Maker of ‘Shoah’ Stresses Its Lasting Value

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Even at 85, Claude Lanzmann is not one to rest on his laurels or shirk a controversy. A quarter of a century after his documentary “Shoah” transformed the way the world regarded the Holocaust, the film is about to be re-released in the United States — an event he welcomes as long overdue.

Then again, Mr. Lanzmann also argues that “Shoah” is not really a documentary, and that “Holocaust” is “a completely improper name” to describe the Nazis’ extermination of six million Jews during World War II. He complains that, in contrast to Europe, where “Shoah” has “never stopped being shown in movie theaters and on TV,” his film has “disappeared from the American scene,” elbowed aside by more palatable fare and thus allowing mistaken notions to propagate.

“This was by no means a holocaust,” he said during a recent visit to New York, noting that the literal meaning of the word refers to a burnt offering to a god. “To reach God 1.5 million Jewish children have been offered? The name is important, and one doesn’t say ‘Holocaust’ in Europe. This was a catastrophe, a disaster, and in Hebrew that is shoah.”...

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