Triumph of the Spirit is a film about people who have made choices in one of the most horrific situations--the Auschwitz death camp. Think of all the choices made by Salamo Arousch and those nearest to him. His sister Julie chooses to stay with her little girl rather than give the child over to her mother and thus get picked for the labour camp (somewhat curious that the SS officer doing the selection gave Julie the option of living). Avram refuses to join the Sonderkommando and is killed by the Nazis. Salamo chooses to box to keep his father alive a little while longer. Allegra chooses to believe her sister Helena who has chosen to make up a story about pregnancy. Jocko Levy has chosen to become a Kapo only to be tossed out by the Nazis when he is no longer healthy.
It was the magnitude of the choices that stunned me when I saw the film when it came out. The film presents us with an unrelenting series of situations and choices to be made. How would any of us have behaved if we had been in the same situation?
Triumph of the Spirit made me squirm because it showed me just how complex the Holocaust experience was for individuals who had to make life and death decisions. This is what lifts Triumph of the Spirit way above most other Holocaust films.
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