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Holocaust Documentaries - A List of Documentaries About The Holocaust

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Documentaries About The Holocaust and World War II

As official records and personal stories about the Holocaust continue to come to light, documentaries serve as a vehicle for making them known to the public. There are documentaries that chronicle circumstances of horror and unfathomable human cruelty, of life in the ghettos and survival in the concentration camps. Others tell stories of Jewish resistance, of extraordinary courage and inspiration, of individuals who defied the Nazis and expresses their humanity through music and art. These documentaries are keeping knowledge of the holocaust alive, and will hopefully prevent a repeat of this devastating period in human history. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of excellent documentaries that present important holocaust stories. Remember them on Holocaust Remembrance Day and every day!

A Film Unfinished

Oscilloscope Pictures
Conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto are known to have been intolerable. However, after the defeat of the Nazis, allied forces discovered reels of raw footage that Nazi filmmakers had shot in the Warshaw Ghetto, showing that ghetto life had been normal and pleasant for the Jews who'd been forced to live there. There have been questions about why the Nazis shot the film, and how they intended to use it. Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished investigates the footage, using two additional reels -- more recently found -- to show that the happy ghetto life scenes were staged.. Conditions in the ghetto were more accurately described by survivors whose stories are told in other holocaust documentaries. But the story behind the footage is fascinating, and the film reveals another dimension of the Nazi mind set -- and use of propaganda. A Film Unfinished is an important historical expose, and a cautionary tale about the necessity to verify information presented in films that are presented as documentaries. Read my full review.

Blessed Is The Match

Katahdin Foundation, Balcony Releasing
Blessed Is The Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh is the heartbreaking story of a young Jewish women who'd emigrated from Hungary to Palestine before the Nazi's took over her homeland and began transporting Jews to concentration camps. In 1944, Senesh joined the British Army to be part of a clandestine military mission to rescue the Hungarian Jews. Senesh parachuted into Yugoslavia and tried to sneak across the border into her native country in a valiant attempt to save the Jewish community--including her mother--from death at the hands of Hungarian Nazis and lead them to safety. Senesh was captured, imprisoned and killed. The film effectively uses reenactments to tell the story of her life. Senesh was an accomplished poet, and her quoted work, used in the film's narration, expresses the depth of her humanity. She was a great heroine. Read my full review.

Dear Uncle Adolph

First Run Features
During his reign of power, Adolf Hitler received countless personal letters from Germans in their homeland and around the globe. Recently, a cache of some 100,000 Hitler fan letters was discovered in a secret archive in Russia. Filmmakers Michael Kloft and Mathias von der Heide use a representative selection of these to illustrate how the Germans felt about their leader, and how great a hold their Fuhrer had over them. The letters are read in English by actors -- men, women and children -- as voice over narration, while the actual handwritten or typed German documents are shown on screen, along with still photos of the authors of the letters and/or of archival footage that is directly related to the letter's theme or content. Read my full review.

Defiant Requiem: Voices of Resistance

Partisan Pictures
Filmmaker Doug Shultz's stirring documentary follows American conductor Murry Sidlin and his chorus as they travel to Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp located near Prague, to perform Verdi's Requiem, as a memorial to the Jews who were imprisoned there from 1941 to 1945. In particular, the concert is intended to pay tribute to and recognize the heroism of Raphael Schachter, the Jewish musician and conductor who organized a chorus of 150 imprisoned Jews to perform Verdi's passionate Catholic Mass fifteen times as an expression of defiance against Nazi authority, cruelty and horrors at Terezin, which was under the command of the notorious Adolf Eichmann. Schachter's final performance was for the Swiss Red Cross investigators who accepted the Nazi propaganda that Terezin was established to protect Jews, and failed to understand that the Jews imprisoned there were using the Mass as a plea and a demand for rescue and retribution. Read my full review.

Inside Hana's Suitcase

Menemsha Films
Fumiko Ishioka, a curator at the Tokyo Holocaust Resource Center, was so curious about the a battered suitcase she received to be put on display with the museum's collection, she decided she must find out more about its owner, whose name was painted in white letters on the suitcase's cover: Hana. As Ishioka found out, Hana Brady was a young and vivacious Jewish girl who'd been transported from her parents' home in Prague to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, where she'd perished. Ishioka shared Hana's story with Japanese children, as a lesson to teach them about tolerance and having respect for other cultures. Eventually, Hana's story became a best selling book entitled Hana's, which is the primary resource for filmmaker Larry Weinstein's documentary. Read my full review.

Hitler's Children

It's hard to imagine what it might be like to be born the progeny of holocaust perpetrators, and to grow up with the knowledge that your forebears were responsible for one of the most harrowing genocides in human history. Hitler had no children of his own, but Hitler's Children focuses on several of the heirs of members of Hitler's high command, and reveals the shame and anguish that their ancestral legacy has caused them throughout their lives. They grew up within the Third Reich's inner circle, some of them in Hitler's presence, others living in the very shadow of the chimneys that towered over Nazi extermination camps. They were children, and not responsible Nazi policies towards Jews, Poles, homosexuals and others who were persecuted and slaughtered by the Germans during World War II, yet they bear infamous family names, carry their genes, have personal memories of the Third Reich and events associated with the holocaust, and they now live their lives with the full knowledge of their ancestral legacy of evil. Read my full review.

In Heaven Underground

Seventh Art Releasing
Northeast of Berlin, Weissensee Jewish Cemetery is a quiet, peaceful 100-acre retreat that holds the graves of 115,000 people, and houses a remarkable archive of family histories dating back to the 1850s, when the burial ground was established. It has withstood all of the warfare and social unrest that swept over Europe during the ensuing decades, including the Nazi regime. It's miraculous that the Nazis did not seize, loot and destroy Weissensee Jewish Cemetery as they did other centers of Jewish tradition and culture. Some say it is because the Nazis were extremely superstitious and feared ghosts. Read my full review.

It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl

Moriah Films
In It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl, filmmaker Richard Trank profiles the very forceful, determined and complex man who is credited with the foundation of the modern state of Israel. Produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center's documentary division, the film is an in depth study of how Herzl's vision was impacted by the blatant antisemitism rising throughout Europe. Although Herzl wasn't a religious man, he became convinced that people of Jewish heritage and faith would be at risk of persecution until they established a homeland, an independent state where their safety and rights were guaranteed. Herzl traveled around the world, convincing leaders to support his mission. Without his persistence, modern Israel would not exist. Read my full review.

The Lion of Judah

Matt Mindell
Leo Zisman, an 81 year old Holocaust survivor, is determined that young Jews and everyone else be fully informed about how Jews were treated in the Nazi death camps. Based on his personal history and first hand experiences, Zisman leads guided tours of the Nazi death camps at Majdanek, Birkenau and Auschwitz, as a way of making sure that Nazi cruelty and inhumanity is never forgotten. Filmmaker Matt Mindell follows Zisman on one of his guided tours and documents the elder's graphic recollections about having being torn from his family, about the horrendous living conditions in the camps, being transported from one camp to another, and his terrifying stories about his enraged defiance of his brutal guards when he actually challenged them to shoot him. The tourists who travel with Zisman are deeply affected, as are audiences who watch the film. Read my full review.

Nuremberg - Movie Review of Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today - 1948 and 2010

Completed in 1948 but not shown until 2010, Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today is an extraordinary cinematic document of one of the most important trials of the Twentieth Century, the post-World War II trial of Nazi officials for crimes against humanity. Directed and edited by Stuart Schulberg, who compiled footage shot during the first Nuremberg Trial (from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946) and archival Nazi-shot footage that was presented as evidence during the trial to show in no uncertain terms that Nazi officials were guilty as charged of crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against the peace, and deserved severe punishment for their actions. The film shows how trial proceedings lead to the establishment of the Nuremberg principles, guidelines that still prevail today in the punishment of war criminals. guide the definition of treatment of war criminals. Read my full review.

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