Claude Lanzmann's 1985 documentary film, Shoah, is considered groundbreaking for several reasons.1 Lanzmann did not rely on graphic photographs or historical footage to show viewers the brutality of Nazi crimes during the Holocaust. Instead, his use of testimonies of survivors and witnesses—including perpetrators—emphasizes individual perspectives and experiences. Lanzmann's interview techniques and editing choices, however, have become somewhat controversial. The nearly ten-hour-long Shoah was assembled from over 300 hours of footage from dozens of interviewees. Hundreds of hours of different testimonies were cut, including many women's voices.2
Gertrude Schneider, a survivor whose interview with Lanzmann spanned over two hours, appears in Shoah for only two minutes. Schneider earned her Ph.D. after the war and has written or edited several books on the Holocaust, but her education and expertise go unrecognized in Shoah (unlike male scholars featured in the film).3 The interview takes place in Schneider’s New York City apartment in the presence of her mother, Lotte Hirschhorn, and her younger sister, Rita Wassermann, both of whom also contribute their memories. Both women are unnamed in the outtakes and in the final film. The brief portion included in the film focuses on the German Jewish population deported to the Riga ghetto in the months after the mass murder of thousands of Latvian Jews.4
Schneider's detailed and thoughtful testimony ranges from topics of sex, pregnancy, and abortion to music and songs. One of the most striking melodies Schneider remembers from her time in the Stutthoff concentration camp is a traditional Prussian military song that was often sung by the female prisoners from Vilna (whom she calls the "Vilna girls"). Schneider remembers how this song seemed to represent life and hope to the camp inmates. This song also became the anthem for the final version of Lanzmann's film, sung by a male survivor of the Chełmno killing center, Simon Srebnik, in a very different context.5
Only two minutes of Schneider singing the German folk song "That's How It Must Be" actually made its way into the final film. Given the rich detail of Schneider's interview, however, one wonders how the inclusion of more women's voices might have added to this groundbreaking film.