Forgiving Dr. Mengele (2006) is a documentary, which chronicles the story of a Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor, who underwent inhuman experiments at Auschwitz concentration camp. After trying to cope with dreadful reminiscences for half of the century, Kor finally decided to forgive the Nazi perpetrators. In 1995, she made a public statement of amnesty to the Nazi atrocities at Auschwitz, which stirred up much debate and controversy. Kor propagated these ideas internationally by delivering lectures and establishing a Holocaust museum in Terre Haute, Indiana. The critical point of this documentary is to convey the message about the healing power of forgiveness. To achieve this objective and persuade the audience, the director applies several effective techniques.
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First of all, it is necessary to observe that the documentary strongly relies on a significant amount of historical video footage. The audience follows the horrifying video tapings of the concentration camp, experimental tortures, and children’s dead bodies. Further, the documentary incorporates the video recording of Kor’s meeting with Auschwitz physician Hans Münch in 1993. Later on, there is video footage of TV news reporting the arson attack at Kor’s museum in 2003.
Moreover, the film provides an extensive focus on photo materials, demonstrating Kor’s family and their peaceful life before the war. All these original fragments of data ensure the credibility of the movie, enabling the viewer to experience these episodes of the protagonist’s life.
Throughout the movie, the audience also observes Kor’s daily routine at work and home with her family, visiting a physician, or attending a gym. However, these contemporary scenes of well-being continuously switch to the video recordings of the past. For instance, Kor’s hammering of a real estate for sale advertisement turns to the heavy throbbing of an engine, rattling to Auschwitz. Next, the luxurious swimming pool by a house to be sold transforms into a dirty pond near a concentration camp.
Further on, Kor’s medical examination by an ophthalmologist parallels with Dr. Mengele’s sadistic experiments. Similarly, the children’s railway suddenly changes to a locomotive with Holocaust victims. During the flight to Vienna, a stewardess’s safety instructions in German immediately bring back Kor’s worst memories. Thus, the protagonist virtually lives in two dimensions: the safe world of the present and the horrible reminiscences of Auschwitz.
In my opinion, this time travel technique ensures an increased effect of the documentary’s message. In such a manner, the audience obtains a precise understanding that Kor is haunted by her past. Throughout her life, the protagonist relentlessly suffers from detrimental consequences of physical and psychological traumas inflicted by the Nazis. Therefore, she decides to turn to forgiveness as a self-healing tool. As a result, she liberates herself from the oppressing past of a helpless victim.
Kor managed to reconcile with her pain, which makes her stronger and brings her internal comfort. The fact that Kor is symbolically set free from her nightmares is evident at the end of the documentary. Indeed, in the final scene, we observe the single example of an inverse camera switch from 1944 to contemporary life. Hence, film shots of marching Auschwitz victims change to footage with Kor walking between the same barbed-wire fences.
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Thus, the documentary effectively delivers a convincing message, representing forgiveness as a healing virtue, which helped Eva Kor to overcome her painful experience. Through extensive use of historical video footage and symbolic change of scenes, the movie vividly discloses how the act of forgiveness enables a person to move on in life. By forgiving Dr. Mengele and other Nazi perpetrators, Eva Kor managed to attain the long-desired internal peace and freedom from her victimized past.