Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’ and Josef Oberhauser

Claude Lanzmann’s film ‘Shoah’ is memorable. Not because of what it says. But because of its refusal to say anything at all. The theme of ‘Shoah’ is the Holocaust, in which over six million Jews were murdered by National Socialist Germany. But to state the theme in this way is to already go beyond the film. ‘Shoah’ can be classed as a documentary, in that it features interviews with real people about events to which they were eyewitnesses. But it does not document anything, or try to explain anything. If there is a message, it must be worked out by the viewer, in subjective imagination. Which puts the question to me.

General Wolf fabricates the truth

Markus Wolf was the legendary head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) the East German foreign intelligence service. His successes, naturally enough, were well hidden, but after the collapse of East Germany in 1989, their true significance was revealed. Everywhere that mattered, agents of the HVA had been burrowing away. West German political parties, commercial enterprises, trade unions, the police and the armed forces, even artists’ networks and terrorist organisations, had been penetrated, sometimes at the highest levels. The HVA was much better than its West German counterpart, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). BND operations in East Germany yielded little that could not be read in the newspapers. Small wonder. Markus Wolf had agents so well-placed in the BND that much of its activity was steered from the HVA.

Nailing the Ninety-Five Theses

It is 500 years to the day since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, and unleashed the Reformation. While Germany celebrates one of its most famous sons – some Germans, that is, for fast swathes of the population spend their time playing computer games or foaming at the mouth over football, and couldn’t care less – it is worth asking whether there is any truth to the legendary deed of Wednesday, October 31, 1517.