Schächten Film Review; punishment out of justice or revenge?
On January 29, 2023, just after January 27, The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the liberation of the Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Los Angeles, California, premier screening of the full feature film ‘Schächten’, (Schächten in Hebrew is shechita, meaning to slaughter) took place.
With Thomas Roth, Austrian Director/Writer and film star Jeff Wilbusch, Israeli-German actor, attending, the Los Angeles premier was under the patronages of Hilary Helstein, director of the LA Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF), Neil Friedman of Menemsha Films, and the co-presenting partners, Austria Consul General, Mr. Michael Postl and the Federal Republic of Germany Consul General, Mr. Stefan Schneider.
The film, a drama, thriller, crime story, 110 minutes long, in German with English subtitles, with an authentic well-acted screenplay, has been well received in Austria, where the main plot takes place, and is currently doing its worldwide premier screening rounds.
The plot, based on some true events combined with fiction, takes place in the late 1960s, in Vienna, Austria. Victor Dessauer (Jeff Wilbusch), twenty-something Jewish businessman, born in Vienna in the 1930s, survived the war as an-eight-year-old child by living alone in the snowy forests after he witnessed his grandparents murdered and his mother and 6-year-old sister hauled off to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, both perished in the Holocaust.
Victor and his father Paul, the only two survivors of the entire extended family who perished in the Holocaust own a textile business.
Victor found out that Kurt Gogl (Paulus Manker), the Nazi commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp is among the living and did not bear the consequences of the crimes he committed against humanity.
Pursuing justice, Victor witnesses the failures of the prosecution of a Nazi crimes against his family. The political and legal system in Austria is still virtually run by former Nazis with large parts of society being intertwined in the brutal past or chose to sweep it under the rug.
Victor seeks Simon Wiesenthal to bring Kurt Gogl to trial and he witnesses how the legal system acquits the Nazi Gogl, who murdered his family members.
When Victor meets Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, the renowned “Nazis hunter” (a real figure), played by Christian Berkel, he further learns how Austria has forged a national collective memory of victimhood and pursues rehabilitation of Nazi war crimes’ perpetrators. Lawyers, teachers, judges, police and entrepreneurs all live freely under assumed names, while government bureaucrats cover up old sins and create new ones.
Kurt Gogl himself is a school principal.
Victor finds himself losing faith in the justice system and decides to take matters into his own hands. Risking his entire existence in order to place Gogl in the same situation he experienced as a child, alone and abandoned in the forest, living in a hole in the ground from where there is apparently no escape, leads the plot to an original shocking “When Justice Has Not Yet Been Served” film conclusion.
The film Schächten, with other key cast actors, Georg Friedrich, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Julia Stemberger, Konstantin Frank and Miriam Fussenegger, embraces themes of law, justice and revenge.
“Much of this story radiates into our present society and how quickly the cycle of hatred can re-emerge in all of us.” ~ Thomas Roth
Only 78 years ago 6 million-plus Jewish children, women and men and others perished at the hands of the crimes against humanity perpetrators – the anti-Semitic, racist German-Nazis. Sadly, Antisemitism and crimes against Jews, because they are Jews, is on the rise again, a constant reminder that vigilance should be Jew’s second nature; learning about the Holocaust and keeping this horrendous crimes against humanity memory alive is a decree humanity must abide by.
The film Schächten contributes to educating the public on the Holocaust subject and its core story leads us into our present and how society can so very quickly return to the cycle of hatred that can re-emerge in all of us.
LAJFF is doing its part to remember, remind and educate, which includes screening Holocaust features and documentaries in order to further teach the community, most especially younger generations, so they NEVER allow themselves to FORGET.
About Director Thomas Roth and Actor Jeff Wilbusch
Thomas Roth, Director/Writer/Actor, born in 1965 in Graz, Austria, known as a freelance director and author since 1995. He received multiple awards, including the Erich Neuberg Prize, the Golden Romy and the Golden Ticket for his film “FALCO, verdammt wir leben noch.” He is the screenwriter and director of the multiple award-winning TV series “Trautmann,” and also contributed to many films and prominent German-language series i.e., “Tatort,” Wolfgang Bauer-Stets ein Fremder in mir, and others.
Actor Jeff Wilbusch who speaks English, Dutch, German, Hebrew, and Yiddish, interesting background: the eldest of 14 siblings, he is an Israeli-German, born November 1987 who grew up in the Hasidic Jewish Satmar community of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem.
Jeff studied economics and obtained a master’s degree in international economics from the University of Amsterdam. He then moved to Munich, Germany, where he studied theatre at the Otto Falckenberg School of the Performing Arts. Jeff played the role of Anton Mesterbein in the BBC/AMC miniseries ‘The Little Drummer Girl’, and Noah Weisz in the German-Luxembourgian television series Bad Banks. In 2020, he portrayed Moishe Lefkovitch in the German-American Netflix original miniseries ‘Unorthodox‘.