The Round Number is a film about the number “Six Million”. All of us use the number to describe the number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. But how did that number come about, how exact is it and when did it enter the public discourse? Veteran documentary filmmaker, David Fisher, in a film premiering at the Jerusalem Film Festival (which opens this week), decides to investigate the importance of this symbolic number.
At the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1960s, Prosecutor Gideon Hausner is famous for saying: “I do not stand here alone as the prosecutor. Six million accusers stand with me.” Thus, the number became sacred in the canon of Jewish lore. But it is a number that is overused and trivialized. It has been used in comedy skits in Israel, used by a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball player to refer to the number of fans who accompany his team when they fly to Germany for a game, and especially Dag HaNahash and Yehuda Poliker are well-known for singing about the six million.
At Yad Vashem, they have a project collecting names. But the Nazis didn’t relate to the victims as human beings, as individuals, and therefore, with all their record-keeping, the numbers were not carefully kept and therefore the names of all those murdered are not readily available. The Germans were more interested in the efficiency of their murdering machinery, than in the victims themselves. We must ask ourselves, however, does the exact number of victims matter in the face of the terrible evil? Even today, so many years later, it is still inconceivable to imagine that so many were murdered.
In his personal filmmaking style, David Fisher provides a fascinating look at a subject that in some ways has become cliché, but in the hands of this filmmaker becomes surprisingly compelling and relevant. The film, The Round Number (documentary, 60 minutes) is available from Go2Films.