Throughout Claude Lanzmann's documentary film about the Holoaust, titled Shoah, the director uses several individual voices to reflect the larger work. Abraham Bomba, who worked as barber in Treblinka, serves as one of those voices.
Originally from Częstochowa in Poland, Bomba was selected for the Sonderkommando detail at the Treblinka death camp,1 specifically for the job of cutting women's hair moments before their death. Prisoners chosen for Sonderkommando work were among the few who were not killed almost immediately upon arrival at killing centers like Treblinka.
Bomba's testimony—given from his home in Israel—forms a central building block of the film, together with Chełmno survivor Simon Srebnik. As one of these Treblinka barbers, Bomba knew crucial details that Lanzmann wanted to uncover. What did the gas chamber look like? What was the killing process at Treblinka? How much communication was possible between Bomba and the people whose hair he cut?
Lanzmann conducted several interviews with Bomba near his home in Holon, Israel, as well as in an Israeli barbershop. In the barbershop interview, Bomba tells the story of his experience while appearing to cut a customer's hair. The scene is staged, however. Lanzmann rented the Tel Aviv barbershop for the day, and Bomba was long retired. Even the supposed "customer" is selected. He was a friend from Bomba's hometown. In this nearly 30-minute interview, Bomba meticulously outlines the process of killing at Treblinka. At the center of the interview, Bomba's narrative breaks down. It is this moment that Lanzmann has called the center of his film, and claims Bomba as the hero of Shoah.
In the clip presented here, Bomba discusses the killing process at Treblinka as well as the disposal of bodies. It is taken from a larger outtake interview.2