"Forget Us Not" is an award-winning, seventy-minute documentary presenting the experiences of what are referred to as Nazism's "other victims." History's focus is on the six million Jews the Nazis murdered because Nazism's focus was on Jews.
But it is a tragedy, and a great lie, that too many people have no idea that Nazism also targeted non-Jews. When I speak about the Holocaust, I ask audiences, "What group did the Nazis mass murder first and last, even after they surrendered to the Allies?"
No one has yet been able to answer that question. The answer is handicapped Germans. If you are surprised, you don't understand Nazism. A good first step would be viewing "Forget Us Not."
Ron Perlman provides sonorous narration. Archival black and white film clips are interspersed throughout, including one brief, insufferable shot of Nazis laughing. Lieutenant Commander Jack H. Taylor, "the first Navy Seal," testifies to the horrors of Mauthausen. What music there is is excellent.
Most of "Forget Us Not" consists of four living survivors telling their own stories. Wilhelm Heckman's story is told via voiceover narration and photographs. Heckman was a musician and alleged to be a homosexual; he was interned in Mauthausen.
Robert Wagemann is the most articulate interviewee. Before his birth, his mother was imprisoned for distributing Jehovah's Witness pamphlets. His mother's obstetrician was Jewish, and thanks to Nazi policies, he disappeared. Wagemann was a breach birth, and his mother had only a midwife for help. Wagemann's hip was injured.
When Wagemann was five years old, he was ordered to report for a physical. His mother overheard a doctor saying that he'd break for lunch, come back, and murder Wagemann. Nazi Aktion T4 was designed to eliminate defective people. Wagemann's mother grabbed her son and rushed to the exit. A nun blocked their escape; Wagemann's mother was insistent. She took her naked son to a riverbank and dressed him in the privacy of the reeds.
Wagemann said his goal was to communicate to young people living in the West how fortunate they are, and what kind of freedom they have. "Tolerance and conscience is the most important thing," he says. "To fight racism and hate you have to have tolerance. You have to look upon the next person as your human brother and human sister. You have to help him when he is in need...if you cut yourself what comes out is red. If he cuts himself, it's the same color."
Ceija Stojka was an Austrian-Romani survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her family was Catholic. Her interview offers the most graphic details of horror. She describes the death of her little brother Ossi from typhus, dead bodies of babies rolling out of trains when the doors were opened, and her attempt to match decapitated heads to appropriate bodies when she came upon an "insanely large" pile of corpses.
Natalia Orloff-Klauer was Ukrainian. Her parents were rounded up and used by the Nazis as slave laborers. Her experience was one of slow starvation and hideous conditions. Her mother became ill, never recovered, and died shortly after the war. Later, Orloff-Klauer survived the firebombing of Dresden. Even rescue presented nightmares; survivors had to be stripped naked, shaved, deloused, and paraded for inspection. After the war she lived in a damaged railway car. The Grace Presbyterian Church of Wichita, Kansas sponsored the surviving members of her family and made it possible for her to come to the US.
Veronika Young was a Polish slave laborer. Her interview was the least satisfying. Young repeatedly stated that she did not remember key details, including the name of the town she was born in. She said things like "It was horrible." I wish the filmmaker had found a more articulate and authoritative Polish survivor. There are certainly all too many Polish survivors of Nazi atrocities. After Jews and Gypsies/Rom, Poles were the most persecuted national group under the Nazis. The Poles' role in WW II was key, and better understanding of what the Nazis did to Poles would help the viewer.
Filmmaker Heather E. Connell's previous work addressed orphans in Cambodia. Her humanitarian approach is clear. Connell devotes the final twenty minutes of the film to the founding of the United Nations, to mention of other genocides, and to each survivor's exhortations to the audience. Realize how lucky you are, survivors insist to young viewers. Be tolerant. Take care of each other. Never again.
The "other victims" are often ignored for ideological reasons. I know students who have been lead to believe by Christophobic scholars and media that Nazism was a Christian phenomenon; in fact, Nazism vowed to destroy Christianity and Dachau was known as Germany's largest monastery, because of all the clergy interned there.
Nazism was inspired by atheism, scientism, Darwinism, and neo-Paganism. Attention to Nazism's "other victims" can clarify ideological propaganda.
"Forget Us Not" doesn't provide enough information to the viewer to understand how each group of victims differed. Yes, Nazis killed Ukrainians, but it's important to remember that Ukrainians, at first, were significant in their level of collaboration and genocidal killings of Poles. Jehovah's Witnesses were concentration camp inmates, but they were accorded relatively preferential treatment.
"Three million Polish citizens marked with the letter P met their deaths in the camps," the film states. Three million Polish non-Jews did not die in concentration camps. Young says she was in Saarbrucken concentration camp and Orloff-Klauer says she was in Bibigan concentration camp; I cannot find either in lists of the camps. Otherwise, though, for its intimate portraits of "other victims," this film is recommended.