Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In defense of Sonderkommando Revolt

I really don't understand the controversy over Sonderkommando Revolt, a new video game that lets you revel in the wholesale slaughter of Nazis.

The game is done in the style of Wolfenstein 3D meaning the graphics are old school-choppy and the villains are Nazis. The extra wrinkle this time is the setting. Instead of a castle, or generic army barrack, now you're in Auschwitz, and Jews in striped uniforms are everywhere. As you run around the camp killing guards and soldiers you see the crematoriums and gas chambers, and also scenes of Jews being tortured and executed. Some of these scenes are extremely disturbing, in particular, a shot of dead, bleeding Jews piled like cord wood. [You can see the trailer here. I found it nausea-inducing. Not just because of the anti-Jewish violence, but because the first-person-shooter format makes me queasy]

Though I agree the images are about as disturbing as choppy 8-bit images can be,  I'm still at a loss to explain why the ADL, Heeb Magazine and others are aghast.

The point of the game is not to glorify the murder of Jews. The point is to kill Nazis. Other games let you play quarterback for the Giants, this one let you live out the ultimate Jewish fantasy. You're at Auschwitz with a machine gun, and no one can stop you. 

When  Inglourious Basterds was released it faced some of the same criticism. People didn't like the idea of an action-adventure movie centered around the Holocaust. It seemed vulgar and disrespectful. Writing in the Atlantic, Jeffery Goldberg ended the argument with three paragraphs.

Early in the spring of 1944, when I was quite a bit younger than I am now, I parachuted into Nazi-occupied Poland as the leader of a team of Brooklyn-born commandos. We landed in a field not far from the train tracks that fed Jews to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. My team laid explosive charges on the tracks, destroying them utterly, and then I moved quickly on foot to the death camp itself, where I found Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, in bed. I shot him in the face, though not before lecturing him on his sins. Before I killed him, he cried like a little Nazi bitch.

Then I woke up, ate a bowl of Rice Krispies, and walked to school—the Howard T. Herber Middle School—where a sixth-grade pogromist named Patrick Harrington and his Cossack associates pitched pennies at me in a game sometimes known as “Bend the Jew,” which ended, inevitably, with me being jumped for refusing to pick up the aforementioned pennies, and also for killing Jesus. It is in part because of young Mr. Harrington and his lieutenants that I would later join the Israeli army, and that, more recently, I found myself sitting beside Quentin Tarantino’s pool in the Hollywood Hills, listening in wonder as the writer and director of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction diagnosed what he saw as the essential, maddening flaw of every Holocaust movie ever made.

“Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims,” he said, plainly exasperated by Hollywood’s lack of imagination. “We’ve seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews.
Yes, lets.

Search for more information about Sonderkommando Revolt, at

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