House Seats

S1 E4 | FULL EPISODE

The Soap Myth

Award-winning actors Ed Asner and Tovah Feldshuh star in a concert reading of The Soap Myth. Set more than fifty years after WWII, a young Jewish reporter grapples with the question – did the Nazis make soap from the corpses of murdered Jews? The Soap Myth dramatizes the confrontation between survivors, scholars, and Holocaust deniers, and questions who has the right to write history.

AIRED: January 26, 2020 | 1:26:50
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

Man: Can you come a little bit stage right?

Places, everyone!

[ Indistinct chatter ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Indistinct conversations ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

I met Milton Saltzman

a little less than a year and a half ago

in New York, in the fall of 2000.

I had gotten an assignment from an editor friend,

and at first, I didn't quite know what to make of it.

Neither did he.

A man had come into his office --

an elderly man, a survivor --

who said he had important evidence regarding the Holocaust

that was missing from the museums

that had just opened in New York and Washington,

and he'd been turned away

by the people who made the decisions,

and he wanted the magazine to do an article about it.

And the subject was provocative --

Soap.

Did the Nazis make soap from the corpses of murdered Jews?

I had graduated college a few years earlier,

a journalism major,

and had written some human interest stories,

but I was ill-prepared for Milton.

His story, what I knew about it, was heartbreaking.

He survived the camps and at 14 years old

returned to his hometown in Sighet, Romania,

where he saw a strange Jewish funeral.

They were burying soap.

Mr. Saltzman had a photograph of this funeral

and thought for sure that he would be embraced

by Holocaust historians and that artifacts of atrocity

like his photograph and bars of human soap

would be prominently displayed

in Holocaust memorials and museums.

But the historians told him

that the atrocity of human soap was a myth,

and soap became Milton's crusade.

He wanted someone to be his advocate

so that Holocaust scholars would change their minds.

There are some absurd aspects to this story.

The magazine is called Right Now

and bills itself as a progressive Jewish monthly.

When my article ran, it was in an issue

with a bizarre cartoon on the cover --

the head of a smiling black-bearded rabbi

photoshopped onto the body of Cupid,

complete with wings and bow and arrow.

The headline was, "Am I too sexy for my tallith?"

[ Laughter ]

And every time I hear that song,

I think of the cartoon with the bearded rabbi

dancing like a bobblehead doll.

His name was Shmuey Potash,

and though I had never heard of him,

he apparently is a big deal

in the waters of shallow Jewish celebrity.

[ Laughter ]

He calls himself "the rabbi of kosher love."

For some reason, the cartoon reminded me

of when I was a little girl and my father took me

to Kutsher's Resort in the Catskills.

I was sitting with my daddy in the resort's showroom

listening to a stand-up comic,

and I thought he was the funniest man on Earth,

and my dad thought so, too.

And for some reason, the magazine cover

with the dancing rabbi singing "I'm Too Sexy"

makes me laugh like I laughed at that Kutsher's comic.

The lights fade on Annie as a stand-up comic appears.

It's Yom Kippur, but a Reform rabbi

is so compulsive about his golf game

that he leaves his house

and instead of going to the synagogue,

heads to the local golf course to play a quick nine holes.

[ Clicks tongue ]

God and an angel just happen to be looking down together

and watch the rabbi play.

On the sixth hole, a long par five,

the rabbi drives off the tee, and God causes a mighty wind

to take the ball over the fairway

and directly into the cup

for a miraculous and dramatic hole in one.

The angel is horrified.

"Lord, you call this a punishment?"

God answers, "Sure! Who can he tell?"

[ Laughter ]

I see I have some golfers in the crowd.

Alright. We'll try another one.

Rabbi Ira Farber answers his phone.

"Hello!"

"Hello. Is this Rabbi Ira Farber?"

"It is."

"This is the Internal Revenue Service.

Can you help us?"

"I'll try."

"Do you know a Daniel Dickler?"

"I do."

"Is he a member of your congregation?"

"He is."

"Did he donate $25,000

to the synagogue rebuilding fund last year?"

"He will!"

[ Laughter, applause ]

Here's one about soap that circulated

in Eastern Europe among the Polish Jews.

It's a little gallows humor.

Uh, Germany is making war,

and all the basics are in short supply,

and the annexed countries are the last on the list.

Soap is one of the items in short supply.

As new trainloads of Jews rumble through the towns of Poland

on their way to the camps,

the villagers would shout encouraging words

to the poor, tragic souls.

"You should look at the bright side!

In a couple of weeks, we'll all be clean!"

[ Crowd groans ]

Well, I hear it killed in Treblinka.

The lights fade on the comic

and rise on Milton Saltzman,

who's sitting on a bench in a hallway.

Esther Feinman is trying to get away.

How dare you walk away from me?

Please. You need to make an appointment.

Uh, well, yeah, yeah, "make an appointment,"

when you wouldn't allow me to make an appointment?

Wh-Why do you continue to walk away from me?

Because I will not be shouted at!

And I get no pleasure out of shouting, believe me.

So, now that you have stopped walking, ah,

I -- I -- I can stop shouting.

I was not walking away from you.

Oh, this was not walking away?

I am late for a meeting.

Well, h-how late can you be? Five minutes, huh?

You don't have five minutes?

Alright. Five minutes.

Five minutes, you'll talk to me.

I'm grateful.

You know who I am? Yes.

I've sent you many letters.

I received your letters, and I read your letters.

And...?

And we sent you a letter in response.

Y-You... That's what you call a response?

Ehh...

I have it right here.

"Dear Mr. Saltzman, thank you for your interest

in the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

We welcome your input and suggestions.

Please be assured that after the most careful consideration,

we believe that your claims do not meet the rigorous

evidentiary standards necessary for inclusion

in our exhibitions and educational programming.

This the letter?

Yes.

You -- You admit to sending this letter?

Yes.

You sent this yourself?

My staff reviews and responds to all correspondence that --

Your staff? Yes.

So this is not you?

Uh, your...your name here at the bottom --

your name is not Esther Feinman?

[ Clenching teeth ] Yes, that's my name.

But you didn't really write this letter.

You signed your name to a letter that you didn't really write?

Mr. Saltzman? Mm?

My staff reviews and responds

to unsolicited correspondence on my behalf.

Unsolicited correspondence?!

That refers to mail we receive

literally from thousands of individuals.

I wrote you dozens of letters!

You didn't read one of them! I did not say that.

Oh, because I am an old man, you think I have lost my hearing?

[ Sighs ]

Or that I can't remember what you said to me

a few seconds ago?

Do you deny that you said to me

that you didn't read or respond to my letters?

Do you deny it? Mr. Saltzman, please.

Nah! Do you deny it?!

Will you stop shouting?

[ Mutters indistinctly ]

[ Laughter ]

Now, I will do my best to explain things to you,

and then... really, I must go,

and I must insist that you accept

what I tell you and stop harassing me.

Now I'm harassing you. Do you understand me?

How am I harassing?

[ Shouting ] Do you unders--

[ Quieter ] Do you understand me?

I understand you.

You are not the first person to encourage us

to look into the horrific matter of soap, Mr. Saltzman.

Mm-hmm.

We have thoroughly investigated the reports,

and we have made the determination

that there simply -- You have made the determination?

...isn't the evidence necessary.

How can you make such a determination?

For 40 years, there was no question.

For 40 years, there was no disagreement.

Then, poof!

Poof, poof, poof, poof, poof!

Suddenly it's gone?

Now it's a myth?

Well, what kind of determination is that?

Mr. Saltzman, sometimes what we thought was true,

we find is no longer true.

What the hell does that mean?

It means it's a complicated process

that historians strive to get right.

But this, you got wrong.

No, Mr. Saltzman! This, we got right. Mm, yeah.

No, we -- we got it right. We got it right.

Eh. It is a complicated issue.

[ Screaming ] No!

It is not complicated!

It is simple!

[ Shakily ] Mr. Saltzman, please.

I am on your side.

This is "on my side"?

I have dedicated my life to honoring you

and everyone that has been touched

by the gruesomeness of the Holocaust.

But I have a job to do.

The question of soap is no longer...

Well, it no longer meets our standards

of evidentiary criteria.

Standards of evidentiary criteria?

What the... Yes.

What the hell does that mean?

There is eyewitness testimony.

There is a photograph.

I was there.

Wereyou there? Huh?

No, you were not.

I'm a witness!

But that does not give you the right

to come barging in here shouting at me just because

I cannot give you the answer that you want to hear.

So I must come crawling to you on my hands and knees

like a beggar? Of course not.

Like an ill-mannered child that you can send to the corner

to be punished? Who gave you this right?

If you continue to refuse to hear what I am trying to say --

I refuse to hear you?

No!You refuse to hearme!

No!

You refuse to hear anyone or anything

that doesn't agree with you! [ Slams book shut ]

And I refuse to be shouted at!

Shame!

Shame on you!

Shame on you!

You -- You rotten, no-good... [ Muttering ]

She turned her back on me.

They all turn their backs on me.

Will you see them?

Yes.

You will? I said that I would.

Yeah, when? Soon.

"Soon." Well, when?

I'm waiting to hear back from her.

Well, so I'm...

Youdidn't speak to her.

I left a message for her.

A message? Yes.

I thought you had spoken with her.

Leaving a message is not what I had in mind.

If she doesn't call me back, I will call again.

When?

Mr. Saltzman, I will speak with her. Yeah?

I will speak with Daniel Silver, too.

Yeah, yeah.

You -- You promise?

I promise.

Milton pulls out a photograph.

This is the photograph.

So, what do you think?

In the coffin...

...is soap. They're burying soap.

So, what do you think of it?

I-It's extraordinary.

Ahhhhh!

This is Sighet, where I am from.

The year is 1946, you see?

Yes.

I watched as dozens of men

carried a casket down the street,

and in the casket was soap.

You think I could make up such a thing?

Of course not.

That, Ms. Blumberg, is why I'm counting on you.

Yeah. You must tell them.

Atrocities like this were simply a normal fact of life.

How could I know that hard proof would be needed to corroborate

what I lived through and witnessed?

Why should I think, "Someday, somebody might not believe you"?

No one is saying that they don't believe you.

No?!

That is exactly what they are saying.

They...

This was 100% fact that I survived,

kept alive in my memory, burned it on my skin,

branded my heart for always.

Okay.

Okay.

I understand that this is not enough.

But now I have the proof of a true photograph.

Do you believe this photograph?

Yes.

Do you disbelieve this photograph?

No.

But they do!

I know there are Holocaust deniers in this world.

I find it incomprehensible, but I know they are there.

But what I did not expect was that my own people would deny,

as if I were making it up myself.

Why would I make such a thing up?

Why would anyone do such a thing?

Let me ask you something.

Yes.

If there was a list of everyone in the camp at Auschwitz,

and for some reason, my name wasn't on that list,

even though I was there along with my mother

and father and aunts and uncles and two sisters,

what would that mean?

What would what mean?

If my name doesn't appear on the list,

does that mean I wasn't at the camp?

No, of course not.

Of course not!

To them, that's exactly what it would mean.

"Where is yourproof?

Your name is not on the list.

This is our evidence. Your name isn't on it."

Mr. Saltzman. What?

Can I have a little background about you?

What do you mean?

About you and your family after the war.

When did you come to America? Are you married?

Do you have children?

What's with the questions?

It will help me write my story.

No!

It's irrelevant.

The only thing you are to write about is soap.

Do you understand?

Mr. Saltzman, I want to --

No!

Annie?

Yes?

I like you.

[ Laughter ]

I like you, too.

But, Annie? Yes?

I'm afraid that you are too nice.

[ Laughs ] Mr. Saltzman... Yeah?

No, no, no, no, no -- hear me.

You must listen.

You are too nice.

Maybe this isn't for you.

Maybe you should be writing about something else,

something nicer.

Maybe I should talk to your magazine and tell them,

"Annie is a nice girl, but you should find

someone else to write this story --

someone who isn't so afraid to raise her voice,

someone who can walk into a room and look and say,'Look!

This is what happened,'" and you must say what happened.

"Look! Unless you take Milton Saltzman

with the seriousness that he deserves,

unless you make an exhibition about soap in your memorial

so that everyone can see,

unless you do that, I will write such an article

that it will shake the foundations

of that memorial to the ground!

I will write such an article!"

But, Annie, I don't believe you can write such an article.

Can you?

That's not what I'm here to --

Exactly.

You're too nice.

Milton walks away.

I was just about to tell him that I was a journalist,

and it wasn't my job to be his or anyone's advocate,

it wasn't my job to shake the foundations

of the memorials to the ground.

But before I could, he walked away.

Hi. Annie Blumberg.

Daniel Silver, Judea Holocaust Center.

Mr. Silver, very nice to meet you.

And you, of course, must be Ms. Feinman.

Yes.

Well, first off, thank you so much for meeting with me.

As I told you, I'm researching a story forRight Now.

Yes, about the myth of soap in the Nazi camps.

You are both obviously familiar with this. Yes.

Yes, and I have to say, for me,

when I first began putting exhibitions together,

evenI believed that the Nazis produced soap in this way.

But after researching the subject,

I didn't find the right kind of evidence.

I found evidence

for other things that the Nazis did, and worse.

What do you mean, "the right kind"?

Direct evidence -- evidence that would prove it conclusively.

There is evidence from memory, from survivors, from rumors,

even eyewitness accounts.

No one can dispute this.

But this is the wrong kind of evidence.

And the right kind?

The right kind of evidence would include tangible things --

things like correspondence, like shipping bills,

physical evidence from a manufacturing plant,

receipts for economic transitions and transactions.

There are a whole host of evidentiary possibilities --

photographs or films, for instance --

none of which we are able to find.

Yes. What Esther says is quite correct.

The Nazis were avid documentarians.

There is very little that they did not write about,

record, document, and file away.

It was their belief that the experiments they were conducting

would provide a valuable scientific legacy

for future generations and future civilizations.

Really?

Oh, they were quite proud of what they did.

They would take voluminous photographs

and create thousands of feet of documentary film footage.

But even putting that aside,

they left warehouses full of files

chronicling virtually every unimaginable atrocity.

Except... Right.

No evidence has been found.

But it's possible they destroyed the evidence.

It is possible they destroyed evidence about soap

but retained evidence about a hundred other things,

but...it's unlikely.

You, uh...

You've been speaking with Milton Saltzman, yes?

Yes.

He's come to speak to me. Well, to both of us.

Yes. You see?

What is it I'm supposed to see?

Unfortunately, we are not in the position to include soap

as a part of the factual history of the Holocaust,

despite Mr. Saltzman's passionate

and sometimes inappropriate appeals.

Inappropriate?

He does not understand that there are limits

to what we can do.

Many older people are like this --

determined to hear only the answer they want to hear.

So when our colleague David Kaufman doesn't give him

the right answer, he goes to Daniel.

And when he doesn't hear what he wants to hear from Daniel,

he visits... [claps hands] me.

And I try very, very hard to explain it to him,

but he, of course, is not interested in any explanations

that do not agree with his point of view.

Yes, and I, too, have had encounters with Mr. Saltzman.

I've even showed him a copy

of one of our recent internal reports.

Alright. Here's a copy for you where it has been underlined.

"Available documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts

have been unable to corroborate in a conclusive manner reports

that the National Socialists and their collaborators

used human fat from their victims

in the manufacture of soap.

A little further down --

"Rumors that Germans made soap from human remains

originated in French propaganda from the First World War."

The Nazis did not make soap from human fat.

It was just a cruel rumor at the camps.

And all this, we have patiently made clear to him.

But after he takes up our time, what should he do

but call up a nice young woman like yourself to be his advocate

and to ask the same questions of us

that he's already asked?

Does he think we will give you

a different answer than what we gave him?

First of all,

I am not advocating a particular position.

I'm just trying to understand all sides of the story.

Are you saying that soap wasnever considered as fact?

No, that's not what we're saying.

Aren't there displays of soap in European museums?

Wasn't soap exhibited in American museums

even very recently?

We have sifted through mountains of evidence.

Weren't the Nazis found guilty of the war crime of making soap?

And as new documents have come to light over the years...

Yes, for example, with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

And soap was the pet project

of the Soviet prosecutor at Nuremberg.

Then we've had to re-evaluate and sometimes make

a new determination based on new facts.

I see that.

But Mr. Saltzman finds that hard to accept.

What he sees is a community of gatekeepers

with standards that he isn't able

and shouldn't have to be able to reach.

So my question is, where does a witness go

to be heard and believed?

And does it serve a purpose?

Doeswhat serve a purpose?

That a witness is left feeling ignored

and belittled by the gatekeepers?

Ah, [stammers]... First of all,

no one is belittling anyone. No.

The fact that we're not giving him

the answers he wants to hear is not belittling him.

We have no agenda here that is anti-Milton Saltzman.

But what about his photograph?

Granted, he has a photograph of a funeral,

and in the casket is soap.

And even if we think

that the soap is made out of human beings,

there's simply no proof that it was.

Aren't there hundreds of Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe

where soap is buried?

Isn't that true? Yes.

And you're saying that every one of those people

who buried soap is mistaken?

Yes. Well-meaning, but mistaken.

History demands certainty.

But a survivor like Mr. Saltzman is that history.

Do you understand how not believing him

is tantamount to calling him a liar?

No one is calling him a liar!

Then why not simply take him at his word?

We wish we could!

And we've offered him a compromise, Ms. Blumberg --

an opportunity to include his memories

in a special exhibit we have for survivors,

modeled on the Shoah Project,

where he can speak at will about his experiences

and they will be recorded, archived,

and made a permanent and important part of the legacy.

But only the inclusion of soap will mollify him.

He turned us down flat.

But why exactly was soap reclassified from fact to myth?

Why isn't the eyewitness testimony

presented at Nuremberg sufficient?

When enough people tell the same story,

doesn't that substantiate that story?

The Nuremberg testimony is no longer reliable.

Why? Alright, Ms. Blumberg.

The politics of this are complicated.

There have been allegations of coercion.

The testimony was elicited by the Russians,

and their conduct has proven suspect.

W-Why not compromise?

Why not create an exhibit with Mr. Saltzman's photograph,

with remnants of soap, with transcripts and photographs

from the Nuremberg trial and include caveats?

"These are items believed to be related to the allegation

that the Nazis manufactured soap from human fat.

Holocaust historians are still seeking the evidence

that would prove this atrocity."

It's out of the question. Why?

Because history cannot be speculative.

All history is speculative.

All history is subjective.

People decide the history.

What if the records were destroyed

by a laboratory assistant or a factory worker,

or the warehouse was destroyed by a fire or bombed in the war?

Would that mean that what had happened

suddenly didn't happen at all,

just because the records were destroyed?

Is that what you mean by speculative?

Don't you think that there is nothing we would like better

than to include every rumor

and every memory in our displays and museums?

But too often, these memories are unreliable.

We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing examples

simply because they're the most shocking

or they're the most egregious.

All Mr. Saltzman wants is for you to believe him.

And at the end of the day, what is the harm?

What is the harm?

[ Pointedly ] What is theharm?

The harm is that we live in a world

where the president of Iran hosts

an international conference not just legitimizing,

but celebrating the deniers of the Holocaust.

That is the harm!

And we have a responsibility

that is, unfortunately, far greater

than our responsibility to Mr. Saltzman

or our empathy or our compassion for him!

We simply cannot... [ Sighs ]

...provide Holocaust deniers with opportunities

to cast doubts on the Holocaust as a whole!

That is their strategy,

and the stakes are very, very high.

However well-intentioned men like Mr. Saltzman tend to be...

We must make decisions that may be unpopular to some...

Right.

...but that are for the good of all.

It is not an accident that the entire community

of Jewish historians is unanimous about soap.

This is unconscionable!

They are saying that the deniers of the Holocaust --

the Holocaust that I survived as a young boy,

the Holocaust that I witnessed with my mine own eyes

as my relatives and friends were herded to their deaths --

they are saying that these deniers of the truths

can set the agenda for what I know did or did not happen?

He doesn't believe that

the deniers should be allowed to set the agenda.

I tell you, it is unconscionable!

He thinks it is unconscionable.

If not for me, this will be forgotten.

He wonders if not for him, this would simply be forgotten.

Look! Look!

Look what I have here -- a dozen -- [ Stammering ]

He showed me these things.

...a dozen affidavits from natives of Sighet,

attesting to their presence at the soap burial!

Affidavits from the citizens of Sighet

attesting to the presence of soap in the casket.

He sent us those same affidavits.

Again, it is an eyewitness testimony

that without corroboration is no longer sufficient.

And the bars of soap themselves, the small blue-green cakes

that Holocaust survivors like him have presented to us

over and over the years,

ofcourse they have been analyzed,

but the conclusions are unreliable.

All soap contains human DNA,

both from the manufacturing and handling.

That does not mean it is made from human fat.

Yes, yes! I have seen this soap.

I have held it in my hands!

They are stamped R.I.F.,

"Rein Juedisches Fett" --

"pure Jewish fat."

You cannot be blind to this! Can't you see?!

Mr. Saltzman...

Ah, it's censorship!

...simply must be persuaded to let it go.

[ Grumbling ] Oy, I got to, I got to.

I got to, got to, got to, got to, got.

You told them about the tribunals at Nuremberg?

They said that testimony was no longer enough.

No longer enough? Enough for what?

This is the highest court in the world!

The Nazis were convicted of this.

And this isn't enough for them?

They said it's more complicated than that.

More complicated! W-what --

What can be comp-- What can be complicated?

You've read them?

Of course. Is it too complicated for you?

Huh?

It was a fair question.

By itself, the scholar's response seemed reasonable

and the issue complicated by politics.

But when I researched again the transcripts from Nuremberg,

it is hard not to conclude

that the Nazis successfully conducted experiments

that made soap from human fat.

This is the Nuremberg transcript regarding soap.

It is Tuesday, February 19, 1946 --

the 62nd day of the trial.

This is the testimony toward the end of the morning session.

Colonel Smirnov, the Russian prosecutor,

is addressing the tribunal.

I have already pointed out that the principal method

used to cover up the traces was to burn the corpses,

but the same base, rationalized SS technical minds

which created gas chambers and murder vans

began devising such methods

of complete annihilation of human bodies

which would not only conceal the traces of their crimes,

but also serve in the manufacturing

of certain products.

In the Danzig Anatomic Institute,

semi-industrial experiments

in the production of soap from human bodies.

I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit Number USSR-197

the testimony of one of the direct participants

in the production of soap from human fat.

This is the testimony of Sigmund Mazur,

who was a German laboratory assistant

at the Danzig Anatomic Institute.

In February 1944,

Professor Spanner gave me the recipe

for the preparation of soap from human fat.

According to this recipe, 5 kilos of human fat are mixed

with 10 liters of water

and 500 or 1000 grams of caustic soda.

All this is boiled two or three hours

and then cooled.

The soap floats to the surface,

while the water and other sediment

remain at the bottom.

A bit of salt and soda is added to this mixture.

Then fresh water is added

and the mixture again boiled two or three hours.

After having cooled, the soap is poured into molds.

The soap had an unpleasant odor.

In order to destroy this disagreeable odor,

benzaldehyde was added.

The amount of human fat necessary

for these two processes

was 70 to 80 kilograms,

collected from some 40 bodies.

I used this human soap for my personal needs,

for toilet and for laundering.

For myself, I took 4 kilograms of this soap.

Reichert, Borkmann, Von Bargen,

and our chief professor, Spanner,

also personally used this soap.

The Russian prosecutor also submitted the testimony

of several British prisoners of war

assigned to the Danzig Institute.

This is the sworn statement submitted to the Tribunal

by William Anderson Neely,

a corporal of the British Royal Signals.

The corpses arrived at an average rate

of two or three per day.

All of them were naked,

and most of them had been beheaded.

A machine for the manufacture of soap

was completed sometime in March or April 1944.

The British prisoners of war had constructed the building

in which it was housed in June 1942.

The machine itself was installed by a civilian firm from Danzig

by the name of AJRD.

It consisted, as far as I remember,

of an electrically heated tank in which bones of the corpses

were mixed with some acid and melted down.

This process of melting down took about 24 hours.

The fatty portions of the corpses,

and particularly those of females,

were put into a crude enamel tank

heated by a couple of Bunsen burners.

Some acid was also used in this process.

I think it was caustic soda.

When boiling had been completed, the mixture was allowed to cool

and then cut into blocks for microscopic examination.

I cannot estimate the quantity produced,

but I saw it used by Danzigers

in cleaning tables in the dissecting rooms.

They all told me it was excellent soap for this purpose.

This is from the Russian prosecutor Smirnov's summation.

So, here you shall see a small piece of finished soap,

which from the exterior, after lying about for a few months,

reminds you of ordinary household soap.

So one can consider that the experiments

on the industrial fabrication of soap from human fats

were quite completed in the Danzig Institute.

Only the victorious advance of the Red Army

put an end to this new crime of the Nazis.

I'm a crazy old man, am I? Huh?

I'm a senile old man.

Is that what you think? No.

Take it easy, Milton.

Don't have a heart attack, Milton.

Mine own eyes, Annie.

With mine own eyes, I saw it --

with mine own eyes.

But now you read it

in the testimony of the Nuremberg trial,

and now you believe it.

Now.

But me? Forget me.

What do I know?

[ Chuckling ] I am just a witness.

Yeah.

Do you want to know the real reason

I'm counting on you, Annie?

Yes.

Because soon, I will be gone.

Soon, all the witnesses will be gone.

My deadline was approaching.

But before I could finish the article,

I felt that I needed to do one last interview,

and I called Daniel Silver.

Mr. Silver, thank you so much for meeting with me.

You are welcome.

There's -- There's just some things about this

that I can't quite seem to resolve.

Okay.

On the one hand, there is Mr. Saltzman.

The entire sum of his experience

seems to be concentrated in his crusade about soap.

On the other hand, it seems that historians are not willing

or able to give in on this

without something provable in terms of hard evidence.

Yes. Sometimes, there is a conflict.

Eyewitness testimony is personal and compelling

and draws us in emotionally.

But eyewitness testimony, even at its most well-meaning,

can also be tragically unreliable.

So someone like Milton just finds himself

on the outside looking in?

This is an issue of denial for him.

It's not as though you are just denying soap.

It's as though you're denyinghim.

I'm going to ask you a question.

Okay. Okay.

How do you pick one horrific act

out of a seemingly endless list of them and then say,

"This is the one you missed! I demand this one be included"?

Will including one more make the history more complete?

Will it make the Nazis more hateful,

their crimes more egregious?

I want you to name one sadistic, evil Nazi doctor.

Mengele.

Mengele, of course. Good.

Now name another.

I'm -- I'm -- I'm -- I'm n--

T-This is not really my field.

No, I know! I know. It's okay.

Mengele. Isn't Mengele enough?

But do you think it was only Mengele?

Of course not.

Dozens of German medical doctors performed experiments

on behalf of the German armed forces.

They saw what was, to them, an unprecedented opportunity --

an endless supply of human beings

to be subjects of their experiments.

Rather than being appalled by the idea,

these doctors reveled in it.

But does the fact that only the name Mengele comes to mind

make you any poorer for not knowing

the names of dozens more?

Have you ever heard of Dr. Sigmund Rascher in the SS?

No.

Well, the German air force wanted to know what would happen

to human beings at extremely high altitudes

with extremely low levels of oxygen.

At Dachau, Rascher did medical experiments

that approximated conditions at altitudes of almost 10 miles.

He took a relatively healthy 37-year-old Jew

and watched how long it would take him to die.

He took meticulous notes.

He was so excited by this

that he called in another physician as a witness.

This is what they observed --

"After four minutes, the experimental subject

begins to perspire and to wiggle his head.

After five minutes, cramps occur.

Between 6 and 10 minutes, breathing increases in speed,

and the experimental subject becomes unconscious.

From 11 to 30 minutes,

breathing slows down to three breaths per minute.

At 30 minutes, the test subject breathes his last shallow breath

and dies."

Ms. Blumberg, how do we know this happened?

I don't know.

Because Rascher was so proud of what he'd done

that he'd sent a letter to the chief of the SS, Himmler,

in April of 1942 detailing all of this.

We have that letter.

That is evidence. That is proof.

The air force conducted experiments on people

who were severely chilled or actually frozen.

Subjects were forced to sit naked in tanks of ice water

for periods of up to three hours.

Others were kept naked outdoors in the dead of winter

in bitterly cold temperatures.

The victims screamed with pain as their bodies froze.

The doctors took notes.

We have those notes.

There were malaria experiments.

Over 1,000 inmates were infected by mosquitoes

or were injected with malaria.

There were mustard gas experiments.

Inmates were purposefully wounded,

and then those open wounds were doused with mustard gas.

More?

Subjects were deliberately wounded,

and those wounds infected with various bacteria --

streptococcus, gangrene, tetanus.

Then their blood vessels were cut and tied off like hoses

to stop blood circulation.

This was meant to approximate battlefield injuries.

And to make it more authentic, ground glass

and wood shavings were forced into the wounds.

Ohh.

I take no pleasure in subjecting you to this.

I know you don't. I-It's...

We who are historians of this period

try to remain detached from it.

We try to keep our distance

from the personal stories we are telling.

But when a man like Milton Saltzman comes calling,

my detachment collapses.

I see his rage, the numbers tattooed on his arms.

I see it in his eyes. Yes.

And you're not sure you can make him understand

the intricacies of the arguments

that we use to dismiss his claim.

You're not sure you fully understand it yourself.

Right. I mean, after all,

there is the Nuremberg testimony on soap.

There were exhibits of soap for four decades.

Histories of the Holocaust were written

and soap included without caveat. Yes!

And then the deniers spend fortunes

debunking claims such as this. Yes, that --

And yet they provide no evidence.

They merely raise doubts. That's right.

Yes, and the next thing you know,

Holocaust scholars have reclassified soap.

Yes.

I do understand.

All I can say to you, and I hope that you can understand me,

is whether it really matters in light of

all the inexplicable acts that Nazi Germany perpetrated.

The history of humanity is a history of inhuman acts.

I have a passion for chronicling that inhumanity, yes.

At the end of the day, I, too, along with Esther Feinman

and all of our colleagues, are dreamers.

By telling the stories of our inhuman history,

we believe with a deep passion that one day, people will stop.

One day, they will say, "Why are we doing this?

Where does it get us?"

We have the capacity to stop.

I believe that, too.

And that is what Milton believes.

Yes, I know.

But there is the countervailing force --

I'll go so far as to say theevil force --

the people who want to write their own history.

When we first met, you said that history is speculative,

and you were exactly right.

And we cannot let these deniers,

the David Irvings or the Brenda Goodsens of the world,

change history to suit their agenda.

The soap myth has become their battlefield.

They say, "You see? This ridiculous accusation

that Germans took fat from Jewish corpses and made soap

is just one example of their hatred,

and can they prove it? Of course not!

Why? Because it never happened!

[ Coughs ] It was a rumor, a myth!

It was a rumor in the First World War.

They just dredged it up in the Second."

So let them say it.

We can't. We can't be naive.

Because that's only the first half of their argument.

Then they say, "If they would lie about such a thing

as the myth of soap, what else would they lie about?"

False in one, false in all.

In a court of law, if a witness is found

to be lying about one part of their testimony,

then all of their testimony can be discounted.

And then, Ms. Blumberg, history is rewritten

by those with their own political agendas.

We cannot allow this to happen.

Thank you.

For what?

For taking the time and interest

and wanting to help me understand.

I appreciate it.

But there is one thing that still bothers me.

And what is that?

Your argument... [ Sighs slightly ]

Your argument feels like fear.

Well, in my opinion, you are wrong.

But let's just say you are right.

Let's say there is a fear of the deniers,

there's a fear of those with virulent and inexplicable

hatred of Jewish people, fear of evil.

What I can say is that sometimes,

sometimes,

what's to say that fear isn't a healthy thing?

I used a good deal of what Daniel Silver told me

to finish the article.

I was caught between my affection for Milton

and his insistence that I take his side,

and my responsibility as a journalist.

Sometimes I would wake up in the morning

and be just as angry as Milton.

I wanted to burst into Daniel Silver

or Esther Feinman's office and say,

"What you are doing is wrong!

By letting the anti-Semites dictate the terms of the debate,

you are simply giving them more power.

We should say to the world,

'We say it happened,' and that should be enough.

It is not up to us to prove that it did.

It is up to you to prove that it did not.

And if you cannot, then we will not give you

a platform to spew your poison.'"

But then I see the point of view of the scholarly community.

Historians like Michael Berenbaum,

Esther Feinman, and Daniel Silver

must be historians first.

At the end of the day,

I had to write an article that was balanced.

Like the scholars, I felt a responsibility

as a journalist to tell the complete story,

and I took that responsibility very seriously

in all of my research and all of my interviews.

The truth is, I did a good job.

What's more, I could hardly wait to show Milton

that I'd gotten an admission on the record

that I was sure would make him happy.

Milton!

I have the magazine.

Good.

Don't you want to see it?

I've seen it.

You've seen it? Yes.

How?

Ah! How? [ Chuckles ]

You think I'm not capable of getting up

at 6:00 in the morning

and going to the newsstand and waiting for the delivery truck

and buying myself a copy?

I went every morning for the past three days,

and this morning, there it was.

I wanted to talk to you about it first.

You wanted to talk to me about it first, eh?

To explain.

Yeah? To explain what?

I waited weeks for this.

I was so excited.

Nyah!

I open it up on the table of contents,

and it says, "Holocaust Soap" by Annie Blumberg,

and I say to myself, "This is wonderful!"

I pay the clerk, and I show him,

and I say, "Look! This is me!"

[ Laughs ]

"Look! This is my photograph!"

You can imagine how I felt.

I was so happy, Annie.

You printed my photograph!

And I couldn't even get -- wait to get home, anyway,

so I sat down on the bench,

and right then and there, I read the article.

Ah. What did you think?

What did I think?

Did you like it?

What's not to like?

So evenhanded.

"On the one hand this, on the other hand that."

Very professional, very nice.

You did anice job.

But let me ask you something.

Yes.

Why didn't you tell me?

Tell you what?

Tell me that you didn't believe me?

Of course I believe you.

Well, then, you're just as bad as them.

Ah? Why'd you waste my time?

If you didn't believe me, you should've just come out

and said, "Milton, I don't believe you."

It doesn't say that I don't believe you.

No? No!

Hmm. No!

No, I'm not gonna let you twist this

into something that it isn't! Ah?

I say right in the article that the Nazis made soap.

I say it! Yeah, yeah.

I say that even though scholars don't believe

that the Nazis manufactured soap... Ah?

...they do admit that there was a successful experiment.

Oh! Uh-huh.

I even got a quote from Michael Berenbaum!

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Noted scholar Michael Berenbaum agrees

that it is possible that successful experiments

in making soap from human fat may have occurred.

But that's not all he says.

You think I'm not capable of reading, ah?

Milton!

No, no.

I even underlined it!

"But he contends that the mass manufacture of soap

from human remains was a myth

because it was not economically feasible."

Why does it matter?

I got him to say that they made soap!

It doesn't matter what else he says.

It matters to me, Annie!

It is not a myth!

I'm a witness!

It was not a myth!

Getting the quote from Michael Berenbaum

was a scoop.

And even though Milton was upset,

I told myself that I should be proud of the job I did.

And my editor was, too.

He asked me if there was anything else

that I wanted to write about.

I asked him if I could pursue an article

on Holocaust deniers up close and personal,

and he loved the idea and said yes.

During my research on soap,

I had heard a great deal about Holocaust deniers.

Who are they? Do they look like monsters?

Do they have horns and tails?

I had read about a celebrated trial in England.

A book was published called "Holocaust Denial,"

and one of its subjects was a woman named Brenda Goodsen.

She sued the author and the publisher for libel.

I was able to track her down, and she agreed to meet with me.

Thank you so much, Ms. Goodsen, for meeting with me.

I'm very happy to do it, and please call me Brenda.

Okay, Brenda. And I'm Annie, of course.

Yes, Annie Brown?

Yes.

Any relation to Molly Brown?

N-No, I'm afraid not.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown!

[ Both laugh ]

Yes.

May I ask you some questions?

Fire away, Annie Brown.

You became the...

person, you know, who --

The anti-Semite, you mean?

No. No, no, no, no. No, no, it's okay.

It's okay. It's okay.

I've become used to it.

Actually, it's the least offensive thing

that's said about me.

Sure, and you've become the center

of the controversy for a lot of people.

Well, the funny thing is,

I never set out to become the Holocaust expert, really.

I'm a writer and historian,

and I suppose I unwittingly just, you know, stepped into it.

Do you deny the Holocaust?

No.

You don't?

W-- Absolutely not.

Categorically not!

Annie...uh, oh -- M-May I call you Annie?

Please.

Annie, I'm an historian.

I write books about history.

I publish articles about history.

And even the suggestion that I would in any way deny

the existence of the greatest blight

on humankind's history of the 20th century,

or perhaps even mankind's history,

is on the face of it... [ Chuckling ]

It's an utter absurdity.

How do you explain it?

Now, that's a very good question.

No, no, no, I mean all the attention

that you have attracted.

I explain it as politics -- as cultural politics.

And some of it, I must tell you, is gender politics, as well.

I came up at a time when women

entering into careers dominated by men

were blazing a trail.

I'm very proud of my achievements.

I've published 20-some books, I've written countless articles

for top-tier magazines the world over,

and I've always had this interest in the people

and the events that surrounded the Second World War.

My father fought in it.

But my downfall seems to be

my unwillingness to follow the herd.

I-I like to... I like to strike out on my own.

I'm not sure I understand.

Why is that? Why? Because I'm --

[ Chuckling ] Because I'm too stubborn by half,

that's why.

So little has been written from the other perspective,

you see, and rather than toil in the overcrowded fields

of what passes as historical research,

I ventured into the less-crowded thicket of the other side.

I didn't think about it, actually,

didn't have a moment of, "Oh, my God. Here I go."

It just seemed a logical thing to do.

I thought, "Right! There's no one here!

I have this all to myself!"

And you tell me what's wrong with that.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that, I...

I imagined a fresh insight on Adolf Hitler

and the role he played in the propagation of World War II,

and I thought, "Right! Right, right, right, right!

No one has done this!"

But the virulence with which I was attacked!

Even if I had been prepared for some type of controversy,

no one...

I mean, how was one supposed to defend oneself against it all?

"The Holocaust Denied" by Stanley Cohen,

headlines all over the world,

and suddenly I'm being rung up by CNN and NBC,

and for a moment, I'm not even sure why.

Here I am being castigated by a man I have never met

and having to defend myself against accusations

that I hadn't even yet read,

and everyone else had already decided

that what he said was true.

His name is Stanley Cohen, for God's sakes.

It's simply not possible in this day

to take my word against his onthis topic.

You know, Annie, if I had decided to write books

on the history of the Zulu Wars in Africa,

my livelihood wouldn't have been placed in jeopardy.

But World War II was my area of interest,

and no, my name is not Cohen or Levi or Goldberg,

but is that a fair reason to single me out?

Outrageous lies, stupid lies, lies of half-truths.

Do you know he coined the phrase?

I'm sorry?

Or if he didn't coin it, he was the first

to use it in print so that people could see.

"Holocaust denier."

He branded me with that as if it were a scarlet letter.

And you sued him.

Yes, for libel,

in the British courts, where I'm a citizen.

And you lost. N-No, no, no, no, no.

Didn't lose. It's on appeal.

I made my case.

Well, yes. In the strict sense, I lost.

But that, too --

that, too, is a measure of how difficult it is

for one woman alone

to stand up against such powerful forces.

But, Brenda, let me bring you back to something.

You don't deny the Holocaust.

Never!

Any allegations that you do are false?

Categorically.

Her denials were without any caveat,

and even though there seemed to be times

when she intimated a larger conspiracy,

when she said the names Cohen and Levi and Goldberg,

she was convincing -- or at least convinced --

that it wasshe who had been used,

that she was the aggrieved party,

that simply writing about Nazis

had been construed as sympathy for Nazis.

The truth is, I came away from my meeting with Brenda...

liking her.

I'm ashamed to say that I thought it necessary

to give her a false name.

I had been afraid that she would not be as open

or truthful with me if I told her my name

was Annie Blumberg instead of Annie Brown.

There I was, denying my own name

while interviewing an accused Holocaust denier.

I heard that Brenda would be speaking at a symposium

in Indiana, Pennsylvania, at a small college there,

and I felt the urge to go and see for myself

what such a thing would be like.

Thank you. Thank you, thank you.

No, no, no, no, no, no. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you so much for having me.

Several years ago, the Russians announced that they had found,

no doubt in the archives of the KGB,

index cards of all the prisoners who'd been in Auschwitz,

and that announcement sent a shudder

around the world's Jewish community.

Why? Why?

I will tell you why.

Because there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply

of Auschwitz survivors.

Think of it, um...

think of it as a large ship, theS.S. Auschwitz.

At first, it sets sail with its modest number

of survivor passengers,

but theS.S. Auschwitz was not large enough,

so soon it was followed by the cruise shipHolocaust,

taking to the world's oceans.

This Holocaust is a massive luxury cruise ship

with thousands upon thousands of Jewish survivors

clamoring to get on board.

This shipHolocaust, packed with passengers,

has terminals established now

in virtually every capital of the world

disguised as Holocaust memorial museums,

the one in Washington, D.C., alone costing

$168 million to build --

your money.

So when these Auschwitz index cards come out,

when the Russians make these records public --

and we're talking about comprehensive

and exact lists of all the people

who ever passed through the gates of Auschwitz --

what will they do, all the Jews claiming to be survivors?

Well, it's already started, hasn't it?

Suddenly, folks aren't claiming

to be Auschwitz survivors anymore.

Take Elie Wiesel.

Did you know he had always been uncertain where he was prisoner,

whether he was at Auschwitz or Dachau or Buchenwald?

There's a photo with prisoners in the barracks in Buchenwald,

and he points to it, and he says, "Yeah, that's me."

But when it turns out that that photograph was taken

in Auschwitz, he says,

"Oh, uh, yeah, I-I-I meant Auschwitz."

I mean...

you'd think he'd remember.

What they claim cannot be taken seriously.

Oh, the Jews had a very hard time of it, yes,

and I am sympathetic,

and I'm sure that all of you are sympathetic,

but our sympathy must not get in the way of the truth.

So yes, if you want to go and have a tattoo of numbers

put on your arm --

which, by the way, a lot of them do --

if you want to perpetuate a hoax,

if you want to stand up and say,

"I was there, I suffered, I survived,"

and claim you were in Auschwitz even though you weren't,

then my advice to you is, you had better make sure,

because that hoax is about to collapse on top of you.

And it is not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic to point this out.

The truth is not anti-Semitic.

You know, I'm friendly with many Jews,

and many Jews are not part of this hoax,

but the ones that are have lied

to hundreds of millions of people.

Yes, individual crimes did happen, ghastly crimes,

and crimes against one human being are unacceptable,

and crimes against thousands

are a thousand times more unacceptable,

and I denounce them, and we should all denounce them.

And I will say tens of thousands --

no, no, no, hundreds of thousands,

because that is supported by historical evidence.

Butmillions?

Are hundreds of thousands not sufficient?

Must it be millions?

Must it be 6 million or 8 million or 12 million?

Must the Jew be greedy even in this?

Ladies and gentlemen, I was speaking in Louisiana,

and there was a handful of Jewish infiltrators

who'd come along to cause trouble,

and they interrupted me

and behaved in a thoroughly obnoxious manner.

And I said to their ringleader,

"I don't know what I've done to have you shrieking at me.

It isn't my fault that you are hated,

that you Jews, your whole people, are hated,

that you have been hated for 5,000 years,

hated so much that you've been hounded from country to country,

from pogrom to purge, from purge back to pogrom.

So why do you never ask yourselves why?

Why don't you look in the mirror and ask,

'Why are we so hated?

Why is it that the rest of humanity

tries to put us through the meat grinder?'"

Well, he went berserk.

"Are you trying to say that we are responsible

for the Holocaust ourselves?"

And it really got my dander up, and I said, "Yes.

The short answer I have is yes."

I said, "If you'd behaved differently,

maybe the Germans wouldn't have gone around

doing whatever it was they did to you,

nor the Romans or the Iranians or the Russians or the Estonians

or all the other countries

where they've tried to exterminate you.

So why haven't you ever asked yourself that question?"

Of course, they have no answer.

Instead, they just want to continue

blaming everyone else in the world,

which makes it very difficult for people like me,

who are truly concerned.

I mean, really, I am only trying to help.

Thank you.

I stood in the back of the auditorium,

listened to Brenda Goodsen spew her poison,

and watched as she whipped the crowd

into an anti-Semitic frenzy.

Milton?

Yeah?

What do you want?

I tried calling you on the phone.

Yes, I know.

I left you messages.

Yes.

You didn't call me back.

If I wanted to call you back, I would've called you back.

[ Laughter ]

I just wanted to make sure you were okay.

I'm okay.

Good.

And I also wanted to apologize.

Oh?

I'm sorry, Milton.

Good.

Now you can go.

No.

Okay, if you're not gonna go, then excuse me while I go.

I just have to ask you a question.

Then I'll go.

Ask.

When you spoke to the Holocaust scholars,

did they invite you to make a recording

about your experiences and about soap?

Yes. They did?

Uh-huh.

So what?

So why don't you do it?

Why don't I do what?

Make the recording, talk about soap,

show them the photograph.

And because you think I should, that should be enough?

Because Annie Blumberg says, "Do it,"

you think I'll say yes. Why should I do it?

Because people need to see you.

People need to hear you.

Why? Because of people who deny.

Eh.

You need to tell the truth

because you are living history of what happened,

because who you are and what you have to say cannot be disputed,

because other people need to hear your voice.

Is that all?

No!

Because of what you said during one of our interviews.

What did I say?

You said, "Soon I will be gone.

Soon all the survivors will be gone."

Mm. All of a sudden, this is so important to you.

Why?

So that others can see you and hear you and learn from you

like I have learned from you.

Uh-huh.

What have you learned from me?

I've learned about your passion and -- and your courage

and your stubborn refusal to be ignored.

I've learned about how the history of the Holocaust

is so much more than evidence and statistics

and politics and proof,

that it exists in you, that you are history, Milton,

and I am afraid that when you are gone,

the history will be gone, too.

Ah.

That's very nice, Annie.

But no.

No? [ Scoffs ] What do you mean no?

Look, Annie, I think you are a nice girl --

Stop calling me nice.

[ Laughter ]

I am trying to understand

why you won't take what they are offering you.

I know it isn't what you want.

I know it isn't exactly the way that you want it,

but it is important, and it is something

that will be recorded and available forever.

Show them the soap you have. Show them the photograph.

Talk to them about the things that you have told me.

And why -- why -- why should I do it?

So I can back away from the truth

and have a sign hanging over my head that says,

"This old man has memories that we don't believe,

but we have let him make a recording

so he shouldn't bother us anymore"?

This is what you want me to do?

No, not like that.

Why not like that?

Because it might do some good.

Ah.

Go to hell.

That's what I say to people like you,

who are so afraid to take a stand,

who are so afraid to stand up and say, "This is wrong!"

To people like you, I say, "Go to hell!"

To you, Annie Blumberg,

for suggesting that I appease them,

to you I say, "Go to hell!"

Go to hell, Annie Blumberg!

Go to hell!

Milton, I'm sorry.

Go to hell! I'm sorry.

You understand me? I'm sorry.

Get away from here! I'm sorry.

And leave me the hell alone! I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Leave me alone! I know that I let you down.

Leave me alone! I'm sorry.

Get away from me!

Go away!

Go away!

I don't forgive you!

I don't forgive you!

You...

[ Muttering indistinctly ]

[ Sighs ]

The flicker of a TV monitor --

Milton is being videotaped by Daniel Silver,

who is behind the camera.

[ Sighing ]

I'm only making this recording because of her.

[ Laughter ]

Well, I'm glad you are.

She convinced me.

We're grateful to her.

Yeah.

So, what do you want me to say?

You can say whatever you like.

Eh. Milton.

Yes?

What was it like?

What was what like?

When you were a young boy in the camps, how did it feel?

How did it feel?

To be there in the middle of it.

I didn't think about it. I didn't feel anything.

You mean it's hard to remember?

No, no, it's easy to remember.

Very easy.

I could forget my own name, but believe me,

what it was like to be in the camps...

[ Chuckles sadly ]

That, I'll always remember.

You've never told me about it.

I can't imagine what it would be like.

Well, good, good.

No one who was not there could imagine what it was like.

But it's something people need to know.

I know it's something I need to know.

I know -- I know it must be very hard for you,

but I would be very grateful if you would tell me.

Th-This is something I am very loath to speak about.

But I will tell you a little.

When you -- When you are living in such a situation,

you are numb.

God looks after you,

because he doesn't permit you to feel anything.

He knows that if you feel your emotions,

you will not be able to cope.

So he puts you in a state where you simply survive.

Now, mind you, some people --

he didn't do such a good job of it.

Some people, their emotions and their feelings

were like open wounds on their bodies.

And the Germans would stab at those wounds

with lit cigarettes.

Mm...

The people would get hysterical, and they would stay hysterical,

and the sound of their hysteria would punctuate

all the hours of the day and the night.

The sound is inhuman,

and it's something I cannot forget.

It is the sound of screeching, screeching.

Imagine a wild animal being tortured endlessly.

Imagine the sound that animal would make --

more than a howling.

Now imagine that sound coming from a human being.

A-Are you sure you want me to continue?

Yes.

Alright.

What I felt was that I was lucky I wasn't one of them.

And we talked about it.

We huddled together for warmth, and we shared bread,

and we would talk about the hysterical ones,

and we would thank God for making us numb.

Ah.

We knew that God was being merciful, yeah.

Funny thing --

When it came to be their time,

whether it was the showers

or when they lined us up to shoot us down,

the hysterics would stop their screeching.

[ Chuckles ]

Yeah.

They look forward to the end.

To them, the end was God's mercy, mm-hmm.

There -- There were times when they would actually

let us bathe, yeah.

Not everyone who went into the showers was gassed.

The Germans seemed to have a special fondness

for surprising us.

Several times, I would huddle with the others naked

and say my prayers to God that I should quickly go

to Heaven, you know, and they'd turn on the pipes,

and by instinct, we'd hold our breath,

and water would come out!

We would splash around and celebrate in it.

We were -- We were all children then.

Oh, God.

The joy came even to us, and we would wash.

And then someone said that the soap wasn't pure,

that the soap the Germans gave us to bathe our bodies was...

[ Hisses, groans ]

As soon as this was mentioned,

we would drop the soap and never touch it again.

Some would use their fingernails to literally tear the skin

off their bodies to remove the lather,

and they would stand naked.

They would bleed, and the lather in the drain

would turn red with the blood.

[ Stammers, sighs ]

Some would laugh bitterly at the Germans' sense of humor

at our expense, ah.

Mm, yeah.

Y-You -- You understand this doesn't need proof?

Ah? Yes, I understand.

You understand that I lived through this?

I understand.

Yeah.

Yeah. [ Sighs heavily ]

You understand that they were laughing at us

as we cleaned ourselves with the corpses of our fathers...

[voice breaking]...and mothers

and sisters and brothers?

I understand.

[ Sniffling ]

[ Crying ]

[ Inhales sharply, sighs ]

You want to know how I felt.

I knew that the next time we were herded into the showers,

we would be gassed.

[ Inhales deeply, sighs ]

[ Sobbing laugh ]

I felt relief at this.

I longed for this.

That's how I felt.

You understand?

I understand.

[ Gulps ]

And then there was the liberation.

Death did not come.

At the time, I questioned whether God was

being merciful or just being cruel.

I still have that question.

For weeks, I simply wandered

with the dozens of people down the roads.

Our dozens were joined by others,

their dozens by others, and soon there were hundreds,

and soon there were thousands of us,

all wandering...

all vacant...

all numb.

[ Sighing ] Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi.

Eh.

Let me -- Let me ask you a question, Annie.

Ask me anything.

Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.

How often do you bathe?

[ Chuckles lightly ]

What do you mean?

Eh, how often?

Wash your hands, wash your face, draw a bath,

shampoo your hairs, stand in the shower --

every day?

Every day. Hmm, twice a day?

Twice a day.

Maybe more?

Maybe more.

Yeah, yeah.

That's good.

Now imagine you are me --

every day, twice a day, maybe more,

always reminded, always reminded.

Reminded always, always, always, always, always.

I think that is why...

Why what?

Why I cannot let this go!

I think if...maybe if somebody will listen to my story,

if someone maybe will take my photograph and display it,

will take a piece of the soap and display it,

and all the world can look at it and read the testimony

and see what they did... [ Sobs ]

...what they did to me!

[ Clears throat ]

[ Sighs ]

Then, maybe then...

I can have peace from it.

I...

I can't quite imagine what that...

what that would be like --

to bathe, to bathe with a bar of soap...

[ Sniffles ]

...and to have peace.

Narrator: The lights fade on Milton.

Milton passed away several days ago.

It's been almost a year since the recording,

and I got to spend a great deal of time with him.

Milton Saltzman was my friend.

A few days ago at the funeral, next to him in the casket,

I placed some remnants of soap.

I also made a copy of the photograph of the soap burial

and placed it with him in the casket, as well.

What I think I finally learned

was that whether the Nazis made soap wasn't the real story.

The real story was not what it takes

for a man like Milton to survive the Holocaust.

The real story was what it takes for such a man

to survive surviving.

I think he was glad he made the recording,

though we never spoke of it.

I know it wasn't what he wanted, but it was something.

And I like to think that it brought him some peace.

The lights fade out.

End of play.

[ Applause ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

STREAM HOUSE SEATS ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv

FEATURED PROGRAMS

Variety Studio: Actors on Actors
Under a Minute
Theater Talk
Theater of The Mind Radio Drama
The Historic Attucks Theatre: Apollo of the South
Teleplays
State of the Arts
Stage Players
Shakespeare Uncovered
Open Studio with Jared Bowen
On Stage
MUSE
Mark Twain Prize
Little Country Theatre: 100 Years at NDSU
Light Falls