The great power of documentaries is that they explore what one can think of as untouchable. In “Love it Was Not” Helena Zitron, the daughter of a Slovakian cantor is transported to Auschwitz in 1942. An SS officer at the camp Franz Wunch takes a liking to Helena and acts as her protector saving her life against certain death. Yet as for the Jewish men at the camp he is a nasty brute. He manages to save her sister from the gas chambers but not her children. Is it love?
The name of this Austrian/Israeli documentary says no! Play the odds it was an act of survival but what does love know about the odds?
Having visited a concentration camp in Poland as a younger man in the 1970’s I remember taking a train there and thinking about the trains that transported thousands to their death. I remember travelling through forests. I remember a special exhibit of recovered children’s art that lingers in my memory today. But I remember little more. It may be that I have repressed it for my own mental health.
The film chronicles the life and sickening atrocities at Auschwitz. How could a Jewish woman fall in love with an SS officer? It may have saved many in her circle of “friends” not that she was popular with all being beaten on occasion but refusing to name her assailants.
We hear from Helena recounting her relationship with Wunch and from Wunch as well. Wunch tried to locate her after the war in Israel but she had married and had children. An SS officer in Israel! No way.
Some survivors call her a Jewish whore all very brave now but had she not had the relationship with Wunch would these survivors be alive today!
Wunch was tried for war crimes in Vienna in 1972 and Helena, despite death threats against her in Israel, testified what he had done for her perhaps saving him from a conviction. Wunch was acquitted and given the low conviction rates in the Austrian judicial system for war crimes that is no surprise.
It seems clear that Wunch loved Helena but not so clear the other way around.
Moral of the story is that survival causes twists and turns but Helena hurt no one. Betrayed no one and if she used love to achieve that goal what fault is there in that?
You be the judge of any moral wrong but who are you to judge never having been in Auschwitz?
This 2020 86-minute Israeli/Austrian production directed by Maya Sarfaty shows in early December at Ted Rogers Hots Docs Cinema both in theatre and virtually.
You can check out their website at https://hotdocscinema.ca/
You can see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KisIKrDl_Do