The Grey Zone

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The Grey Zone is a wonderful movie set in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and tells the story of the largely Jewish Sonderkommandos, or ‘death squads’, that were responsible for running the camp’s crematoria. The director uses the term ‘the grey zone’ to describe the challenge that these men thus present to what he terms the ‘Manichean tendency’ to view the history of the camps simply in terms of good and evil, black and white. Due to the multiple “grey zones”, the Sonderkommandos were all for themselves. They all knew that they there were going to die in the end and yet, no man was able to support another. There was no trust. These “grey zones” appeared because of the misfortunate that occurred on a day-to-day basis. The Sonderkommandos were forced to lie to their fellow people, murder them and worse, clean up the ashes. Seeing all of this will only force people to act in wild fashions; people will change. No man, woman, or child who survived will walk away without scars.

Throughout the movie, there were many acts of selfishness, and violence, but since the audience was also placed in a state of mind where they couldn’t anticipate what was to come next, the audience was caught by surprise. For example, one of the main characters Hoffman, killed a man for his watch in the undressing room. He became violent with this man because that man revealed who Hoffman actually is and what he does. Hoffman knows that leading other Jews into the gas chamber is wrong, especially since he is no different than these poor, helpless people. Being in the moment and on the spot, Hoffman went into a rage, but loathed himself in the end. The Sonderkommando prisoners did not always behave the same with one another. They should have been working as a group at all times, but they only disagreed with one another. For instance, in the movie they killed an elderly Sonderkommando because he could not deal with the trauma of having to burn his own family and it tortured his soul knowing...
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