The Conference – movie review

The Conference is a fictionalised account of what is unquestionably the most horrific conference in history. On 20 January 1942, high ranking Nazi officials met at a mansion southwest of Berlin to plot the Holocaust, referred to as the “Final Solution to the Jewish question”. It involved 90 minutes discussing how to rid Europe of its remaining Jews to secure “Aryan purity”.

Of course, the mass slaughter of Jews was already well in train, but the idea was to escalate this to a far higher level. The debate centred around efficiencies of scale, along with the method of elimination and disposal. It involved a sweep of all Jews to Final Solution “spaces” (a euphemism for death camps).

Not all attending were in agreement because there were greater burdens on some than others. A number were particularly hard-nosed, equating Jews with vermin. One spoke with authority about the success of the “cleansing” process in the territory for which he was responsible. Another concerned himself with the ammunition and time it would take to shoot dead 11 million people. The psychological damage to those tasked with the responsibility was also an issue. And then a quicker, more robust system was canvassed and signed off.

The film follows the minutes of this meeting as recorded by the notorious Adolf Eichmann (played here by Johannes Allmayer). Only one copy of that remains, being a key document pertaining to the Holocaust. I found it shocking to watch a group of men devoted to Hitler coldly discussing mass murder on a scale never before attempted. During breaks they tucked into delicacies.

The Conference is heavily dialogue-driven, and I dare say most will find what unfolds hard to stomach … and so they should. As a reflection of history, it’s shocking to contemplate, but important to note and appreciate so something like this is never allowed to happen again.

What struck me most were the mercenary characterisations, with some characters lurching towards gleeful. Writers Magnus Vattrodt and Paul Mommertz, and director Matti Geschonneck, have crafted a truly devastating and important work.

Alex First

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