When Allied forces liberated the Nazi concentration camps in 1944-45, their terrible discoveries were recorded by army and newsreel cameramen, revealing for the first time the full horror of what had happened.
Making use of the footage, the Ministry of Information’s Sidney Bernstein (later founder of Granada Television) aimed to create a documentary that would provide lasting, undeniable evidence of the Nazis’ unspeakable crimes. Initially supported by the British and US Governments, the film was then shelved.
Now, 70 years on, has it been restored and completed by
Imperial War Museums. Night Will Fall, directed by André Singer (executive
producer of The Act of Killing) is a documentary about a documentary, telling
the story of Bernstein’s project using unflinching archive film and eyewitness
At the Showroom on 27 January, which marks Holocaust
Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Night
Will Fall will be introduced by Sue Vice, Professor of English Literature at
the University of Sheffield, who will also lead a discussion after the film. We
asked Professor Vice some questions ahead of the event:
Tell us about your
expertise in this area
I am a Professor of English Literature at the University of
Sheffield, and have a longstanding interest in Holocaust literature and film,
about which I teach and write. I also teach a course on the films of Alfred
Hitchcock, and it's fascinating that he was brought in as a specialist adviser
for the original footage - it was the only time he worked on a documentary.
Why is Night Will
Fall such an important film?
Night Will Fall is being shown at the Showroom on 27 January
2015, which is Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the
liberation of Auschwitz. This film is about the atrocities that took place in a
different location: Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp situated in Germany,
which was liberated by British troops. The title Night Will Fall comes from the
final words of the film's original script: 'Unless the world learns the lessons
these pictures teach, night will fall'. Bringing the film to light now does at
last allow us to try to stop night falling in this way, by trying to take
responsibility for what takes place around us.
Night Will Fall is a
documentary about a documentary – does that make it any easier to watch than if
it were the original film as intended?
Night Will Fall recounts the process of filming that took
place in Bergen-Belsen at its liberation, and how that process is recalled 70
years later by the soldiers, cameramen and camp survivors. In this sense, an
explanatory context is provided for material that is still very difficult to
watch, allowing us both to feel and reflect on what we see.
Do you think that
recent developments in technology have played a large part in the film’s
Yes: the technology now exists to edit and re-present old
footage, which had lain in the BFI archives since 1945. I think other factors
are also important, including the director André Singer's recognizing the
importance of making the film now, while it is still possible to interview
those were present at the camp's liberation. Hitchcock was particularly
concerned that local communities in Germany should see the film, and in the
present we too can be prompted to think again about atrocities that are taking
Night Will Fall is showing as part of our Eye Openers
series; download the Now Then Discounts app from Google Play or the Apple Shop
and show it at the Box Office to get a ticket for £5.