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July 14, 2022 1:30 pm
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Documentary Examines Photos Taken by Inmates at Nazi Concentration Camp as Act of Resistance

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A photograph taken by a Nazi concentration camp prisoner as featured in “From Where They Stood.” Photo: Provided.

Photographs clandestinely taken by a handful of prisoners inside Nazi concentration camps in Poland and Germany are the focus of a new documentary opening in select theaters on Friday.

In the Polish, French and German-language film “From Where They Stood,” director Christophe Cognet “retraces the footsteps of these courageous men and women in a quest to unearth the circumstances and the stories behind their photographs, composing as such an archeology of images as acts of defiance,” according to the documentary’s official synopsis.

In at least five of the camps covered — Dachau, Mittelbau-Dora, Buchenwald, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Ravensbrück — inmates managed to secretly take pictures from the spring of 1943 until the autumn of 1944. Not all the photographers or their subjects survived the Holocaust, but the images provide first-hand documentation of the daily lives of those imprisoned by the Nazis.

Each photo featured in “From Where They Stood” is discussed in terms of the event depicted, the men and women behind the camera, and the risks taken to capture the images. Cognet visited the sites of the former concentration camps, trying to find the exact locations shown in each photo, while historians and experts explain the pictures and their contexts.

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According to Greenwich Entertainment, it is the first film to directly address the secret photographs taken in the Nazi camps.

“Photographs are a physical, material trace of what was. At the same time, they’re an opportunity to present again to our eyes the people and places that were photographed,” said Cognet. “It has often been noted that photography, like cinema, records [as said by French poet Jean Cocteau] ‘death at work.'”

“We forget that photographs are also the opportunity to revive — to ‘make present’ again — the beings who are recorded there, even as ghosts and apparitions,” he added.

“From Where They Stood” won the award for best documentary at the 2021 Jerusalem Film Festival and was screened that year at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The film opens in select theaters on Friday, and on Amazon and Apple TV September 13.

Watch the trailer for “From Where They Stood” below.

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