70 years later, Hitchcock’s Holocaust footage airs

‘Night Will Fall’ tells the story of post-war filmmakers assigned to document the Nazi brutality

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Holocaust documentary about unreleased Alfred Hitchcock footage of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps aired in 15 countries Monday, as part of the international Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations.

HBO’s “Night Will Fall” includes harrowing footage captured by the legendary filmmaker, who recorded the grim scene that met Allied troops at Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz in the spring of 1945.

Initially, Hitchcock together with media baron Sidney Bernstein were commissioned by the British government to make “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” a documentary that was intended to show Germans the horrors of Nazi brutality.

However, Cold War politics prompted Britain to bury the project, and the documentary was never finished. The decision was made because British officials were concerned that the film would alienate Germany, a strategic political ally in post-WWII Europe.

The shelved footage — five finished reels and 100 unedited compilation reels — has been stored at the London Imperial War Museum archives for the last 70 years.

“Night Will Fall,” directed by Andre Singer, tells the story of “Factual Survey,” incorporating Hitchcock’s original footage with current interviews with the film crew who were involved in the project.

The footage captured in 1945 is explicitly brutal, and includes scenes of naked, emaciated corpses stacked meters high being buried in mass graves, and the discovery of warehouses full of glasses, teeth and human hair.

The documentary’s title refers to the original Hitchcock-Bernstein script: “Unless the world learns the lessons these pictures teach, night will fall.”

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