Rob Edelman: Fiction, Fact, and The Holocaust | WAMC

Rob Edelman: Fiction, Fact, and The Holocaust

IN DARKNESS, directed by Agnieszka Holland, tells the story of a coldhearted sewer worker and small-time criminal in Nazi-occupied Poland who hides a group of Jews who are in grave danger of being exterminated. He does so for profit only, but as time passes he forms a bond with his charges and becomes deeply involved in their lives, and their plights.


IN DARKNESS is a powerful, must-see film which transcends its time and place as it demonstrates how the actions of one individual can positively impact the lives of those in his or her midst. And, it is based on a true story.

In spite of its all-encompassing theme, IN DARKNESS ultimately is a Holocaust film, and its content-- and the fact that it is based on fact-- reminded me of some disturbing spam that I received a while back. As I logged onto my computer, I was drawn to this spam which began, innocently enough, with a plea: “Please help me to LIBERATE AMERICA.” Then its anonymous author began exploring the hows and whys of United States involvement in the Middle East. Soon enough, the author began using the word “they.” He or she wrote, “They will never help you. They only help one another. If you are one of them, you can win the Academy Award and earn millions of dollars. You can be very famous if you just fake another Holocaust movie.”

The email continued, “Many people doubt that the Holocaust ever happened. They make it happen in the movies.” It further continued, “How come we never see a single actor with another nationality or another religion in their concentration camps in their Holocaust Movies. This alone must raise your doubt about if the Holocaust ever happened. They just made it up to suck your sympathy out of your heart and slave you and your kids forever.” 

This was but a short passage from what was a lengthy tirade which, by the way, concluded with three ironic words: “Peace on Earth.”

As far as I am concerned, the existence of such spam, and the fact that someone somewhere might read it and believe it, is proof positive that films like IN DARKNESS must be made and seen. The Holocaust may have happened decades ago, but I wince when I think about what might happen if ill-informed racists ever have the final word on the Final Solution.

IN DARKNESS is being screened at the Spectrum 8, Albany’s premiere art house. A statement from filmmaker Agnieszka Holland is included in the film’s description, found on the theater’s web site, and it bears repeating.

“One may ask if everything has now been said on (the) subject (of the Holocaust),” Holland observes. “But in my opinion the main mystery hasn’t yet been resolved, or even fully explored. How was this crime-- echoes of which continue in different places in the world from Rwanda to Bosnia-- possible? Where was Man during this crisis? Where was God? Are these events and actions the exception in human history or do they reveal an inner, dark truth about our nature?”

Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the views of this station or its management.