Described as “a forgotten masterpiece” German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was commissioned by the British army film unit as documentary evidence of Nazi crimes – to prove, beyond doubt, that they actually happened. It was made in the immediate wake of the Holocaust and the liberation of the camps by the allies in 1945. Directed by Sidney Bernstein of the British Ministry of Information, the documentary also had a very famous producer – Alfred Hitchcock – who advised, for instance, on how to avoid accusations of camera trickery. But Bernstein’s film was never finished and it isn’t entirely clear why (although there is evidence of a Foreign Office memo advising against it). Some of the film was used in Billy Wilder’s Death Mills and PBS screened an incomplete version Memory Of The Camps in 1985.

Last year the Imperial War Museum completed Bernstein’s work, while director André Singer (executive producer, Act Of Killing) made his own film, Night Will Fall, about the making of Bernstein’s documentary and its eventual abandonment. In his review, Peter Bradshaw, describes Night Will Fall as “an extraordinary record” and “a true nightmare” but warns that “once seen, these images cannot be unseen”. Night Will Fall is the centre piece of a series of films screening in the UK this month, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
 

 

To commemorate the anniversary, BBC Four also plans to screen Claude Lanzmann’s ten hour landmark documentary, Shoah, in full. It ranks second in Sight & Sound Magazine’s critic-chosen list of the greatest documentaries of all time. In order to make Shoah, Jonathan Rosenbaum describes:

“[Lanzmann] had to rethink what cinema could be. His 550-minute examination of the Jewish Holocaust falls within the documentary tradition of investigative journalism, but what he does with that form is so confrontational and relentless that it demands to be described in philosophical/spiritual terms rather than simply cinematically.”

Lanzmann chooses not to include any footage from the events themselves, but instead focuses on probing interviews with both perpetrators and survivors. Shoah is also released on Blu Ray later this month along with four of the director’s partnering films: A Visitor From The Living; Sobibór October 14 1943 4pm; The Karski Report; and his most recent film The Last Of The Unjust.
 

 

As part of the season, the BBC will also premiere The Eichmann Show, a 90 minute drama about the televising of Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 trial starring Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit). Other programming includes Freddie Knoller’s War, a new documentary about the 93 year old Holocaust survivor, and 90 minute documentary Touched By Auschwitz from filmmaker Laurence Rees.

Meanwhile, Netflix UK continues to stream the BBC documentary series The Last Nazis and compelling six-part documentary, also from Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: The Nazis & The Final Solution.

The films will be screened in the UK on the following dates:
20 January 9pm – The Eichmann Show BBC Two
22 January 9:30pm – Surviving The Holocaust: Freddi Knoller’s War BBC Two
24 January 9pm – Night Will Fall Channel Four
25 January 7pm – Shoah BBC4
27 January 9pm – Touched By Auschwitz BBC Two
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