Night will Fall a harrowing but excellent and essential Holocaust documentary on Britain’s Channel 4
“Unless the world learns quickly, Night will Fall. …hopefully by the grace of god we will.”
Richard Crossman’s original script.
The following Night Will Fall video clip is disturbing and the subject matter of this excellent and difficult documentary aired on Channel 4 this weekend is not your average Saturday night viewing. But having watched it, I felt like the sense of obligation to do so was appropriate.
This is the story of the film made at the end of WW2 by the British led by Bernstein with Alfred Hitchcock and so many more who were brave enough to grapple with this exceedingly difficult subject matter, The Holocaust and the aftermath of what the allies witnessed in the fields of the residue of horror of the camps in which millions had been murdered and worse. I don’t want to describe the material, its just too important to witness it directly by viewing it yourself. The script of the original film by Richard Crossman is exceptional.
Timed to coincide with Holocaust Day and here are the listings of when the IWM will be screening the film as it is as a work in progress. it is currently just 12 minutes of actual footage in the documentary obviously the full material is more intense and will no doubt be even more disturbing, be warned. But at some point we should all watch it.
The film itself and its sensitive handling in this daunting documentary is remarkable and its resonance with the depth of depravity that diminishes all humanity when any section of humankind is inflicted with such brutality irrespective of race, colour,creed, belief or other differences is all too relevant. At the time it was made and after it took longer to complete than planned it was deemed too difficult to be aired after the war for political reasons, the Western powers with the start of the Cold War decided to not force the german public to watch what had transpired other than as evidence at the war crime tribunals. Those that did get to see it, could not watch and left the screening before the end. But should it have been allowed to languish for 70 years? Maybe we might have learnt a lot faster if we had all witnessed the power of this message and unique record sooner.
The stark realisation that part of the political reasons it was not made fully public at the time was because the western allies were concerned it might stir too much empathy at home and create a wave of pressure to accept mass immigration of the survivors. That was particularly sickening and all too relevant today. Even going to Palestine the Jewish survivors were arriving after leaving the camps and ending-up being interred again.
The shock of this film is the realisation of how having survived unimaginable horrors the survivors, some of whom from the original footage speak today on camera about their experience, still faced such an uncertain future. They were still in the camps because neither America or Britain wanted to accept a rush of new arrivals ‘Immigrants.’ and they did not understandably want to go back to where they had been persecuted at the outset.
Imperial War Museum 6 Year Project to Complete the Original Film
The IWM has been engaged in a remarkable project to take the many reels of film, work from the original scripts and directions to complete the edit of the film as its originators intended. They have done a great service to us all. Here is a question and answer session with Sally Angel (Producer) and Andre Singer the Director.
I hope this material ,the full edited film as well as the documentary will become available in digital form published by the IWM, the first account survivors of the film are now few and far between. The film will become the record, lets make sure it is made known to us all. It needs to be and is of course shocking, even the original cameramen, were still visibly struggling to even remember let alone describe what they witnessed.
Often we can revel in and enjoy our history but certainly with this material that cannot be said, but if ever there was a clear demonstration of the need quite literally to keep studying for humanity in the field of the humanities then this must be as strong a case for that as we will ever have.
As Singer says within 2 months of the end of the war, the sensitivities had changed and the thought of confronting the German public with the outcome of the crimes that had been done in their own name had rapidly slipped down the priorities list. They found no evidence of a political conspiracy to surpress the film and Bernstein never wanted the film completed, but no one knows why. It seems it was just part of the political mess post-war and with the cost as ever of that war burdening the allies.
Imperial War Museum References: the IWM Press Release about the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey and here is their link about the state of the IWM restoration project which began some years ago
Here are some of the press articles:
- Independent Alfred Hitchcocks unscreened documentary to be screened
- Telegraph Night will fall, superb if harrowing
- Guardian Unflinching footage reveals real horror of the Holocaust
The closure of the documentary really says it all “unless the World learns, Night will Fall.” as the director says in the video clip, the tragedy is we have not learnt enough.