Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)
The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust.
“I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. “But I would not be able to get up from my bed in the morning, let alone pray, if I didn’t fully believe that God somehow was there holding the hands of each and every Jew in the gas chamber – each and every Tutsi, Armenian, Kurd, Israeli, Palestinian who suffers unjustly.”
Röhrig added that Holocaust survivors have no right to deny the presence of God in the death camps since those who died are not available for testimony, The Guardian reported. Röhrig said there is cause for him to believe, “as irrational as it sounds,” that since God is capable of anything, he “suffered along and was there.”
“If I wasn’t able to believe this, I don’t know why I’d take my next breath,” he said.
Son of Saul, Röhrig’s first film, is set in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 among the Sonderkommando work units, made up of prisoners in death camps given a pass at execution to work in the gas chambers. The film portrays a Jewish prisoner who was tasked with body disposal after Jews went through the gas chambers. His job was to lead new arrivals into gas chambers, scrub down the walls and floors after they were killed, put their bodies into the incinerators and then shovel their ashes into a river, according to The Guardian. He finds moral survival when trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he believes is his son.
Röhrig said members of the Sonderkommando units were “not just equally victimized but more victimized” than other death camp prisoners. “They lived in the epicenter of hell,” the Hungarian actor said. “I think they deserve utmost respect. Some of them tried to make their way into the gas chambers instead.”
One of the Sonderkommando’s duties was to lie to Jews about why they were entering the gas chambers, a fabrication that Röhrig believes was justified, “as bad as it is.”
“To fool the Jews that they’re taking a shower…It’s graceful,” he said. “I don’t think they were obligated to tell the newcomers that in the next half-hour, they’d be gassed to death with their children and parents. For the rest of their functions…I see absolutely nothing I think is unethical. It was the only way for them to do their best to survive.”
Röhrig’s father died when he was 4 years old. At age 12, after some years in an orphanage, he was adopted by Jewish friends of the family, according to The Guardian. During high school he spent half a year in Paris and later studied Polish literature and then film direction. He lived in Israel before moving to New York in 2000 to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
The actor asserted that “it’s fair to say” that people have not learned anything from the atrocities of the Nazis at Auschwitz. “The cruelty exhibited there exists today against the Kurds and elsewhere. You have a feeling of insecurity about tomorrow. There’s a level of chaos because global powers do not agree on the most minimal consensus.”
If there is one thing humans can learn from the Holocaust, he said, it’s to not stand by idly when crimes occur.
“You have different societies in every country. But whichever group you belong to, you’re never exempt from taking a side when it comes to crimes against humanity,” he said. “That’s true in Syria and America and Israel and everywhere…One of the lessons of 1944 lies with the bystanders – we can’t just let things happen.”
Watch the trailer for the film below (Hungarian with French subtitles):
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