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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 »
Takes some historical liberties, but for a good cause
If only one documentary film of the holocaust should be preserved, this is probably it. Riveting in its content, rich in its emotion, and outstanding in its technique, this film flirts with greatness. Indeed, the moving narration provided by both Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles is among the most impassioned, most heartfelt, in cinematic history.
Alas, despite its overall excellence, the film must be "marked down" because of its apparent disregard for internal consistency. Don't get me wrong - everything (and more) of what it recounts is factually true. And all of the documentary evidence it presents is as real as the screen you're looking at. No, what bothered me was the tendency over and over again for the filmmaker to use photographic material inaccurately. So, for example, to help paint the picture of the Holocaust on the Eastern Front, we are presented with multiple black and white photographs of hangings. The trouble is that many of the photos were neither of Jews nor of the Holocaust. They were of partisans and commissars (also hunted and slaughtered by the Nazis). Likewise, while the narration describes an 'aktion' in Lithuania, the photos we see are from assaults on Jewish women in Lvov. I could go on, but think you get the idea.
Again, please don't misinterpret me. I am not at all challenging the general veracity of the film nor the importance of its message. My quarrel is, simply, that too many of the illustrations used to complement the narrative are out of place and inaccurate. By and large, this probably makes little difference to things overall (whether someone was murdered in 1943 or 1944, and whether by hanging or by a bullet to the back of the neck, is irrelevant in the total enormity of the Holocaust). However, given the reality of revisionists and deniers, the last thing one would want to do, especially when making a film that in some sense "proves" the Holocaust, is to give the disbelievers any ammunition for their perverted cause. Frankly, I'm distressed by such careless selection and use of photos. I fear that this could cost the film credibility - credibility in the eyes of those who most need to have them opened.
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