War crimes trial in post-WWII Ukraine unveiled at Venice festival

September 04, 2022 / 8:55 PM
Sharjah24 - AFP: Watching the powerful historical testament to the horrors of war and the depths of human cruelty in "The Kiev Trial" at the Venice Film Festival, it can seem that little has changed.

The out-of-competition documentary by Ukranian director Sergei Loznitsa uses archival footage of a now-forgotten war crimes trial of 15 Germans held in Kyiv in 1946.

But the atrocities that witnesses recount in the black-and-white film has echoes of war crimes that Ukraine accuses Russia of having committed on its soil in recent months.

The International Criminal Court is currently investigating war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine.

"History repeats itself when we do not learn from history. When we don't study and don't want to know," warned Loznitsa, speaking to journalists Sunday.

This year, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February, "we all realised we were (back) 80 years ago," he said.

"We just started to repeat the same things. And it means we did not learn after the war."

The trial was held in January 1946, just as the Allies' groundbreaking Nuremberg Trials against Nazi war criminals were beginning

Stalin sought to use the trials in Kyiv for his own propaganda purposes, Loznitsa said.

The Ukranian director relied on about three hours of footage shot by the Soviets to document the trial, including the arraignment, witness testimony, defence statements and verdict -- and finally, the public hanging of the 15 defendants.

The atrocities occurred on different dates and in different places throughout Ukraine, including Babyn Yar, where nearly 34,000 Jews were shot to death in massive pits.

Babyn Yar was the subject of a documentary by Loznitsa last year that played at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
September 04, 2022 / 8:55 PM

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