What’s Worth Watching: Night Will Fall Shows the Harrowing Force of Holocaust Footage

Night Will Fall
Courtesy of HBO
Night Will Fall

Night Will Fall (Monday, January 26, 9/8c, HBO)

In 1945, scores of British, Soviet, and American soldiers and newsman filmed what they saw while liberating German concentration camps. Sidney Bernstein — co-founder of the London Film Society, an ardent anti-fascist and the head of Britain’s Ministry of Information film department — set about turning that footage into a documentary that would provide unmistakable evidence of Nazi war crimes and serve as a lesson to mankind. He even traveled to the Bergen-Belsen camp himself to make sure local German magistrates and townspeople were photographed standing among the thousands of corpses found there. (No plausible deniability for them.) Bernstein then assembled a team, including friend Alfred Hitchcock as supervising director, and started work on the tentatively titled German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. But the British government halted the project midway through — without a satisfying explanation.

Seven decades later, anthropologist and documentary filmmaker André Singer (a frequent collaborator of Werner Herzog) has made Night Will Fall, which reveals harrowing scenes from the unfinished picture and tells its origin (and suppression) story. Many of the original cameraman and the survivors they photographed appear as interviewees. It’s 10 trillion times scarier than Psycho.