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“The Four Brothers”: Claude Lanzmann’s War Refugee Board Interviews

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The Ethics of Survival in Contemporary Literature and Culture
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This chapter addresses some of the interviews filmed by Claude Lanzmann and his crew during the making of Shoah (1985) but excluded from the final film. These are the encounters with four individuals associated in varying and conflicting ways with the American rescue campaigns and creation of the War Refugee Board in the USA in 1944: Peter Bergson, John Pehle, Roswell McClelland and Robert Borden Reams. It is possible to imagine how an edited version of these outtakes might appear, and to what end, in relation to the interviews’ addressing questions of the belated and partial efforts at rescuing the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the reasons why any such wholesale rescue did not take place.

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  1. 1.

    The outtakes were created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of Shoah and are used and cited by permission of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem.

  2. 2.

    See the review by Medoff (2001, 136).

  3. 3.

    Raider (2004, 318).

  4. 4.

    Peck (1980, 370).

  5. 5.

    Kaplan (2005, 100).

  6. 6.

    Penkower (1981, 284, 340).

  7. 7.

    Quoted in Kaplan (2005, 348).

  8. 8.

    Penkower (1981, 309).

  9. 9.

    A document drafted by Randolph Paul, entitled “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews”, dated 13 January 1944, was redrafted by Henry Morgenthau under the final title “A Personal Appeal to the President”, dated 16 January, and submitted along with a “rough draft of an executive order creating the War Refugee Board”; see Mashberg (1977, 174).

  10. 10.

    Roswell and Marjorie McClelland Papers, Series 2: Biographical Information 1948–1995, USHMM.

  11. 11.

    Max Wallace, quoted in an interview with the USC Shoah Foundation,

  12. 12.

    In an interview from 1978, Henry Morgenthau’s secretary Henrietta Klotz describes overhearing an exchange in Yiddish between Kalmanowitz and a fellow rabbi, in which the former asked if he had “cried well”, suggesting that he was performing the image of the emotive orthodox Jew in an effort to live up to such expectations, quoted in Medoff (2017, 63).

  13. 13.

    Memorial Page for Dorothy Reams, Kent-Forest Lawn Funeral Home,

  14. 14.

    The French version is as follows: “Si on m’avait dit un jour que je pêcherai avec M. Robert Borden Reams dans les canaux de Panama City , j’aurai été tout a fait étonné.”

  15. 15.

    McNulty (2008).

  16. 16.

    See Zeitz (2018).

  17. 17.

    See Kenigsberg (2018).

  18. 18.

    Weine and Laub (1995, 251).


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Correspondence to Sue Vice .

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Vice, S. (2021). “The Four Brothers”: Claude Lanzmann’s War Refugee Board Interviews. In: Freiburg, R., Bayer, G. (eds) The Ethics of Survival in Contemporary Literature and Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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