Most media about the Holocaust have more than their share of Nightmare Fuel, and this one, possibly the first large-scale film to go into detail about the concentration camps and such, is no exception.
- While the scenes involving the gas chambers were disconcerting to be sure, their impact was softened a bit by use of fade-to-black techniques.
- Depiction of the cold-blooded killings done by the Einsatzgruppen, however, left little to the imagination. The Einsatzgruppen, or SS mobile killing units, were the ones whose primary method of execution was by a firing squad felling groups of people at a time into a mass grave — after making them undress. Completely. Scenes of these killings were shown multiple times, but one particular scene stands out. After executing a group of men in the usual manner, they all go take a look at the mass grave. We are actually shown what they see: essentially a pile of naked men at the bottom of a pit, bloodied in a manner that suggested strong spurting of blood with each bullet hit. After a deafening silence, we hear some human moaning from the pit. This only angered the commandant, who promptly handed the gunner a pistol, with orders to finish off anyone who might still be breathing. What makes the horror worse about this scene is that you can't just say "It's only a movie" since it was based on real-live events. The fact that an earlier scene implied that women and children were being slaughtered the same way (not dramatized) doesn't help.
- Indeed there might be some Truth in Television here, as Einsatzgruppen members were starting to get nightmares themselves, particularly from watching blood shoot out of people's backs unbuffered by clothing, and was one reason for the development of the gas chambers later in the war. There are eyewitness reports from hardened veteran SS commanders who said their men were psychologically terminated after a few months of executions. It also had a lot to do with shooting women, children, old people, while other executioners, like Stalinist Soviets or Poles, mostly had to do with adult male victims.