HOLOCAUST AWARENESS INSTITUTE
An Act of Faith (from the CBS series “Look up and Live”)
As Hitler’s forces occupied country after country, the Jews of Europe were subjugated and deported to concentration camps, resulting in six million deaths. In striking contrast to the experience in other countries, the Jews of Denmark were saved by countrymen who refused to hand over their compatriots to the Nazis. First the Danes, led by King Christian and their clergy, flaunted Hitler’s orders of oppression. Then, when deportation orders came in October 1943, Danes hid both Jewish friends and mere acquaintances. When Sweden offered asylum to the Danish Jews the Danes responded by organizing risky, clandestine boat lifts to the neighboring country. Ninety-seven percent of Denmark’s Jewish population of 8,000 survived the war because of the courage and compassion of their countrymen. An Act of Faith tells this story.
Germany, 1930’s: Hitler rises to power, blaming Jews and other enemies of the state for Germany’s ills. Varian Fry, journalist and editor of LIVING AGE magazine, witnesses the first pogroms in Berlin. France, 1940’s: After falling to the Germans, France is partitioned. In the unoccupied southern part (Vichy), several thousand refugees are trapped in Marseilles and in French camps to be surrendered on demand” to the Gestapo. Fry is sent by the newly formed Emergency Rescue Committee to Marseilles for 3 weeks to rescue 200 of the most famous intellectual refugees. USA, 1940’s: Anti-immigration and anti-Semitic sentiment is widespread. The State Department and the U.S. Consulate in Marseilles oppose Fry’s mission. Yet, he persists for 13 months and rescues over 2000 refugees until he is expelled from France. His work is not recognized for many years. Narrated by Meryl Streep, a film by Academy and Emmy Award Winning Producer Richard Kaplan.
The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank
The diary of Anne Frank is internationally renowned as one of the most moving personal testimonies to emerge from the Holocaust. Anne, along with her family and four others, was hidden from the Nazis for two years in an attic in Amsterdam. Their survival was facilitated by four courageous family friends including Miep Gies, a former employee of Anne’s father, Otto Frank. After the Gestapo discovered the inhabitants of the secret annex, Miep was able to salvage Anne’s diary, stories, and sketches. Beginning with the Nazi invasion of Holland, The Attic chronicles the devastating events that befell the Frank family prior to and during their years in hiding. Based on the book Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies, the drama features Mary Steenburgen in a sensitive and compelling portrayal of Miep.
Au Revoir, Les Enfants
During the Nazi occupation of Europe, local populations responded to actions against the Jews by collaborating, rescuing, or standing by. All these attitudes are captured in Au Revoir, Les Enfants, Louis Malles’ autobiographical story of the year 1944, when three Jewish boys are sheltered at a Catholic boarding school outside Paris. The film captures the danger that those in hiding lived with daily, fearing any small slip that would condemn them to death. Julien Quentin, a sensitive twelve-year-old, forms a shaky friendship with Jean Kippelstein (alias Bonnet), sharing the normal confusions and curiosities of adolescence. But these are not normal times. When Julien learns Jean’s secret, he awakens to an adult world of ambiguous moral textures. Soon he will suffer a devastating loss of innocence and learn about guilt, betrayal, and the terrible consequences of evil.
The Boat Is Full
In 1942 Switzerland declared that it had more than enough refugees, and according to Swiss law Jews fleeing the Nazis were to be sent back. They explicitly were not considered political refugees, who were eligible for asylum, as were soldiers deserting from the German army. The only exceptions were children under the age of six, along with their parents, and the elderly. The Boat Is Full is a drama of five Jews who escape from Germany and attempt to elude deportation by posing as a family that qualifies to stay in Switzerland. The five are both protected and betrayed by a rural innkeeper and her husband, who respond to the strangers in their midst with a shifting mix of suspicion, resentment, humanity, compassion and doubt. The refugee’s story ultimately unravels, and small minded Swiss bureaucrats carry out the letter of the law.
In 1940, German troops occupying Warsaw herded the city’s Jewish population behind a wall enclosing the ghetto district. Over the next few years, the Nazis began systematically deporting the community to concentration camps. By 1943, the population had dwindled from 500,000 to 60,000. The remaining Jews staged a valiant uprising in April of that year, fighting to near extinction against their oppressors. Border Street, one of the first post-war films to depict the Holocaust, captures the fervor and terror of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, as seen through the eyes of four youths. Bronek and Wladek are gentiles who consider the occupation an affront to their Polish heritage. For Jews David and Jadzia, fighting back is their only choice. Their stories intertwine in an emotional fury as they gallantly defend their lives.
Camera of My Family
In the 1920s the German Jewish community of about half a million people was mainly urban and secular, with a substantial proportion in the professions, finance, and retail trade. The accession of Hitler in 1933 and the swift imposition of anti-Semitic laws took many by surprise, and they struggled to gauge what the future might hold. Camera of My Family is narrated by Catherine Hanf Noren, whose family made the difficult decision to flee Germany in 1938, just before it was too late. Years later, in old family photographs, Noren discovers haunting images of family outings, decorated soldiers who proudly fought for Germany in World War I, her grandfather’s factory in Dachau—all testimony to the integration of German-Jews into the larger society. The trove of photographs leads her to ask questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? How did those to whom I am connected live and die?
In July of 1939, ten crates of ritual objects arrived at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. The objects, many antique and extremely valuable, came from the Great Synagogue of Danzig, Germany, a magnificent temple which had boasted 1600 congregants. The sale of these objects, arranged by the League of Nations, enabled the Jews of Danzig to buy passage out of Germany. They were the only community to do so, and the artifacts they sold to buy their freedom comprise the only such collection to escape the Holocaust. Many current and former residents of the city are interviewed in Danzig, 1939. They tell of a liberal, mixed Jewish community made up of native Germans and Russian and Polish refugees. Many of the people interviewed – among them Rabbi Iwan Gruen of the Great Synagogue – remember little anti-Semitism before Hitler. Yet all were forced to confront the tide of hate that Hitler summoned, and their escape, along with the sale of their collection of artifacts, is one of the unique tales of survival to come out of the Holocaust.
A Day in Warsaw
The lively Jewish neighborhoods of Warsaw, including Zamenhof Street and the commercial beehive” Nalewki Street, were home to 400,000 Jews before World War II. A Day in Warsaw sets Warsaw’s multi-storied buildings and broad streets against its old market square and Jewish quarter. Trucks, trolleys, autos and buses meet horse drawn carriages, pushcarts and porters in the bustling commercial district. Also shown are the Yiddish Theater, Gensza Cemetery and other Jewish institutions – the community council, hospitals, schools and synagogues. At film’s end, after Sabbath services, families pour into Krashinsky park where children play and adults spiritedly debate the issues of the day. A restored Yiddish film with new English subtitles.
Days of Memory
The film was made on the occasion of an international conference, held in Vilnius, Lithuania 1993. The conference commemorated the liquidation of the Vilna by the Nazis, fifty years before. the film focuses on painful questions about the truth of what really happened with the Jews of Lithuania during WWII. When the German onslaught on Lithuania started on June 22, 1941, there were approximately 240,000 Jews in the country. 200,000 of them were slaughtered by the Nazis and their local collaborators. September 23, 1943 the last Jews were taken from the Vilna Ghetto to the woods of Paneriai-Ponar and murdered. This extermination ended six centuries of Jewish presence in the town, once called “The Jerusalem of Lithuania.” The 1993 conference in Vilnius is an important moment in postwar Jewish history, mixing impressions of the lectures and debates. The film captures heated discussions, rich archival photos and film material from prewar Jewish life in Lithuania and of the Holocaust.
The Devil Is a Gentleman
Fifteen years after the end of World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi chief of Jewish affairs, was abducted by Israeli intelligence agents in Argentina and taken to Jerusalem. From April to December 1961, Eichmann stood trial for his role in administering the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem. Eichmann was found guilty and executed for crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The Devil Is a Gentleman, a 12 minute segment from the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes, reviews Eichmann’s career in the Nazi party and subsequent trial in Israel in an attempt to examine the nature of his character. Drawing upon interviews with people who knew Eichmann, including the prosecuting attorney, a former SS colleague, a psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor, the program raises fundamental questions about judgment and responsibility.
The Diary of Anne Frank
Since the publication of her diary in 1947 and its translation into dozens of languages, Anne Frank has become a symbol of innocent suffering in the Holocaust, and her story the vehicle through which millions of people been introduced to this era of history. While hiding with her family and others for two years in a secret attic apartment in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Anne detailed her thoughts and emotions as an adolescent girl coming of age. A play based on the diary was brought to the stage and became the basis of this film, made in 1959. The Diary of Anne Frank captures Anne’s fears, joys, and defiance as the residents of the attic struggle to maintain a semblance of normality in the face of overwhelming odds. The films conventional Hollywood treatment and upbeat ending, however, have been criticized as inappropriate to the subject and its true outcome.
Enemies, A Love Story
Memories pursued Holocaust survivors when they tried to reestablish their lives after World War II. For many who came to America, the vast differences between their new lives and what they had experienced created problems that were difficult to resolve. Enemies, A Love Story, based on a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, follows the intertwined affairs of Herman Broder, a writer haunted by nightmares as he tries to settle into his new life in New York. Married to Yadwiga, the Polish woman who saved him, he has a Jewish mistress, fellow survivor Masha. His life and deceptions become even more frenetic as his first wife, Tamara, arrives in New York, having also survived. Ron Silver, Anjelica Huston and Lena Olin all give superb performances in this compelling movie.
At fifteen, Elie Wiesel and his family were taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz. On their first night in the death camp, his mother and younger sister were murdered. His father, weakened by starvation, died later that year. Yet Wiesel tells Bill Moyers that his reaction to the Holocaust was never to become filled with hate; it was more complex. Hatred is not only destructive but self-destructive, says Wiesel in Facing Hate, an interview that explores the origins and manifestations of hatred. Wiesel, who has organized conferences on the subject, talks about why vengeance was not an adequate response for him, about the differences between anger and hate; and of the inadequacy of reconciliation. He and Moyers also explore the heritage of hate, the way the hater dehumanizes the victim, and the question of faith and meaning after Auschwitz.
Genocide is the story of man’s inhumanity to man – the story of the millions of men, women, and children who fell victim to Hitler’s Final Solution. A unique multi-image documentary, Genocide combines historical narrative with actual stories of ordinary people caught up in the Nazis’ reign of terror. Its purpose is to challenge and inspire so that never again will man stand by silently and allow such an atrocity to occur. Winner of an Academy Award in 1981 for Documentary Feature. Narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles.
Genocide (from “The World at War”)
Nazi racial theory, an ideology that captivated millions of Germans in the 1920s and 30s, was translated into concrete policies by Heinrich Himmler, who created the SS. Once the Nazis came to power, the concept of the Aryan master race was taught in classrooms throughout Germany. The doctrine was implemented in anti-Jewish laws and actions and, ultimately, the Final Solution, in which the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe was systematically deported and murdered. This program, narrated by Laurence Olivier, traces the role of the demonization of the Jews in the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Using archival footage, much of it shot by the Nazis, as well as testimony from the Eichmann trial, the film follows the systemized anti-Semites of the Nazis from its formation to the end of the war. In grim, graphic images and straightforward narration, it sets out the events that define its topic.
Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg
Raoul Wallenberg, an attache to the Swedish Embassy, was sent at the initiative of Swedish Jewish businessmen on a rescue mission of Hungarian Jews. He distributed Swedish papers (“Wallenberg passports”), protected Jews in “Wallenberg houses,” internationalized the ghetto to give the 33,000 Jews within it more protections, and saved thousands of Jews from deportation. On January 17, l945, Wallenberg was taken to Moscow as a Soviet prisoner. He was never released, and his fate has remained a mystery. Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg, a Swedish feature film, chronicles the last days of the war in Budapest. The Soviet noose is tightening around the city, yet the unrelenting mass murder of Jews continues. In this almost surreal atmosphere, where only the victims seem sane, Wallenberg fights tirelessly to save as many as he can—and to preserve a semblance of humanity amidst the nihilistic horror.
A six-part documentary from The History Channel, Hitler’s Holocaust series includes the following titles: Invasion, Ghetto, Resistance, Mass Murder, Decision and The Final Toll.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault
As the Nazi killing machine engulfed Europe with terror, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered brutal persecution. Why? Because they stood firm in their beliefs and boldly spoke out against the cruelty to Nazism. They were among the first to be thrown into Nazi concentration camps. Hitler vowed to smash this small Christian group. But they could not be silenced.
Jewish Life in Bialystok
Vivid cinematography and music evoke the industrial and cultural center that was Bialystok in 1939. Images of smokestacks, power looms and textile workers; downtown shops and buses; market day with peasants and horses; schools, synagogues, the Sholem Aleichem Library, the TOZ Sanatorium and a community-run summer camp reflect the diversity of the city’s 200-year-old Jewish community. In addition to the tile-roofed home of Dr. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto, Jewish Life in Bialystok features memorable images of a spacious park where adults relaxed and children play. A restored Yiddish film with complete, new English subtitles.
Jewish Life in Cracow
Focusing on Cracow’s Jewish quarter, this film intermingles old and new, using music to enhance the images. Streetcars share tree-lined streets with horse-drawn carriages; people conduct business under umbrella-covered markets and arcaded market halls; parks and schoolyards host sports, games and animated discussions. Scenes of the famous Remu Synagogue and the Alte Shul, an orphanage, a hospital, the Jewish Community Council and several schools convey the vitality of this age-old Jewish community. A restored Yiddish film with complete, new English subtitles.
Jewish Life in Lvov
Stylish women promenade through modern Lvov’s thriving market squares to a piano-and-violin accompaniment suggesting urban rhythms. Also known as Lemberg and home to an old, well-established Jewish community, this city nestled in a valley projects an aura of prosperity. Parks and pavilions punctuate it’s public spaces, as trucks, pushcarts and bicycles occupy it’s busy streets. Among the Jewish community landmarks shown are the Yad Haruzim Trade Union Building and the old ghetto, the softly curving exterior of the Modern Temple and the orthodox school, the Moorish-looking Lazarus Hospital, the grave of the Golden Rose filmed in warm, dappled light a and the Nowosci Theater. A restored Yiddish film with complete, new English subtitles.
Jewish Life in Vilna
This rare film document captures the spirit of Jewish life in pre-World War II Vilna. Lively narration and music accompany film sequences of people engaged in the rituals and realities of daily existence at work, at play, in the synagogue and in school. Vilna;s famous landmarks the Strashun Library, Shnipeshiker cemetery, YIVO Institute are among the film’s highlights. A completely restored Yiddish film with new English subtitles.
Jews of Poland: Bialystok, Lvov, Kracow, Vilna, and Warsaw
Between 1938 and 1939, filmmakers Yitzhak and Shaul Goskind visited six Jewish communities in Poland in an effort to record the vitality of Jewish life. Little did they suspect that their film would be one of the last visual accounts of a once vibrant world. One of the films about Lodz, has been lost, but through the efforts of the Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, the remaining five films are finally being made public.
Judgment at Nuremberg
In the years following World War II, the victorious Allies set up a court in which to try Nazi leaders for war crimes. As the world watched in fascination, the Nuremberg trials brought to light issues of accountability and responsibility under the Nazi regime. Judgment at Nuremberg was Hollywood’s first attempt to confront issues of guilt and innocence in the Holocaust. It premiered in Berlin to an invited international audience, and won the Oscar for Best Picture. Judgment at Nuremberg presents the trial of a group of German judges charged with crimes committed in the name of the law. Starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland and Maximilian Schell, the film addresses the complex issue of assigning culpability.
Kitty: A Return to Auschwitz
Kitty Felix was the spirited, independent-minded second child of a well-educated Jewish family, growing up in Bielsko, Poland, in the 1930s. In 1943, at the age of seventeen, she was sent to Auschwitz along with her mother. Kitty: A Return to Auschwitz follows Kitty, now a radiographer in England, as she goes back with her grown son to the camp where she survived for two years. She revisits the barracks, the work areas, and the latrines, recalling what existence was like there. While this is clearly painful for her, she endures it to tell her story—which is the story of millions of others as well. She describes the support she and her mother gave each other and the things they did to survive. ‘You are here,” she tells her son, “just to see that it is true, that it was true, and you can tell your children.”
The Last Days
Including newly-discovered historical footage and a rare interview with a former Nazi doctor at Auschwitz, the film tells the remarkable story of five people a grandmother, a teacher, a businessman, an artist and a U.S. Congressman as they return from the United States to their hometowns and to the ghettos and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. Through the eyes of the survivors and other witnesses, The Last Days recounts one of the most brutal chapters of this dark period in human history, when families were taken from their homes, stripped of their dignity, deported to concentration camps and ultimately murdered. Above all, The Last Days is a potent depiction of personal strength and courage, and a testament to the power of the human spirit.
Ghettoization was the first step in the Nazis destruction of the Jews of Europe. Crowded together and forced to labor and live in horrendous conditions, the denizens of the ghettos searched for any method to make meaning out of an existence that seemed doomed and “completely meaningless.” Lodz Ghetto examines the nightmarish struggle for survival that was the daily lot of the people trapped in the longest lasting of the Jewish ghettos. Using historical and contemporary footage, diaries, monographs, and the voices of survivors, Lodz Ghetto shows how the inhabitants persevered in the face of the terrible forces arrayed against them. The film also examines the role of Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski, the leader of the ghetto, who enforced the German policies even as they killed thousands of his people.
Looking into the Face of Evil
Hitler and the Nazi leaders formed a plan to exterminate the Jewish people, but the acts of persecution and brutality were carried out by ordinary people. How could they suspend their moral obligation? How could the world let them? Time passes and memories fade. Still we must continue to ask these questions so that the difficult lessons of the Holocaust live on. Narrated by Edward Asner.
The trial of John Demjanjuk highlighted the problems of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice so many years after the fact. The dwindling numbers of people on both sides, the reliability of elderly witnesses memory, and the simple passage of time conspire to make assessments of guilt or innocence extremely difficult. Questions of memory and emotion loom large in Music Box, an intense courtroom thriller about a Chicago attorney (Jessica Lange) who defends her Hungarian immigrant father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) against charges of war crimes. As Ann Talbot, Lange must establish innocence even as she wrestles with growing doubts about her father’s dubious past. In a sudden twist, the trial shifts to Hungary, where Ann’s waning objectivity succumbs to anger.
Night and Fog
The essential fact of the Holocaust
- that millions of lives were extinguished for arbitrary, political reasons - is brought home in Alain Resnais’ harrowing 1955 documentary. Every aspect of the Nazi orchestra of death, from the roundup and labeling of the victims to their eventual death in the gas chambers, is shown. Contrasting images of the camps during the war with the desolate, overgrown, and run-down edifices that exist in the present, the film challenges its viewers not to forget what happened even as the reminders dwindle. “No description, no shot can restore the camp’s true dimension,” the narrator says. Still, Night and Fog comes as close as it is possible to get to the horrors of the concentration camps.
The years 1932-33 were critical ones for Germany’s Jews, when popular disaffection and political turmoil fueled by an economic crisis set the stage for Hitler’s rise to power. As Nazi views took hold, the Jews
- fully integrated into German society and accepting the nation’s ideals as their own - were increasingly viewed as “foreigners” and “enemies,” which many found incomprehensible. This mood culminated in the boycott of Jewish stores and professionals in 1934. The Oppermanns, a drama made for German TV recounts how one wealthy German-Jewish family responded during these pivotal years. As the film opens, the family meets to discuss merging their furniture business with that of an old rival, who may be a Nazi. But the Oppermann brothers - the store’s manager, a doctor and a man of letters - continue to emotionally resist acknowledging the extent of Nazi gains. Finally, they can resist no longer.
A Painful Reminder
Efforts to document the Holocaust began while it was still happening. A Painful Reminder is a documentary filmed by a unit of the British Army’s psychological warfare division in the spring of 1945; Alfred Hitchcock helped shape the raw material. Considered too controversial at the time, it was not publicly viewed until the 1980s. The film sketches Hitler’s rise to power, then provides gruesome details of concentration and extermination camps such as Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald and Auschwitz. Besides on-the-scene comments by British troops, A Painful Reminder follows the stories of several Jewish survivors, and carefully shows German municipal officials and citizens at the death camps. The film addresses the post-war political considerations that led to its being shelved for so many years.
Rupert Everett narrates this sensitive documentary about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals during World War II. “Paragraph 175” refers to the old German penal code concerning homosexuality, which was used to justify the prosecution of gay men during the war (the code ignored lesbians, still considered viable baby-making vessels). As mere rumor became enough to justify imprisonment, over 100,000 were arrested and between 10,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. In Paragraph 175 , Klaus, a historian from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, sets out to interview the fewer than 10 who are known to remain alive. The film covers the astonishingly quick rise of Hitler (one interviewee points out how ridiculous a figure he seemed at first) and the shock that more liberal Germans felt as it became clear that he was a force to be reckoned with. Some of the film’s most touching moments come when the participants reminisce about their first loves and the “homosexual Eden” that was Berlin in the 1930s.
Partisans of Vilna
Partisans of Vilna explores the moral dilemmas and continuous dangers facing young Jews who organized an underground resistance in the Vilna ghetto and fought as partisans in the woods. Interviews with survivors of the Jewish resistance movement tell the largely unknown story of the Jews who risked their lives and those of others to fight the Nazis. Among those who speak are Israeli poet Abba Kovner, a resistance leader, and Chaika Grossman, former Israeli Knesset member. The survivors, whose stories are interspersed with rare archival footage from 1939-44, tell how enforced ghetto life, unbearable in many respects, led to plans to build grenades, blow up a train, and communally fight back, under constant threat of death.
Sol Nazerman is a refugee from a nightmare. His memories of the family and life he lost in the Holocaust influence his every action. A man whose emotional life was wrenched form him, he maintains a cold distance toward all who approach him. Played brilliantly by Rod Steiger, Nazerman eventually comes to recognize human suffering beyond his own when his capacity for sorrow is belatedly revived by a dramatic turn of events. But Nazerman is a controversial figure, and the film raises difficult question about whether parallels can be drawn between the ghettos of New York and Europe, and between victimizer. Based on a novel by American Jewish writer Edward Lewis Wallant, this is the first American film to portray the inside of the death camps.
Fifty years ago, millions in Europe were suffering hideously under the regime of the Nazis. Among the victims one religious group stood out as unusual Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a body, they steadfastly refused to compromise their principles despite strong pressure to adopt Hitler’s ideology. As a result, they were identified by a purple triangle sewn into their camp uniform. The Witnesses, a peaceful people, were not very numerous. Yet, the Nazis expended huge resources trying to annihilate them. Why? And how could anyone’s faith survive such opposition?
Safe Haven : A Story of Hope
In 1944, 1,000 European refugees, mostly Jews of the Holocaust, were selected to come to the United States as guests of President Roosevelt. For eighteen months they were sheltered at Fort Ontario in Oswego , New York the only World War II refugee camp in the United States while the U.S. government debated their fate. Using archival photographs and film footage, as well as poignant oral history interviews, this documentary tells the story of their journey, their adjustment to the refugee camp and to American life and their struggle to remain in the United States.
Oskar Schindler started World War II as a charming playboy and black-market dealer and emerged at its end the savior of over 1,000 Polish Jews. Bribing SS cronies, Schindler established a factory where Jews could be employed and thus escape deportation. Protection of his workers continued at the Plaszow labor camp. Schindler initially profited from his efforts—but is that why he did it? Schindler is a riveting documentary that offers testimony from those who knew the real man: his wife, the mistress of Amon Goeth, SS supervisor of the Plaszow camp, and many of “Schindler’s Jews.” However elusive his motives or flawed his character, to them Schindler was an angel in the midst of hell.
Winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, a dashing and resourceful German Catholic businessman who saved more than 1,000 Polish Jews from almost certain annihilation. Liam Neeson plays Schindler, a complex man with a fondness for women, nightlife, and profit. In wartime Krakow, Schindler takes over a Jewish-owned factory that the Nazis have put out of business. He then collects Jews from the ghetto to work for him at no pay. But as Schindler witnesses the deportation and liquidation of the ghetto, the scheming profiteer evolves into a conscious and daring rescuer of his workers. Using his talents of persuasion, Schindler bribes and cajoles the Nazis into sparing his workers’ lives, even as many face the horrors of Auschwitz.
In Shoah, director Claude Lanzmann piles detail upon detail to give the most comprehensive account of the Holocaust available on film. This riveting epic uses no historical footage of Nazi Germany or the death camps. Instead, Lanzmann tells the story of the Holocaust through interviews with concentration camp survivors, Nazi SS, historians of the era, and regular people who saw the trains of the condemned pass by their homes or watched their cities become “Judenrien.” Lanzmann’s camera eloquently lingers over the miles of train tracks that made the extermination of the Jews possible while the voices of his interviewees recount the methodical psychological, bureaucratic, and physical horrors of the era. Equally powerful are the completely silent scenes of snow falling over the crematoria, the faces of those tortured by their memories, and of others, who are apparently unmoved.
The Shop on Main Street
This film examines the moral compromises of occupied populations in World War II that helped make possible the destruction of European Jewry. Self-interest, greed, petty animosities, indifference, and fear, as well as an ingrained tradition of anti-Semitism, made ordinary people accomplices in the Nazi agenda. In The Shop on Main Street, Tono Britko is a simple, out-of-luck carpenter in a Czech village during the occupation. His fortunes seemingly change when he is appointed Aryan Controller of a button shop owned by a Jewish widow. But Mrs. Lautmann, the frail shop owner, played by the great Yiddish actress Ida Kaminska, seems unable to understand her change of status or the irrational events of the time. The relationship that develops between the two culminates in an agonizing decision.
So Many Miracles
Many of the Jews who survived the Holocaust owe their lives to ‘righteous gentiles’ who imperiled their own lives by assisting Jewish friends and neighbors. The emotions of those years remain undimmed by the passage of time, as Jews recall the fateful decisions, personal courage, and twists of luck that helped them slip through the Nazis’ killing machine. In So Many Miracles, survivors Israel and Frania Rubinek return to Poland to meet with Sofia, the woman who hid them. Aware of German atrocities, the couple had lived in a bunker in the town of Pinczow, fled, then returned to hide with Sofia, who sheltered them despite her husband’s reluctance. They all stayed in the same house for over two years, narrowly avoiding detection at times. Their reunion, 40 years later, speaks of the power of bonds forged at a time when they were forbidden.
When great-grandpa Sonnenshein (the name means sunshine”) bottled the cure-all elixir A Taste of Sunshine, he established a family fortune and assumed his sons would continue the business. But great-grandpa’s sons and family members to come had very different hopes and dreams. Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) plays not one, but three roles in this compelling and acclaimed epic about a Jewish family caught up in the upheavals and false hopes of the war-swept 20th century. Also available on DVD.
Survivors of the Holocaust
Steven Spielberg, in association with Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and Turner Original Productions, presents Survivors of the Holocaust, an unprecedented and historic documentary which chronicles the events of the Shoah (Holocaust) as witnessed by those who survived. The program weaves together archival footage and an original music score with survivors personal testimonies and photographs, chronicling life in pre-war Europe, the devastating impact Nazism, the liberation of the concentration camps and life fifty years later. As survivors relive their stories on camera, many for the first time, those who watch cannot come away without being deeply affected.
Swing Kids, based on a historical movement, is about a group of young men in Nazi Germany who defied the Third Reich to listen and dance to forbidden “swing” music from America. These “Swing Kids” make a moral choice to pursue their personal freedom at the risk of being sent to work camps. Robert Sean Leonard (star of Dead Poets Society) is Peter, the leader of a rebellious group of Swing Kids. Every week, Peter and his friends openly defy the Gestapo by dancing the jitterbug at parties in Hamburg. But as the pressure to join the Hitler Youth takes its toll on the Swing Kids, one by one, each is faced with a brutal choice—loyalty to their cause or loyalty to Germany’s.
In March 1939 the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, and two years later they turned the fortress town of Terezin, near Prague, into a concentration camp. Here 140,000 Jews from Western and Eastern Europe were imprisoned, prior to being sent to Auschwitz. Through interviews with survivors who were children in the camp, Terezin Diary documents the terrible conditions of life in Theresienstadt, as the Germans called it, as well as the artistic, educational, and spiritual activities that sustained inmates who were spared deportation. Using Terezin as a ‘model camp’ to demonstrate to the world that they were not mistreating the Jews, the Nazis permitted a degree of cultural life there that was impossible in death camps. Terezin Diary emphasizes the enormous role that art played in the lives of these Jews, many of whom continued their music, painting, writing, and theater in their later lives.
Transport from Paradise
In Terezin, nothing was what it seemed: a beautiful fortress town, Theresienstadt (as the Germans called it) was also a concentration camp where hunger, disease, and death were the daily rations. A ghetto where many of the inmates were prominent musicians, artists, and intellectuals, it’s cultural activities were preludes to deportation. A “model city” intended to show the Nazis’ humane treatment of Jews, it served as a way station to Auschwitz. Transport from Paradise captures the surreal atmosphere of Theresienstadt during a 24-hour period marked by preparations for an inspection tour by the Red Cross. The making of a propaganda film depicting a well-fed happy populace and the deportation followed original, masterful work. Transport from Paradise depicts the charade of the “city” that the Nazis proclaimed was “given by the Fuehrer the Jews.”
Trial at Nuremberg
At the end of World War II in Nuremberg, Germany, twenty-one former officials in the Nazi regime were tried before the International Military Tribunal, composed of judges from the United States, England, France, and the Soviet Union. The defendants, ranging from policy makers to high-level hatchet men stood accused of crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, and war crimes. From 1945 to 1946, testimony and evidence presented at this first of twelve Nuremberg Trials revealed the scope of Nazi atrocities. Trial at Nuremberg was broadcast in 1958 on the CBS documentary series, “The Twentieth Century,” hosted by Walter Cronkite. The program is a review of key moments from the trial and includes captured German Army film footage depicting the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the horrors of the concentration camps.
After Germany invades Poland in 1939, 350,000 Warsaw Jews are forcibly moved into the Warsaw Ghetto. A group forms the Jewish Fighting Organization (JFO) and smuggle in arms and explosives from the Aryan side of the city to help them fight back against the Nazis. When the Nazis start transporting Jews to the Treblinka death camp, the JFO begins to fight back. They ultimately hold off the Nazis longer than the entire country of Poland.
The Wannsee Conference
On January 20, 1942, at a house in Wannsee, a Berlin suburb, a meeting was held with 14 key representatives of the Nazi party, SS, and government bureaucracy. The meeting
- led by Reinhardt Heydrich, the head of the German secret police - lasted 90 minutes and had one item on the agenda: the implementation of “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” in Europe. This dramatization of the Wannsee Conference uses actual notes from that meeting, along with letters written by Hermann Goering and Adolf Eichmann. While the Nazi officials enjoy a buffet lunch, brandy, and cigarettes, they discuss in a clinical, businesslike manner the methods, stages, and logistics by which they hope to exterminate 11 million Jews from all parts of Europe.
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
In the autumn and winter of 1941-42, word of mass exterminations in the East made its way back to the Warsaw Ghetto. The situation in the ghetto was dire: every day hundreds died of hunger, disease, and malnutrition. But with the realization that the Nazis were implementing their “Final Solution,” some young people in the ghetto organized a resistance. Their campaign “to defend Jewish lives and honor and to revenge Jewish deaths” gathered force as their situation grew more desperate, culminating in a battle in which they fought the German army with molotov cocktails and stolen guns. Their struggle remains a stirring episode of courage and humanity against a backdrop of horror. Using archival footage and memoirs, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising recounts the events that led to the formation of the ghetto, the impassioned resistance, and the final conflagration.
Weapons of the Spirit
Throughout Occupied Europe, people were forced to make a critical moral decision: how to react to Nazi actions against the Jews. Most stood by apathetically. But in France, where collaborators delivered 75,000 Jews, including 10,000 children, to the Nazi death trains, the people of the small village of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon quietly sheltered at least 5,000 Jews over four years. It was the goal of filmmaker Pierre Sauvage, who was born in the village in 1943, to understand how this “conspiracy of goodness” came about. In interviews with the aging rescuers and rescued, and with historical footage, Sauvage explores the Chambonais’ seemingly effortless decision to spiritually oppose Nazism. He looks at the power of their Huguenot memories of persecution, their solid faith, the quality of their leadership, and emphasis on individual conscience. Appended to the film is a Bill Moyers interview with Sauvage.
Witness: Voices from the Holocaust
Testimonies some of the earliest ever recorded and rare archival footage reveal the Nazi era through the memories of those who were there: a Hitler youth, a Jesuit priest, resistance fighters, death camp survivors, American POWs, liberators. Witness: Voices from the Holocaust presents a vivid, unique image of history’s darkest hour.
Witnesses to the Holocaust: The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Fifteen years after World War II, Lieutenant-Colonel Adolf Eichmann, chief of the SS Bureau of Jewish Affairs, was abducted by Israeli agents near his residence in Argentina and taken to Israel. From April to December, 1961, the world watched as Eichmann stood trial for his role in administering the systematic annihilation of European Jewry. Eichmann was found guilty and sentenced to death for crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Narrated by actor Joel Grey, Witnesses to the Holocaust was compiled from portions of the court proceedings that still exist on videotape (two-thirds of the tapes have been lost). Eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence provide a comprehensive examination of the Nazi attempt to carry out the “Final Solution.”