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Matt Bejang
Matt Bejang

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (1945/2014) is the British Ministry of Information documentary about German atrocities and the concentration camps. Described by critics as 'an impressive and important piece of filmmaking, restored with intelligence and care by the museum', the film has been digitally restored and, with the assembly for the first time of the sixth and final reel, IWM has completed the film to the instructions laid down by the original production team in 1945.

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey

Ordered in April 1945 by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, the film is an official documentary about German atrocities and the concentration camps compiled with footage shot by combat and newsreel cameramen accompanying troops as they liberated occupied Europe. It was to be the film screened in Germany after the fall of the Third Reich - shown to German prisoners of war wherever they were held.

This lost masterpiece of British documentary filmmaking recorded the horrors that were discovered in the German concentration camps upon liberation and has never been released on Blu-ray or DVD before. Restored and completed by IWM, it is presented in a Special Archival Edition with newly-created contextualising special features and archival interviews with liberated prisoners, SS guards and British soldiers.

The film eventually utilized both silent footage from combat cameramen in the armed services and sound footage from newsreel cameramen. Fourteen locations were covered by the film, including ten concentration camps and four locations where atrocities had taken place. Among the camps where footage was shot was Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Majdanek.[3]

After production commenced, film was continually flowing in from the front, as concentration camps were liberated. Ultimately the film incorporated the work of British, American and Soviet camera crews. Their cameras documented piles of dead, as well as starved survivors and burned remains in the ovens of the crematoria, and incorporated Hitchcock's suggestion by showing piles of victims' belongings, teeth, and bags of hair at the Majdanek camp. An immense pile of spectacles was accompanied by narration noting that perhaps one victim in ten wore spectacles.[4]

This is an impeccably restored presentation of the 1945 feature-length documentary that was intended to be shown in German cinemas in order to counter any remaining support for Nazism. Backed by the British Ministry of Information, it was overseen by Sidney Bernstein and involved commissioning or gathering footage from army cameraman (American, British and Soviet) present at the liberation of the concentration camps, as well as from newsreel cameramen.

In April 1945 the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force ordered a documentary revealing the horrors of the German atrocities and concentration camps, using footage shot by combat and newsreel cameramen during the liberation of Europe. It was to be the film screened in Germany after the fall of the Third Reich - shown to German prisoners of war wherever they were held.

In 1945, overseen by Alfred Hitchcock, a crack team of British film-makers went to Germany to document the horror of the concentration camps. Despite being hailed as a masterpiece, the film was never shown. Now, in a documentary called Night Will Fall, the full story of its creation and suppression is being told

The scene, shot at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War II, might never have been seen by the public had a decommissioned film, boasting Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director and British film pioneer Sidney Bernstein as producer, not been resurrected. Authorized in the spring of 1945 by the Allied forces, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey captured the monstrous realities found during the liberation of Nazi death camps, including Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz.

It took a while for details about the concentration camps to get out. On April 19, 1945, BBC Radio aired a controversial report by Richard Dimbleby about his experience at Bergen-Belsen, in northern Germany. Initially, the BBC refused to air the report; the broadcaster simply couldn't believe Dimbleby hadn't embellished the details. "I found myself in the world of a nightmare," he said. "Dead bodies, some of them in decay, lay strewn about the road and along the rutted tracks. On each side of the road were brown wooden huts. There were faces at the windows. The bony, emaciated faces of starving women too weak to come outside, propping themselves against the glass to see the daylight before they died. And they were dying, every hour and every minute."

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey is Hitchcock's only known documentary feature. Though his tenure on the film lasted just one month, he made lasting contributions, helping to outline the story and emphasizing the importance of showing just how close the concentration camps were to picturesque villages where German civilians lived during the war. He wanted the film to be as believable and irrefutable as possible to ensure that the massacre of 11 million people, including 6 million Jews, would never be forgotten.

The 1945 film edited by Alfred Hitchcock brought to light harrowing, raw footage of Nazi concentration camps. Suppressed by the British government, it was only released 70 years after its production.

In 1945, Allied forces filmed the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, but the shocking footage of what they found was subsequently shelved after the withdrawal of government support for the project. Nearly 70 years later, a new documentary tells the story of a vital memorial film that is finally seeing the light of day.

Shown recently at the Documentary Film Festival DOCVILLE in Leuven, Night Will Fall, directed by Andre Singer, is a chronicle about the 1945 documentary German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, while adding recent interviews with survivors and liberators. Most part of the 1945 documentary was created by using the footage from the British, Soviet, and American soldiers who liberated the major concentration camps, like the Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Auschwitz, and Majdanek. The 1945 documentary project was initiated by Sidney Bernstein, who was asked by the British Ministry of Information to document the crimes of the Nazis at their concentration camps, as a historical record and a lesson for all mankind. Alfred Hitchcock was asked to advise and supervise on the structure. After production was initiated, the British government decided not to show the film as its priorities changed rather quickly after the war.

Several times in the documentary beautiful countryside, well-stocked farms, lovely mountains, healthy and rosy-cheeked people are shown to have lived side by side with the concentration camps, apathetic and aloof. Within the camps instead, piles of bodies, remnant, worthless, throwaway, naked, skeletal, disease-ridden bodies, and the smell of death ruling supreme. 041b061a72


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