When I finished watching Amen, I really felt injustice. The movie subverts the horror of the Jews and reverses it so you feel it towards Kurt Gerstein, the S.S. Officer protagonist. He tried the whole movie to get the ball rolling with the Americans, the Vatican, and his own people, and nobody would lift a finger. Everyone was happily ignorant. What was most striking was when Riccardo, the only Catholic Priest sympathetic to Gerstein, sits down at a dinner with several of the Cardinals, U.S. Ambassadors, and their families, and not one of them is moved by Riccardo’s pleas. He dropped the statistics of how many Jews were being killed, how it would be a matter of time before Germany was killing Jews in Italy, even Christians, and he only received contempt.
The movie makes you question what you would have done, and how easy it would have been to do nothing. Gerstein can’t openly oppose the Nazis, or his family would have been killed. Instead, he tries to delay shipments of Zyklon B, and causes fiascos over “leaks” in the gas, making it unusable. Unfortunately, his efforts go mainly to waste, for he really isn’t able to save anyone.
Once the war is finally over, he is sent to prison. He hangs himself, knowing there is nothing he can say to be free of the condemnation of the world, although he did everything that was within his power.
Truly, the film is quite upsetting. I was truly in horror watching as the Pope himself declare his hands tied, and wouldn’t come out against the Nazis when he could have. His advisors were no better. Everyone was out for themselves and themselves alone, and when people are in high positions with lots of sway, they could be heard around the world during a time such as this.
As I write this, I feel my own hypocrisy. Today we know or at least hear about the horrible things happening in the world around us. Darfur, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran, China, etc. The Olympics in China are a good example: hundreds of homes were destroyed so the Olympic grounds could be built; the rewards of a Socialist Mao Ze Dong regime. What else did China hide from the world? Yet we still hold the most prestigious games there knowing full well what they’ve done.
We are an isolationist country. Is it our job to police the world? Should we have been involved in Germany earlier? If we say yes, then we also have to say we should be in Africa and the Middle East until they have as many Marriott Hotels and fast food restaurants as we do. But nobody is saying that today. We want to get out of there as fast as possible, and basically “leave them to their own devices”.
The reality is, that people all over the world are dying everyday, and we can be involved or we can’t. Most likely, our efforts will be too small and always too late for someone. Just like in Amen.