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January 27, 2015

My critical review of “Night Will Fall” documentary film

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:52 am

Update Oct. 8, 2015:

Today, I read a news article about the film entitled Night Will Fall. As you read the news article, see if you can find the words “Exchange Camp” used to describe Bergen-Belsen.  Why is this important?  Bergen-Belsen was set up as a camp to exchange prisoners during Word War II, but the Allies couldn’t have cared less about exchanging prisoners.

The following quote is from the news article:

Begin quote:
Footage [in “Night Will Fall”] shows how armed German soldiers stepped aside and allowed the British forces to march behind enemy lines. “The more I think about it now, I am amazed that none of us opened fire!” said George Leonard (Oxfordshire Yeomanry).

The soldiers’ footage became part of a project produced by Sidney Bernstein for the Allied Forces, titled “German concentration camps factual survey.” Later Alfred Hitchcock crossed the ocean to become part of the team as his contribution to the war effort.

[…]

British soldiers lined up all the SS men and women and made them prisoners of war, including the camp commandant, Josef Kramer. Mania Salinger described how she yelled with joy, “The Germans are gone,” when she realized that the watch tower was deserted. She was the first to be filmed behind the barbed-wire fence by the liberating British troops.
The two weeks of filming visually conveyed the feeling of despair and horror witnessed by the liberators of the camp. “These were Europeans of another faith who had been killed for no other reason.”

[…]

The ample footage documenting the horror of the Holocaust was made possible by the American-British film department partnership which decided to use the power of the moving image in war time. Initially the program was set up to make small propaganda films for the war effort and “to deal with a defeated Germany.” Sidney Bernstein was in charge of the British Psychological Warfare Department.

Dr. Toby Haggith, of the Imperial War Museums, described how the “camera was used in a very specific way, to gather evidence, to collect evidence.” To show “how a person was brutalized or murdered, how they’ve been killed, you have to get close to that person, to the wounds.” In prior wars, combat cameramen had not filmed such gut-wrenching scenes.

Sidney Bernstein said in 1984 that his instructions to allied cameramen were “to film everything that could prove one day that this actually happened. It will be a lesson to all mankind as to the Germans, who had denied that they knew anything about it.” The film would be the evidence that “we could show them.”

Soldiers corralled officials and mayors within a reasonable range, to come watch the disposal and burial of bodies in the pit and they filmed them watching. Bernstein wanted film evidence that they had seen the burials because most people would deny that it happened. SS officers were also filmed helping with the burial of the skeletal cadavers.

Five hundred Hungarian troops captured on film with the SS were manning the digging operation to bury as many bodies as quickly as possible in order to reduce the evidence. “The Master Race had been taught to be hard and they could kill in cold blood. It was proper to make them bury the nameless, hopeless creatures they had helped starve to death.” By April 24, 1945, some sound equipment was brought in to better document Bernstein’s film.
[…]
Scrolling through the horrible pictures frozen in time of some of the enslaved, tortured, starved, killed, and burned by German fascists, the movie ends with a powerful message. “Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall. But by God’s grace, we who live will learn.”

End Quote

Continue reading my original post:

Last night I watched the premiere of the new documentary film Night Will Fall. 

This quote is from a description of the film:

Begin quote:

The HBO documentary “Night Will Fall” is a movie about the Holocaust, a movie about remembering the Holocaust and primarily, at least in formal terms, a movie about a movie. It may not do full justice to all these subjects in its tight 78 minutes, but it’s not a film you’re likely to forget.

The most wrenching sequences in “Night Will Fall” are the scenes it incorporates from “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” a movie begun under the auspices of the British government in 1945. Using film shot by Allied cameramen at camps including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, and assembled by a team that included Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director, “Factual Survey” was meant to be a historical document and a teaching tool; among the stated goals of the filmmakers was that it be shown to Germans to prove to them that the horrors of the camps were real.

End quote

Sorry to say, I did not like the film at all. It is obvious that an attempt was made to make an artistic film, but artwork is not appropriate in a DOCUMENTARY.  One thing that irritated me to death was the frequent shots of the end of a film strip.  Back in the old days, the end of a film reel used to show symbols.  This technique was very much overdone in the film.

But there was one good thing about the film, which surprised me.  The narrator does say that the Bergen-Belsen camp was voluntarily turned over to the British — it was not “liberated.” You can read about how the camp was taken over by the British on my website here.

Every story about Bergen-Belsen that you will ever read, and every story that you won’t read, will tell you that the British LIBERATED Bergen-Belsen, surprising the SS men who did not have a chance to escape.  At least the film tells the truth about this important point.

Unfortunately, the documentary does not mention that Bergen-Belsen was an EXCHANGE camp, intended for Jews to be exchanged for Germans held by the Allies. It became a concentration camp only in the last six months that it was in existence.

The film starts off with scenes of northern Germany in the Spring of 1945.  It is the 12th of April and two Germans are approaching the Allied lines.  They are bringing a message to the British that there is a large concentration camp nearby where there is a typhus epidemic in progress; the Germans want a truce because they need help to stop the epidemic.

The narrator then says that he was “amazed that none of the British soldiers fired” on the Germans who had approached them, asking for a truce.

Then we learn that, when the British approached the camp, they saw “neat and tidy orchards and well stocked farms” according to the narrator of the film. There was a war going on, but the narrator of the film implies that the German people were not suffering at all.

As soon as the British soldiers entered the Belsen camp, they lined up the SS men and women who have stayed behind at the camp, taking their lives in their hands, to care for the sick prisoners. I previously blogged here about Herta Bothe, one of the SS women who stayed behind to help.

The SS men and women are immediately taken as Prisoners of War, including Josef Kramer, the Commandant of the camp who had met the British at the gate, offering his help.

Josef Kramer was arrested immediately and put in chains

Josef Kramer was arrested immediately and put in chains

SS men who stayed behind to help the British were forced to handle dead bodies without gloves

SS men who stayed behind to help the British were forced to handle dead bodies without gloves

The German SS men, who had stayed behind at the camp, to help with the typhus epidemic in the camp, were forced to handle the dead bodies without gloves, as shown in the photo above.

The next thing that we see is a photo, which shows healthy prisoners, including a number of smiling children and a woman who is overweight.

One of the prisoners who was at Bergen-Belsen, when the camp was turned over to the British, was Anita Lasker Walfish, who was 19 years old at that time. She speaks in the film, but it is not mentioned that she was previously a prisoner at Auschwitz, where she played in the women’s orchestra.

30,000 corpses were found by the British at Bergen-Belsen

30,000 corpses were found by the British at Bergen-Belsen

It is at this point in the film that it is mentioned that there are 30,000 dead prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen camp.  It is not mentioned in the film that the British meticulously counted the dead bodes, so who came up with this number?

I previously blogged about the number of deaths at Bergen-Belsen at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/50000-deaths-at-bergen-belsen-but-only-6851-death-certificates-issued/

The British used a bulldozer to shove the bodies toward a trench at Bergen-Belsen

The British used a bulldozer to shove the bodies toward a trench at Bergen-Belsen

Curiously, the film footage of a British soldier shoving dead prisoners with a bulldozer is not shown in the documentary.

What really happened at Bergen-Belsen?

The following information is from a previous blog post that I did about Bergen-Belsen:

Begin quote:

Before surrendering Bergen-Belsen to the British on April 15, 1945, Heinrich Himmler had ordered about 7,000 people to be evacuated from the camp. The three train loads of prisoners, which left the camp between April 6 and April 11, were made up of prominent Dutch Jews, Hungarian Jews, Jewish prisoners from neutral countries and Jewish prisoners who held foreign passports. Himmler was hoping to use these prisoners to negotiate peace terms with the Allies.

In preparation for surrendering the camp, two German officers had been sent to a British outpost to explain that there were 9,000 sick prisoners at Bergen-Belsen and that there was no water after the electric pump had been hit in an Allied bombing attack. [There is no mention of the broken water pump in the Night Will Fall documentary.]

The Germans proposed that the British Army should occupy the camp immediately to keep the epidemics in the camp from spreading to the troops on both sides. In return, the Germans offered to surrender the bridges over the river Aller.

At first, the British rejected the German proposals, saying it was necessary that the British should occupy an area of ten kilometers around the camp in order to be sure of keeping their troops away from the epidemic, but eventually a compromise was reached and the British agreed.

On April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was surrendered to British Officer Derrick Sington, who wrote about it in a small book called Belsen Uncovered which was published by Duckworth, London in 1946.

Of course, Himmler had not anticipated that the British would film the dead bodies in the camp and then show the film in movie theaters around the world without explaining that the prisoners had died of typhus. And he certainly didn’t expect that the staff members, who had voluntarily stayed behind in the camp, would be arrested, or that some of the Hungarian soldiers, who were assigned to help with the surrender of the camp, would be shot by the British.

When the film of Bergen-Belsen was shown in American theaters, it was naturally assumed that the prisoners had been deliberately starved to death or killed in a gas chamber, since the film made no mention of the typhus epidemic in the camp. Nor was it mentioned that the water pump at Bergen-Belsen had been hit by Allied bombs and fresh water had to be brought in by trucks.

When British soldiers were finally allowed, as agreed upon in the negotiations, to enter Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, they at first saw nothing amiss, according to some of the liberators. Smiling, healthy prisoners came out to greet them and some of the 500 children in the camp cheered and waved to them. But as they advanced further into the camp, they were stunned by the sight of thousands of unburied naked bodies.

The horror was beyond human imagination. The sickening stench of the rotting corpses was so great that British soldiers later claimed that they could smell the camp from a distance of 10 miles, although they had not smelled the bodies when they first entered, according to eye-witness reports.

In the last months of the war, as the Russian army advanced westward, prisoners in the camps in Poland had been evacuated and ultimately 60,000 prisoners had been crowded into the Bergen-Belsen camp which did not have enough space for them. Some of those who were still alive at Bergen-Belsen were walking skeletons. There were a variety of diseases that were rampant in the camp.

The Germans claimed that they had been unable to fix the broken water pump which had been destroyed by Allied bombs, and many inmates were dying of thirst, even though the camp was near a creek which the camp Commandant claimed was not fit for drinking. The camp used cisterns for its water supply, but the water could not be accessed without the electric pump that had been hit in a bombing raid. The nearby Army garrison had arranged for drinking water to be brought to the camp by truck, but it had not been nearly enough.

The British promptly fixed the broken pump and provided water from the creek for the camp which had been without water for six days. Creek water? Is this why 13,000 prisoners allegedly died after the British took over?

End Quote

This photo is included in the documentary Night Will Fall

This photo is included in the documentary Night Will Fall

After the Belsen camp was turned over to the British, German civilians from the nearby towns were forced to remove the bodies of the 13,000 prisoners who died afterwards, while the survivors stood by and jeered at them. The photograph above shows a group of survivors in the background on the left, watching as German citizens were forced to handle the diseased bodies with their bare hands at gunpoint.

German homes in the nearby towns were taken by the British military and assigned to the surviving prisoners after the barracks in the camp were burned down. The German people in the area were on their own, trying to find some place to live after they were thrown out of their homes.

The documentary is not entirely about Bergen-Belsen.  About mid way into the documentary, the story wanders off with a new topic — the Maidenek camp in Poland. Maidenek was the German name for Majdanek, a concentration camp in Poland, which had absolutely nothing to do with Bergen-Belsen.

The documentary Night Will Fall does not mention gas chambers, but gas chambers had to be included, so Maidenek was brought in instead.

We see photos of a warehouse full of hair, including a photo of braided hair which might have been taken at Auschwitz, not Majdanek. Then we see empty cans of Zyklon-B, the gas that was used to kill lice — and Jews.

Then we see photos of toys at Majdanek, followed by photos of sacks of human hair, along with photos of brushes and glasses. There are photos of suitcases and false teeth.  What are we supposed to take from this:  Was it wrong for the Germans to save everything that was brought to the camps by the prisoners?

Finally, we get to Auschwitz and we see Eva Moses Kor, who says that she got hot chocolate and cookies from the nice Russian soldiers who liberated Auschwitz.

Then it is on to Dachau.  The word Dachau is spelled out, not spoken. That’s O.K. — I can’t say the word Dachau either.  I thought that this was a nice touch — spelling the word instead of saying it.

At this point, we learn that 10,615 prisoners were DISPOSED OF at Dachau.  I don’t know what that means.

The worst part of the documentary Night Will Fall was the section about Dachau:  Negatives of the film were shown.  This was a way to disguise the fact that the scenes at Dachau were not nearly as bad as the scenes at Bergen-Belsen.

We hear Dr. Isaac Levy speak in the film, as he says that there were 40,000 prisoners still alive at Bergen-Belsen — and 35,000 corpses. Who counted the corpses?

Then the documentary shows a few photos of Dachau, including the clothes that were hung up outside the disinfection chambers.  We see the death train, as we are told that the prisoners “were left to die.”  We are told that there were 17 prisoners who were still alive on the train, along with 3,000 dead prisoners. We are told that “the Germans knew about Dachau, but they did not care.”

We are told that Hitchcock wanted to show the world how close the Germans lived to the camps. At this point, we are told that German civilians lived very near the Ebensee camp, which was in a resort area. The implication is that the German people were enjoying themselves at a resort in Austria while the people were suffering in the concentration camps. Ebensee was an “end destination” for the prisoners who were marched out of the Mauthausen camp for their own safety, as the war was going on around them..

At the end of the film, we learn that “thousands were murdered just before the liberation of the camps”.  We see the German people, who were marched for 5 miles at gun point, up a hill, to see the dead bodies at the Buchenwald camp. We see a close-up of the dead bodies, but there is no mention of typhus in the camp.

Throughout the film, there is no hint that the Allies committed any war crimes during World War II.

January 1, 2015

New documentary film, entitled “Night Will Fall,” revolves around a British propaganda film

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:57 am

Update Jan. 26, 2015:

HBO will show the documentary film, entitled “Night Will Fall” on January 26, 2015 at 9 p.m. EST. This is a film about the making of a film. Note that this film will be shown at 6 p.m. in California.

You can read about the film at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/arts/television/night-will-fall-examines-the-making-of-a-1945-holocaust-documentary.html?_r=0

Alfred Hitchcock typing with one finger, back in the day when he worked on propaganda films

Alfred Hitchcock typing with one finger, back in the day when he worked on propaganda films

This quote is from the news article, cited above:

Begin quote:

The HBO documentary “Night Will Fall” is a movie about the Holocaust, a movie about remembering the Holocaust and primarily, at least in formal terms, a movie about a movie. It may not do full justice to all these subjects in its tight 78 minutes, but it’s not a film you’re likely to forget.

The most wrenching sequences in “Night Will Fall” are the scenes it incorporates from “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” a movie begun under the auspices of the British government in 1945. Using film shot by Allied cameramen at camps including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, and assembled by a team that included Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director, “Factual Survey” was meant to be a historical document and a teaching tool; among the stated goals of the filmmakers was that it be shown to Germans to prove to them that the horrors of the camps were real.

 End quote

Continue reading my original post:

Before some of my readers get upset and accuse me of calling a British World War II film “propaganda,” let me assure you that I am not the one who used the term “propaganda” to describe a British documentary film.

America also had “propaganda” teams, staffed by Jews who had been trained at Camp Ritchie in America, who came into the liberated camps and told “propaganda” stories that were total lies.

I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/alfred-de-grazia-commanding-officer-of-the-psychological-warfare-propaganda-team-attached-to-headquarters-of-the-us-7th-army/

This quote is from a news article, which you can read in full here:

[The film] Night Will Fall revolves around the making of Sidney Bernstein and Alfred Hitchcock’s propaganda film, German Concentration Camps, commissioned in 1945 to show German audiences the atrocities committed in the name of Nazism, but never screened at the time. […]

Bernstein, who would go on to found UK TV station Granada, had experienced the camps first-hand, having visited them within days of their liberation as part of Britain’s propaganda unit.

Did the British really have something called a “propaganda unit”?  I had to look up the word “propaganda” to really understand the purpose of the “Britain’s propaganda unit.”

This definition of propaganda is from this website:

Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors that are deliberately, and widely, spread to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, or other similar entity.

The word propaganda is usually used when describing official, government versions of events, where the implication is that the stories and information being given are distorted in such a manner as to conceal actual events, and to make you think in the way that the government wants you to think.

Propaganda is at its best when there is a war going on. Since WWI to the present time, propaganda has been used by the media to cheer their country on, sometimes through false hopes and lies. Often, during these periods, the government will leak out certain information of its choosing, and the media will report it, but not always in the way that it was given. In other words, propaganda is often used to misguide the public.

Photo of the children in Bergen-Belsen who came out to meet the British "liberators" of the camp

Photo of the children in Bergen-Belsen who came out to meet the British “liberators” of the camp

Notice the overweight woman in the back row in the photo above.  She was one of the healthy women at Bergen-Belsen, who did not have typhus.

Sign put up by the British warned visitors that there was a typhus epidemic in the camp

Sign put up by the British, after the camp was turned over to them, warned visitors that there was a typhus epidemic in the Bergen-Belsen camp

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer stayed behind to help the British, but they were arrested

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer stayed behind to help the British, but they were arrested (click to enlarge photo)

This quote is from the news article about the making of the film:

London-based film-maker André Singer spent the best part of two years studying gruesome images shot by allied troops as they liberated German concentration camps in 1945 for his documentary, Night Will Fall.

“It was the most appalling footage I’ve ever had to deal with in a pretty long career in film. You start off believing that you’ll get anaesthetised to it, but you don’t,” he says.

Night Will Fall revolves around the making of Sidney Bernstein and Alfred Hitchcock’s propaganda film, German Concentration Camps, commissioned in 1945 to show German audiences the atrocities committed in the name of Nazism, but never screened at the time.

“It was meant to show the German people the error of their ways, but events moved on and the project was shelved,” explains Singer. “In the period from the liberation of the camps in April 1945 through to the Nuremberg trials, the world was in chaos. It was an extraordinary time.”

So the British are now admitting that they made propaganda films about the concentration camps, including the Belsen camp that was voluntarily TURNED OVER TO THEM?

Bergen-Belsen was actually a very large camp which had 8 different sections.  You can read about the camp on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/BergenBelsen/BergenBelsen00.html

This quote, from my website, is about section 6 where Anne Frank died:

6. Tent Camp (Zeltlager)

This camp was constructed at the beginning of August 1944. At first it was used as a transit camp for women’s transports arriving from Poland. In late October and early November 1944, around 3,000 women who had been evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau were housed in the tents because pre-fabricated barrack buildings which had been removed from the Plaszow camp near Cracow and transported to the Star Camp were not yet ready for them. According to Eberhard Kolb (Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945) the Dutch Red Cross was told that the prisoners in this transport were “ill but potentially curable women” and because of this, they were the first to be evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau. These sick women, who had just completed a journey of several days in overcrowded railroad cattle cars now had to camp out in tents with no heat, no toilets, no lighting, no beds and only a thin layer of straw covering the bare ground.

Anne Frank and her sister Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen from Auschwitz in October 1944 and most likely were housed temporarily in the tent camp. Due to their condition of ill health, the prisoners in the tent camp were not forced to work.

Josef Kramer, the Camp Commandant, who had been in charge of the Belsen camp for only 6 months, was arrested on the day that the British arrived.  He had met the British at the gate into the camp and offered his help.  What a fool!  He should have escaped and gone to Argentina.

The photo below shows Josef Kramer after he was arrested.

Josef Kramer was arrested after he offered to help the British

Josef Kramer was arrested after he offered to help the British