A chilling, heartbreaking testament to the strength and suffering of the Jewish people and the courage and heroism of those who came to their aid. With beautiful narration by Orson Welles ... See full summary »
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A chilling, heartbreaking testament to the strength and suffering of the Jewish people and the courage and heroism of those who came to their aid. With beautiful narration by Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor the film begins by providing a look at the flourishing Jewish community in pre-war Europe and then traces their grim trajectory through the ghettos, camps, and prisons of the Nazi regime, introducing the lost victims and brave heroes along the way. Written by
The film was originally designed to be presented in a multi-screen format at a Los Angeles museum, with one 35mm projector, two 16mm projectors, and 18 slide projectors. Only after completion was it reformatted to be shown in standard film theaters. See more »
I gave this documentary a "10" because in my opinion there is no reason whatsoever for it to receive anything less. Along with the footage we have all pretty much come to expect (concentration camp survivors, footage of Hitler orating, and so on,) there are the wonderful narrations by Welles and Taylor.
I admit it has some flaws- Goering never made the "When I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for my gun" remark, and the idea that Hitler was furious at the outcome of the 1936 Olympic Games (and refused to shake Jesse Owens's hand for racial reasons) have long been known to be false. Still, I think the rest of the material more than makes up for these minor gaffes.
The film gives us quite a lot of background of the conditions in which European Jews lived prior to the Hitlerian horror. We see life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, where the 1,000 year-old Ashkenazic culture still existed and where the "old ways" were honored; we also are reminded of how Jews had been fully assimilated into the cultures of Western Europe (particularly Germany, which interestingly enough had the most thoroughly mixed culture of all mainland European nations and among the highest educational standards in the world prior to Nazism,) and of their great contributions to science, literature, and the arts.
And it was all destroyed in a mere 12 years' time by legislation, the gun and the death camp. In a truly unsettling scene, we see Jews being shot to death in a pit by members of the Einsatzgruppen while the romantic song "Lili Marlene" (a favorite of German soldiers) plays and is sung slowly and softly in the background. This reminded me of the fact that one of Nazism's hallmarks was its insistence upon juxtaposing sentimental culture with indescribable brutality.
By 1945 the Ashkenazic civilization was a memory; it literally went up in smoke and ashes at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec and Treblinka, among other places.
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