51 user 77 critic

Shoah (1985)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History, War | November 1985 (USA)
2:09 | Trailer
Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors.


Claude Lanzmann


Claude Lanzmann
15 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Simon Srebnik ... Self
Michael Podchlebnik ... Self (as Michaël Podchlebnik)
Motke Zaïdl Motke Zaïdl ... Self
Hanna Zaïdl Hanna Zaïdl ... Self
Jan Piwonski Jan Piwonski ... Self
Itzhak Dugin Itzhak Dugin ... Self
Richard Glazar ... Self (as Richard Glazer)
Paula Biren ... Self
Helena Pietyra ... Self (as Pana Pietyra)
Pan Filipowicz ... Self
Pan Falborski ... Self
Abraham Bomba Abraham Bomba ... Self
Czeslaw Borowi Czeslaw Borowi ... Self
Henrik Gawkowski ... Self
Rudolf Vrba Rudolf Vrba ... Self


Claude Lanzmann directed this 9 1/2 hour documentary of the Holocaust without using a single frame of archive footage. He interviews survivors, witnesses, and ex-Nazis (whom he had to film secretly since they only agreed to be interviewed by audio). His style of interviewing by asking for the most minute details is effective at adding up these details to give a horrifying portrait of the events of Nazi genocide. He also shows, or rather lets some of his subjects themselves show, that the anti-Semitism that caused 6 million Jews to die in the Holocaust is still alive and well in many people who still live in Germany, Poland, and elsewhere. Written by Gene Volovich <volovich@netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


The first six years of production were devoted to the recording of interviews in 14 different countries. See more »


Srebnik and Podchlebnik were not the only Jewish survivors of the Chelmno Extermination Camp. Today we know at least 9 by name, but not all survived WWII and/or gave testimonies. Lanzmann probably didn't know then. See more »


Claude Lanzmann: Yes, but do you know how many people died in the ghetto each month in 1941?
Franz Grassler: I don't know now, if I ever knew.
Claude Lanzmann: But you did know. There are exact figures.
Franz Grassler: I probably knew...
Claude Lanzmann: Yes. Five thousand a month.
Franz Grassler: Five thousand a month? Yes, well... That's a lot...
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Featured in What Is Cinema? (2013) See more »


Mandolinen um Mitternacht
Performed by Peter Alexander (uncredited)
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User Reviews

This is not just a film. It is an important piece of history.
21 August 2014 | by rcolganSee all my reviews

Shoah was not just an important film to make. It was a necessary one. It was directors Claude Lanzmann's intention to document all of the survivors experiences on film. With so many horrors in history being forgotten over the years he wanted to ensure that the holocaust would never be forgotten. Therefore he chose to film these testaments to ensure that all future generations would know of the horrors that transpired during World War 2 needlessly to an entire race of people.

Lanzmann made the decision not to recreate any of the horrors of the war through reenactments and not to use any existing pictures or articles relating to the holocaust. Instead he used only the testimonies of people who either lived through the holocaust, witnessed it and even some of the orchestrators. Neither was he interested in stating how or why it had begun either. There are already enough documents and documentaries about how that came about. He wanted to show how these people saw the horrors that transpired and show the many ruined lives resulting from it.

Through this then in many ways he created a far more brutal picture of the holocaust. Many of their descriptions create ones of true horror, with one Polish man who visited the ghetto stating that it was "a place without humanity". His words alone create such a dreadful yet truthful image of the horrors that people had to go through under the holocaust, far worse than a recreation could have done.

But even more horrifying than this are the expressions of these people as they relive the horrors in their mind. Their expressions of pure despair tell a story that could not be told in any other way. Lanzmann used many long stretching takes as people relieve their stories with no dubbing and only subtitles used so the full emotion of these survivors can be witnessed. The film ensures that we see from their perspective. It makes us consider how we would feel if we had lived through such an event.

At times some of the interviewees will want to stop, due to be so horrified at reliving their terrible memories. But Lanzmann's style of questioning is very forceful, getting them to talk even if they don't want to. He sees great importance in ensuring that those who witnessed its horrors document their testimony. He gets them all to go in to every detail of what happened from the number of people there to whether they could get used to things like hearing the screams of people dying beside them. He wants us and all future generations to know the complete image of everything that happened to them.

Instead of seeing pictures of the death camps or trains as they were, we instead see how these places are now. Sometimes it will be of the villages around the camps or even the camps themselves. But these camps have all been destroyed, with many of them being destroyed by Nazis before the end of the war. It's strange to see how such normal places such as a field of grass is a grave for so many innocent people. If it weren't for our knowledge of what had happened in a place like this it would have been likely that you would never even know what had happened there.

And this film tries to ensure that we never forget what happened there. Shoah confronts the issue of the holocaust and make sure these testaments are documented. Because we shouldn't look away. Villages around the death camps simply turned the other cheek and allowed the horrors to go on. So the film shows their perspectives so we know the true horror caused in those events. The only way to ensure that such a terrible history shall never repeat itself again, we must understand the horror that it was torturing the lives of so many people.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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France | UK

Release Date:

November 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Shoah See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,874, 12 December 2010

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White | Color (Color / B&W)| Black and White (some scenes)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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