While dining with the co-founder of the Cinémathèque, Française Langlois in the 1970s, Alfred Hitchcock told him : “At the end of the war, I made a film to show the reality of the concentration camps, you know. Horrible. It was more horrible than any fantasy horror. Then, nobody wanted to see it. It was too unbearable. But it has stayed in my mind all of these years.” 70 years later, that long-lost Holocaust documentary containing unimaginable images of genocide, and touched by some of Hollywood’s biggest names, surfaces in Night Will Fall.
As Allied Forces liberated Nazi concentration camps, newsreel and military film crews were given cameras and told to record everything. The piles of emaciated corpses. The German civilians as they were forced to pass by the dead at Dachau. The gaunt faces of survivors. Intended to be edited into proof of Nazi crimes, the footage passed through the hands of British filmmaker Sidney Bernstein, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, only to be shelved by the politics of postwar reconciliation. Night Will Fall is the untold story of the film’s difficult journey and eventual restoration by London’s Imperial War Museum. Beautifully narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter, the film presents footage from the unfinished 1945 documentary, as well as interviews with Holocaust historians and eyewitnesses, film editors, and the cameramen left traumatized by the scenes they found when liberating the camps.
The film covers why the film was shelved by the British. Supposedly the government felt the German people had learned their lesson through denazification efforts and that the growing Cold War, they needed Germany on their side. Be prepared for some gruesome heartbreaking footage of the human atrocities at the camps, but Night Will Fall is a must-see for anyone interested in WWII or the making of documentaries.