Jewish Museum to Host New York Premiere of Lost Alfred Hitchcock Holocaust Documentary
The Museum of Jewish Heritage is set to host the New York City premiere of a lost Holocaust documentary by legendary Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock on Tuesday.
German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was filmed in 1945, but only completed in 2014. It compiles footage, documented by Allied troops and newsreel cameramen, of the horrific scenes British troops discovered when they liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945. The documentary was initially intended to prompt the German public to condemn the Nazis, and to document their crimes, according to the museum.
Director Sidney Bernstein, who served as chief of the Film Division of the Psychological Warfare Division of the Allied Expeditionary Force, initiated and fought for the production of the documentary. Hitchcock spent a month overseeing the editing of the film but Bernstein described him as the movie’s “director.”
Ultimately, the film was shelved in the fall of 1945 “as geo-political forces changed priorities,” according to Jane Wells, Bernstein’s daughter. She explained, “Witnesses, cameramen and documentarians were silenced, both by official mandate and by what I would call PTSD.”
In 2014, the film was digitized by the Imperial War Museums in London and fully restored exactly as intended by its directors. Wells said the film’s restoration, “brings a 21st century viewer face to face with irrefutable visual evidence of atrocities as if they had happened yesterday.”
“Sequences showing Adolf Hitler are so strikingly ‘fresh’ and clear that one can see sweat dripping down his face. He is brought to life anew,” she said. “The concentration camp footage is brutally real. The filmmaking is skilled and under the influence of Alfred Hitchcock is careful to employ techniques that would refute accusations that the atrocities they document did not happen.”
Following the screening on Tuesday there will be a discussion with Wells and New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. The film and its story inspired Wells to create 3Generations, an organization whose mission is to help survivors of atrocities tell their stories to the world through film.