This article analyzes video testimonies recorded at the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre in Melbourne,Australia, which address the highly complex and sensitive issue of “privileged” Jews. The so-called privileged Jews include prisoners in the Nazi-operated camps and ghettos who held positions that gave them access to material and other benefits, while compelling them to act in ways that have been judged detrimental to fellow inmates. Although the issue of “privileged” Jews has been largely neglected, it relates to a crucial facet of the Holocaust and has vast implications for its aftermath. The ethical dilemmas facing these victims may be closely linked to what Lawrence Langer has termed choiceless choices, which challenge conventional notions of “judgment” and “responsibility.” This problem is also the primary subject of Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi’s essay titled “The Grey Zone,” which is arguably the most influential essay ever written on the Holocaust. Levi argues that one should abstain from judging individuals who confronted such extreme circumstances, positioning prisoners with “privileged” positions at the threshold of representation and understanding. However, moral evaluations of “privileged” Jews have a strong impact on Holocaust testimonies, whether these were constructed during the war or recorded long after the survivors’ experiences. The examples of video testimonies explored in this article reveal that this is particularly the case when interviewees are former “privileged” Jews and interviewers are themselves Holocaust survivors. The article argues that when confronted with such an emotionally and morally fraught issue, judgment may itself be seen as a “limit of representation.”
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