The Holocaust: Movies

Hollywood was very late to come to the anti-NAZI. Once it began, NAZIs and evil-Germans became a staple in Hollywood films. This would eventually include films that had very little, if anything to do with World War II, such as the Indiana Jones series. The World War II films often depicted attrocities against civilians, but usually they did not dweal on the Jews. This in part because it was only after the War that the general public became aware of the Holacaust mean the effort to completely destrop European Jewery. Articles appeared in American newspaers, but nothing was ever published in the popular press describing the dimensions and organization of the Holocaust. This continued after the War. Only in the 1970s do we begin to see movies that actually attempt to address the Holocaust in its full breath, including mass shootings and gas chambers. This varied from country to country. Many American and German films have addressed the topic. The French rarely do. And although there are many Soviet World war II films, the Holocaust was as far as we know not addressed. The heart rending human drama involved with the Hollacaust has now been the subject of many films. The most exhaustive presentation was a TV-miniseries 'The Holocaust'. The Holocaust was such a massive undertaking that the movie format has to focus on an individual or group. The most haunting film is 'Schindler's List'. There is now a sizeable number of movies dealing with the Holocaust. Even so, many of topics remain untouched or poorly addressed, including the Romanian Army killing Jes, the topic of knowledge and complicity, Einsatzgruppen, NAZI plans for the Slavs, the role of German academics and industrialists, Allied knowledge, the participation of non-Germans, and other topics. Here we list Holocaust films with a special focus on films involving children.

(The) Aryan Couple (England, 2004)

"The Aryan Couple" is a British film, directed by John Daly and set in Nazi occupied Hungary in 1944. It tells the story or a married Jewish couple (they masquerade as Aryans) who are the servants of a wealthy Jewish industrialist (played by Martin Landau). The attractive couple (Hans and Ingrid Vassman, played by Kenny Doughty and Caroline Carver) are about to have their first child, a little girl whom we glimpse only at the very end of the film. The somewhat unconvincing story has the dignified industrialist, Joseph Krautzenberg, who lives in a palce stocked with the finest old masters, bargaining with the Nazis for safe passage to Palestine in exchange for all his wealth (including the paintings). In the course of the story Hans and Ingrid reveal to their employers that they are Jews in disguise, and there is great tension about the escape, not only of the patriarch and his wife, but also of Hans and Ingrid who are finally discovered to be Jewish by the Nazi high command among whom Heinrich Himmler (Danny Webb) and Adolf Eichman (Steven Macintosh) are particularly brutish and cruel. The film ends somewhat sentimentally by both the wealthy couple and his entire family as well as Hans and Ingrid escaping across the Swiss border and being happily reunited.

Au Revoir les Enfants (France, 1987)

This French film is one of the classic films dealing with World War II boyhoods. It begins much like an ordinary school film with the normal friendships and conflicts among the boys. The film centers on the conflict and then growing frienship between the star pupil and a new boy who provides a little competition. Increasingly the War infringes upn the school. The new boy proves to be a Jew hiding from the NAZIs. He is informed ion and the Germsns eventully pick him up along with the school's headmaster.

(The) Boy in the Striped Pajamas (United States, 2008)

A German boy mamed Bruno watches as his family moves to the country. It is of course more than a move to the country. His father is an SS officer put in commsand of a concentration camp which wold have been in Poland. Soon Bruno makes friends befriends with a nother boy Bruno finds dressed in what he sees as "striped pajamas". The boy is Shmuel who he finds behind an electrified fence. Bruno is told that he cannot befriend the boy because he is a Jew and that the neighboring yard is actually a prison. Bruno has heard his father talk about Jews, but hav never met one before. Bruno can not understand why his friend is in prison. In fact itis not a prison. he Jews are to be exterminated. There are serious flaws in the historiography of this film. Jewish boys this age were not issued uniforms and incarcerated in concentatioin camps, they were murdered upon arrival. It raises a questioin as to how important historical accuracy is in film depictions of the Holocaust.

The Diary of Ann Frank (United States, 1958)

TheNetherlands proved to be one of the deadliest places in Europe for Jes. This film is based on the diary kept by a Jewish girl andcfound after the War. The only way Jes survived in the Netherlands was by hising and they needed help from Dutch Chritins. The Frank family was German. It was the German Jews that had the best chance of surviving because they knew Germans and prepared better than the Dutch Jews. The film is based on the stage play adapted from Anne's diary. When her older sister is ordered to report for labor in the Reich (a ruse for killing operations), their father takes the family into hiding. A business associate help prepare a hiding place in rooms above the business. The Franks retreat there along with another Jewish family. They succeed fir 2 years and are only found just before the Allies reach the Netherlands. Anne's father survives, but Anne and her suster dies of typhus in a NAZI concentration camp.

Conspiracy of Hearts (England, 1960)

Nuns help Jewish children escape from a NAZI internment camp located near their convent. It us set in 1943. Quite a gripping story set in Italy. The children wear historically correct period clothing. They come from camps and are scruffily dressed. In one scene children are being bathed and consoled. One nun goes to bathe a boy about 10. He complains, "You are a girl, I know you are." She tries to tell him that she is a nun and that it is alright, but he still refuses. "I can't bathe you with your trousers on," she tells him. "Yes you can." he replies. Finally she bribes him with chocolate. The boy is hesitant but finally agrees. The Germans who are depicted as Wehrmact and not SS ultimstely seize the convent as a transit camp. There is a scene in which a group of Jewish children"s leader is a young boy who follows his region to the letter. The nuns try to give the children a very special religios festival. This is tied into the awakening of the German authorities as to what the nuns were doing. The Nazis swoop. The German lieutenant and his sadistic colonel discover that the nuns had been taking in orphaned Jewish children and helping them evade arrest. The Germans order three of the nuns executed.

Entrusted (International, 2003)

I am unsure how to define the nationality of this made for television production. Europeans of various nationalities were involved, it was made in English, and registered in Singapore. It is set in occupied France during World War II and based on the book Daddy by Loup Durand. It deals with a very sensitive topic, Jewish bank accounts. The boy playing Thomas Sangster (Thomas von Gall) is engaging and the film suspensful. Thomas is a brilliant chess champion with a phenomenal memory. These lines set the story. Thomas: "I have to put the secret in a safe place." David Quatermain: "Is it that important? Thomas: It's more important than my grandfather's life. It's more important than my mother's. And it's certainly more important than mine." The film unfortunately tends to gloss over a very serious issue and the extent to which individuals besides NAZI villans were involved in the Holocaust. The costuming is reasonably accurate. It also tends to over emphazize the help French Jews received. One of the few groups helping French Jews was an American group which operated before the Torch innasions (November 1942).

Figure 1.--'Escape From Sobibor' is a true story of a mass escape from a camp in eastern Poland, an area that had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939. There are not very many children in the camp because it was one of the horific death camps where the Jews arriving on the transports were all killed upon arrival, especilly the children. Sobibor was not a work camp so it was a very small facility. A few Jews and Soviet POWs were kept alive for a time to do the work at the camp. The SS used Ukranian guards to help run the camp. Here a transport of Jews from the ghettoes has just arrived at the camp.

Escape from Sorbibor (United States, 1987)

'Escape From Sobibor' a true story of a mass escape from a camp in eastern Poland, an area that had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939. There are not very many children in the camp because it was one of the horific death camps established as part of Operation Reinhard, the elimination of Polish Jews. The Jews arriving on the transports were all killed upon arrival, especilly the children. Sobibor was not a work camp so it was a very small facility. A few Jews and Soviet POWs were kept alive for a time to help run the camp. The Germans ran the camp with SS officers and Ukranian guards. It is amazing the small numbers at Germans at the death camps relative to the number of people killed. The approximately 600 Jewish and Red Army POW workers the Germans forced to opeate the camp wanted to stop the killing and knew that they would also ultimately be be killed as well. Resistance was virtually impossible, but they begn to plan an escape. To do so there would have to be a mass escape and that meant killing the Germans and Ukrnians. This made for TV movie is a reasonably accurate depiction of what became one of the rare revolts. Ultimately about half of the captive workers did manage to escape, although the Germans tracked mny diwn. As a result of the revolt, however, the Germans closed down Sobibir.

Europa, Europa (Germany 1990)

One of the best know German films about the Hitler Youth and World War II is Europa, Europa. It is about a Jewish boy who ends up in the HJ during the war. It is particularly poignent because it is the true story of Solomon (Solly) Perel, a 13-year-old German-Jewish boy who is separated from his family during the period between the Hitler-Stalin pact (August 1939) and the German invasion of Russia (June 1941). "You must stay alive!" was his mother's parting admonition. With these words ringing in his ears, fourteen-year-old Solomon Perel set out from Nazi-occupied Poland hoping to find safety across the new Soviet frontier. Like large numbers of other Jews fleeing the Germans, Perel faced staggering odds against his survival. What actually transpired was far different from what anyone could have imagined. By a twist of fate, the young Jew found unexpected refuge ... as a student in an elite Hitler Youth boarding school. Europa, Europa recounts Solomon Perel's harrowing struggle living in a nightmare from which there seemed no escape.

(The) Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italy/Germany, 1971)

Beautifully made, but sad movie about the dream world of the Italian Jews before World War II. Boys in the movie wear short pants and knee socks and are always smartly dressed. It's been a while since I've seen it so I don't remember the age of the boys, but I remember it is a very effective movie. [Historical note: Italy's Fascist Government took discrimnatory actions in part the result of NAZI pressure, but did not kill Jews. Deportations to death camps only began after Germany occupied the country (September 1943). Fortunately, unlike many other countries, many of the Italian Jews were saved by their Italian countrymen abd the Allied servicemen fifgting up the Italian peninsula.]

Hangmen also Die (United States, 1943)

Here's an important film, historically--Fritz Lang's only venture into Hollywood--a story based on a famous story by Bertold Brecht treating in a fictional way the assassination of the Nazi ruler of Bohemia/Moravia (Czechoslovakia), Reinhard Heydrich, who on May 27, 1942, was shot by resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation of that country. Fritz Lang, of course, was a very famous German film director--the director of "M", a film that I've already reviewed for HBC. Many film historians regard this film, "Hangmen Also Die" (1943) starring Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, and Gene Lockart, as an early example of film noir--partly because of the black and white medium and also because of dark subject matter combined with dark cinematography. Notably there ws no mention of Jews. Heydrich was one of the most important figures in the Holocsust, perhps the most important.

Hitler's Children (United States, 1943)

This Hollywood film is about dchool children in NAZI Germany. This World War II American film is a good example how the Holocaust was not addressed during the War by Hollywood. There is one short svene where a Jewish boy is taken away from the school, but that is the only tagental reference.

(The) Holocaust (United States, 1978)

"The Holocaust" is a gripping and harrowing film, originally made as a TV series, in 1978. It has an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Joseph Bottoms, Michael Moriarty, David Warner, Nigel Hawthorne, and Ian Holm. The director was Marvin J. Chomsky. Children only have bit parts. The film is a very graphic story of two German families--the Weiss family, which is Jewish, and the Dorf family, which is Christian. Erik Dorf (played brilliantly by Michael Moriarty) is a lawyer who can't find work and so turns to the Nazi party for his livelihood and eventually becomes the second in command to Heydrich, and becomes deeply involved in furthering the "Final Solution"--i.e., the genocide of the Jews. The other family is the Weiss family, headed by a physician and his wife, a concert pianist. One of their sons, Karl (an artist, played by James Woods) marries a gentile, Inga Helms (played by Meryl Streep), and at the beginning the Dorfs are treated by Dr. Weiss who is their family doctor. The film is horribly graphic and shows some of the most terrible aspects of the Holocaust, including mass executions of naked Jews as well as their gassing at German death camps.


Korczak (Poland/Germany/France, 1991)

Korczak is the story of the Polish educator who cared for orphaned Jewish children. The director was Andrei Waida who is probably Poland's most distinguished film director. The movie is a dramatization of the final years of the heroic Polish pediatrician and child psychologist, Dr. Janusz Korczak. He ran a Jewish orphanage. The children like other Polish Jews were forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. After relocation to the Warsaw Ghetto he went with to continue caring for them. As a Christian he was not required by the NAZIs to do so. When the children were tranported to Treblinka in 1943 to be gassed Dr. Korczak insisted on accompaning them, again he was not required to do so. He died with the children in the gas chambers. We have an image from the film showing one of the older boys of the orphanage. He is an adolescent about 15 years old who falls in love with a non-Jewish girl and whom Dr. Korczak consoles by praising his incipient manhood. The costuming in the film is very accurate.

Life is Beautiful (Italy, 1998)

The aclaimed Italian filmbegins as a light, fluffy comedy. Sudently it becomes the wrencing, deeply moving tale of a irrevent father's love for his wife and son, inprissoned in a NAZI concentration camp. The plot centers around the father's attempt to disguise the horrors of the Holocaust from his son. When the boy asks why a store posts a sign forbidding entrance by Jews and dogs, Guido laughs it off, suggesting they post a sign on their own shop, restricting entrance to "Visigoths." Some reviewrs write, "Laughing in the face of adversity is the best way to triumph over it." Personally I think the film rather trivializes the Holocaust. It ceratinly was a beautifully made movie. The costuming appears very accurate. My problem with the film is the premise, that the evil could be hid from the children. First children are not that stupid. Second, it reduces the enormity of the crimes involved. Small children in the camps were in fact kept with the mothers and along with the elderly were the first to be murdered. The boy wears a romper suit and matching peaked cap with strap shoes and white ankle socks. I'm not sure how common such outfits were in 1940s Italy. We know they were popular in France at the time, but we have less information on Italy. Directed by Roberto Benigni. The cast included: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, and Giustino Durano. The boy, Giosué Orefice is played by Giorgio Cantarini

(The) Magnetic Tide (United States, 1950)

This 22-minute American documentary was shot in Israel and released in the United States by 20th Century-Fox. The film attemoted to stear clear of political commentary and to focus on how European refugees flowing into Israel were building new lives in the just established nation of Israel. At the time the largest group of immigrants, were the European survivors of the NAZI Holocaust. After the departure of the British (1948), there was no longer any contrraints on immigration. The film was directed by Dorothy Silverstone, the wife of Fox's foreign Chief Executive, Murray Silverstone. The music is provided by Isreali groups like the Palestine String Quartet and the Tel-Aviv Opera. The narriator is British actor and singer Dennis King. The film is interesting as a view of Israel just after independence and defeating the Arab invasion (1948-49). Not addressed in the film is the beginning of immigration from the Arab couuntries and Iran which would would eventually provide a larger contribution to the Isreali population than European immigrants.

(The) Pianist (Internmational, 2002)

"The Pianist" is an important account of the NAZI Holocaust in Poland, centering on the Warsaw Ghetto. The film is sometimes compared with another film on the same subject, "Schindler's List". The film was directed by Roman Polanski and starred Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish concert pianist who miraculously survived the wholesale slaughter of the Jews in Warsaw during World War II. It is called "The Pianist" (2002). The film is unusually graphic and hard to watch because of the incredible brutality of the NAZIs, but it was filmed with meticulous historical accuracy including the costuming. In numerous scenes we see boys dressed in the style of 1940s Warsaw. Most of the boys wear various outfits with short trousers and long stockings. Here we see two boys entering the Warsaw Ghetto when it was first established (figure 1). The Jews were told tht they were being resettled in the East. The boys wear black and brown long stockings with short trousers. Notice their typical flat caps.

(The) Round Up / La Rafle (France, 2010)

"The Round Up" / "La Rafle" is a 2010 French film about the first big operation against the Jews in France. This is a topic most French film makers have avoided. It was directed by Roselyne Bosch and produced by Alain Goldman. The actors include Mélanie Laurent, Jean Reno, Sylvie Testud and Gad Elmaleh. It is an account of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup (Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv) in Paris. The name comes from the biycycle stadium where those arrested were held in terrible conditions during the hot Paris summer. The events are depicted through they eyes of Joseph, an 11-year Jewish school boy, and are based based on true experiences and actual events. What Jseph does not know is that by mid-1942, the Germans have completed their killing infrastructure in Poland. They have begun killing Polish Jews in large numbers and are now ready for transports of Jews from the West. The French police knew where to look. French Jews had been carefully registered. And they were required to wear the yellow badges 'Juif' star-of-David badges to make them easier to pick up. The film begins as Joseph goes off the school wearing his badge. Some of the peoole he passes are sympatheic, others are hostile. Jo, his Jewish friends, their families, and begun to learn how to live in the new circumstances of anti-Semetic France under German rule. Many have lost their jobs and property, but they were still allive and not yet in camps. Some have takjen shelter on the Butte Montmartre. Than everything changes without warning (July 16, 1942). The Paris police (not the Germans) suddenly begin the mass arrests of Jews. Some 13,000 men, women, and children are cramed into the Vélodrome D'Hiver. The film ranges from Vel' d'Hiv, to Vichy and the Berghof where the fate of these and others Jews are being decided. We see both the unsuspecting victims and their murderes. Some managed to flee and hide. Others not understanding the machinery of murder that had been organized followed instructions.

Figure 2.--This is a scene from Stephen Speilberg's 'Schindler's List'. We are not sure what was happenking here, it may have been when the boys were trying to smuggle in food. Hopefully a reader can provide the details.

Schindler's List (United States, 1993)

Oscar Schindler was a German businessman who had come to Crakow to benefit from the opportunities created by NAZI policies. He found and operated a formerly Jewish factory in the Zablocie district. He used his factory to save 1,098 Jews from the Plaszow camo. Speilberg's film "Schindler’s List" was filmed at the site of the Cracow ghetto. "Schinder's List" is the most realistic and moving of all the Holocaust films. One wrenching scene that I can not get out of my mind is a scene from "Schindler's List" where the NAZI guards are rounding up the children to kill them because they are not productive. Many of the children try to hide, but are found. One scene shows a boy that hid in the waste and excrement under the out house. This to be is one of the most haunting scenes in film history. There is no dialog, but I found it to be one of the most heart wrenching scenes in the film. A reader writes, "I saw the entry for this film and | agree that the scene mentioned was a very moving one, so were the scenes that preceded it, where the children are being driven away from the forced labour camp. I'm sure you'll agree that there are many moving scenes in this film which are too numerous to mention." A reader writes, "One of the memorable scenes for me is at the end where Leam Neeson (Schindler) breaks down and he says, 'if only I could have got more out,' or something like that. Another scene is when the women are sent to Auschwitz by mistake instead of being snt to Schindler's factory in Czechoslovakia. You see them having their hair cut and being marched into what they think is the gas chamber, but is in fact a shower block. They stand there shivering expecting the gas to come throught the shower head, but when the water comes out instead their relief is tangible." Ralph Feinnes played the sadistic NAZI officer Amon Goeth. A reader tells us, "I saw him in one of the evening news broadcasts in which he was featured in a report about something he is currently engaged in doing with UNICEF. I thought what a different person he is to the one he portrayed in Schindler's List. I know that it was only a part he played, but I wonder how much an effect such a role can have on an actor." One wrenching scene that I can not get out of my mind is a scene from Schindler's List where the NAZI guards are rounding up the children. Many of the children try to hide, but are found. One scenr shows a boy that hid in the waste and excrement under the out house. There is no dialog, but I found it to be one of the most heart wrenching scenes in the film. The film leaves it to the imagination what was done with the children. They were being rounded up to kill them because they were not productive. This is the same reason the children were selective for immediate murder when they arrived at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

(The) Search (United States, 1948)

While his mother is searching for him, a starving Czech war orphan accepts help from an America GI played by Montgomery Cliff after the War. The film does not address the Holocaust, but NAZI barbarity. This was the general pattern both during and after the War. There was one scene, however, tht evokes the Holocaust. The boy that the GI tries to help runs away when he the Red Cross tries to transport him in an ambulance. (This coild have been in 'Little Boy Lost', we are not positive. Red Criss vans were used as part of the killing opertion t some camps and ghettoes. This was a reference to killing Jes, although bit was not explained in the film. 'The Search' was filmed in various locations in Germany and shows abundantly the devastation of the war. The GI dresses him up a bit, but still short pants. It's one of Montgomery Clift's earliest films. The story line is a mother's search for her son among the displaced persons camps. They'd been separated while they were in a concentration camp, and the film is really two parallel stories, mother's and son's, which finally intersect at the very end of the film. Despite a script, which is at times stilted and akward, the performances and the story are quite effective and memorable.

Un Sac de Billes (France, 1975)

The French film, 'A sac de billes', is a factual account about two French Jewish boys based on the autobiography of Joseph Joffo. He was born in Paris (1931). He and his brother had a uneventful schooling in which they were accepted and made friends and had good peer relationships before the arrival of the Germans. The film is about his and his brother's experiences during the German World War II occupation. The story is told through the eyes of a 10 year old boy who relates, but of course does not fully understand the terrible events swirling around him and putting his family in mortal danger. The family go along to the center distributing the Jewish Star of David badges. These are black and yellow badges with 'Juif' written on them. Mum sews the badges on to their school smocks. Their school mates begin to taunt them when they enter the school with their Juif badges. At school they are singled out and the teacher puts the Jewish boys at the back of the room. In the course of the lesson the teacher asks a question which only Joseph knows the answer. The teacher ignores him and tries to encourage the non-Jewish students to answer but to no avail. Joseph throws his text book on the floor and the teacher punishes him.

Uprising (United States (2001)

This 2001 American film is about he Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto during 1943. It was directed by Jon Avnet. It starred Jon Voight, Donald Sutherland and Cary Elwes and contains some historically accurate illustrations of boys' clothing. We have several images of the film. The movie is an absorbing dramatization of the Jewish uprising against their Nazi oppressers in the Jewish ghetto in Warwaw in 1943. The events of the story are quite true and quite harrowing. Jon Voight played Major-General Stroop, the Nazi commander and Cary Elwes played Dr. Fritz Hippler, a propaganda civilian employed by the Nazis to make films showing the Jews to be little better than vermin. Donald Sutherland plays the leader of the Jews in the ghetto who is eventually forced to commit suicide. One scene shows Dr. Korczak with his orphan boys in the ghetto, an episode that can be interestingly compared with the Polish film, Korczak, directed by Andrzej Wajda, a scene from which I sent you recently and example. Here the boys are packing for their fatal train journey to the concentration camp where they are slaughtered. Dr. Korczak is cheering them up and trying to get them to regard the impending journey as a kind of adventure. The boys are dressed in the same way as the boys in the Polish film and in fact the director may have copied the clothing styles.

Unknown German Titles

PBS carried several German movies dealing with the Holocaust. Many of them dealt with boys or had boy characters. Unfortunately I didn't note the titles. The ones I remember:
Unknown titles: Dealt with life in a tenement and how the anti NAZI families suffer and finally they and their children have to yield to the NAZIs.
Unknown titles: Film about one family in Rowstock. The family has two sons one who is critical of the NAZIs. Both wind up fighting in the War. Unknown titles: Color movie in which a German policeman comes home to find that his new stepson was staying out late. The boy is about 10 and dressed in shorts. The boy objects to his new father's authority.
Unknown titles: School boys wear short pants and long stockings. Two boys in class are punished for fighting, I think there names are Gruber and Magnus. One boy is praised for not allowing himself to be bullied, but is still punished for violated school rules. When the boy returns to his seat which I think he shares with the boy he was fighting, one tries to make up, but the other is still angry.

Unknown French Title

There is a French Film about the round up of the Jews in Paris.


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Created: 6:11 AM 11/30/2011
Last updated: 5:32 AM 5/13/2018