It’s a gruesome question, but one that captures the horror of the era. It turns the stomach and boggles the mind. And the horrifying fact is that it’s still argued about today.
Did the Nazi’s make soap out of their victims? That’s the question, not answered, but explored by “The Soap Myth,” a filmed play screened Oct. 7 at the Cosford Cinema. The screening celebrated the debut of the new digital Holocaust Theater Catalog and the first time Holocaust cinema has had a permanent home.
The film follows Annie Blumberg, a reporter attempting to separate fact from fiction, as she hears numerous conflicting accounts about the Nazi use of victims’ corpses. Nazis, prisoners of war and survivors alike have attested that during World War II, the Nazis produced soap from human flesh. Yet the lack of concrete documentation leaves the scholars in the play to argue that, despite almost certain veracity, due to the lack of evidence, any claims would be used as ammunition by Holocaust deniers. From there stem the play’s central arguments: should we embrace the truth if we know it will only hurt us? Who gets to decide the truth? And what do we do to fight those who seek to distort it?
Speaking of those that would distort it, special mention must go to the writing of the character Brenda Goodsen. Her absolutely vile nature highlights the ugly truth that is antisemitism and also manages to show the seductive face it puts on for the world.
Solid performances are abound in the play. With only four actors, the movie keeps a lean, fast pace and manages to be engaging on an intellectual level without being dull or preaching. It should be said that it is not a fun movie, though. Theatergoers left drained, yet improved, from the experience.
The film is currently available online and is also being broadcast nationally by PBS. A powerful and moving work, “The Soap Myth” is a triumph and a worthy opening piece for the new Holocaust Theater Catalog.