Denby, 2011-01-10, The New Yorker). For these reasons I am of the opinion that the current lede is biased and should be rewritten substantially. Other considerations may be raised also.
  • It should be emphasized even more that the movie is almost only based on interviewed survivors, witnesses, and German perpetrators and that Lanzmann completely ”omitted photographs, newsreels, and documents (all the usual historical materials)” (Look Again).
  • That Lanzmann didn't master Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish languages is only one, and the less important, of reasons that explains movie's duration. It's also an artistic choice.
  • The last two sentences should be replaced by something simple and short, along the lines of: ”At its release in 1985 the film aroused controversy and criticism; nevertheless it received critical acclaim and won notable awards, and is now considered a masterpiece.” All details should be placed in the pertinent chapter.
Carlotm (talk) 23:11, 1 February 2016 (UTC)


I understand why the first sentence in the Bob Dylan example is puffery; it certainly and obviously is. No encyclopedia can ever state as fact that a person or a thing is "brilliant" or "defining." But is it truly an example of WP:PEACOCK to say what something is considered? Is it puffery to say that a film opened to acclaim from many critics, or that many critics panned the work? If this is truly the rule, countless film pages' lead sections have broken it and continue breaking it (without losing their validity as encyclopedic writings).

I won't be arrogant and say "You're totally wrong" – but a sentence such as "Dylan is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest songwriters in the history of rock music." is considerably different, in content or effect, from "Dylan was a brilliant songwriter."

If I am missing something here, please reply. Thanks – and, once again (just to inform you), editors have broken the rule hundreds, possibly tens of thousands, of times if this is the case. AndrewOne (talk) 03:22, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

  • Remove from the lead: "Shoah was ranked one of the "50 Greatest Documentaries of All Time" in a December 2015 poll by the British Film Institute. -- it's not clear from the linked article why this poll is particularly notable, or what the methodology is and why it should be called out in the lead. Further, this content is appropriately (at least at first glance) included within the body of the article. K.e.coffman (talk) 19:42, 6 February 2016 (UTC)


What is your recommendation for the lead instead? AndrewOne (talk) 14:53, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I concur with wording suggested by @Carlotm: ”At its release in 1985 the film aroused controversy and criticism; nevertheless it received critical acclaim and won notable awards, and is now considered a masterpiece.” Other suggestions above by the same editor also work for me. K.e.coffman (talk) 03:19, 10 February 2016 (UTC)