Films on Holocaust-related themes

Feature films:

Woman in Gold    Based on the emotional legal battle to reclaim Gustav Klimt's magnificent Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer from the Austrian government.  Many long flashbacks to the family life of cultured Jews of the city and its destruction by Nazi officers with full support from the Austrian populace.  This is also a story of the redemption of Austria from its Nazi past.  Starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.  (2015, 110 min.)

The Quarrel     American Playhouse Theatrical Films; based on "My quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner" by Chaim Grade, from a play by Joseph Telushkin.  Two former friends and adversaries from Poland (one a secular Yiddish novelist, the other an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi) have each assumed the other died in the Holocaust;  they meet by chance on Rosh Hashana of 1948 in a Montreal park and resume their divisive theological arguments of the past, now heightened by their experience of the Holocaust.  All afternoon they argue, laugh, and learn to listen, and despite profound, irreconcilable differences, undergo a repentance and healing, and finally part as friends.  Topics of their quarrel:  God's responsibility for the Holocaust (vs. human responsibility), the value of secular vs. traditional studies, how to justify moral sacrifice in the face of the Holocaust, how Jews should survive today;  and confessions of grief and remorse over their own moral failures during the Holocaust years.  Well-acted, sharp intelligent but also moving dialogue.  (1990, 90 min.)

Sunshine  Written by Israel Horovitz and István Szabó, based partly on the lives of famous Hungarian Jews; directed and produced by István Szabó.  Story of three generations of the Jewish Hungarian family "Sonnenschein," as it yields its values and Jewish identity to "power and lust," as great-grandfather Gustav warns will happen.  The "power" is the social and political rewards brought by allegiance to the Hapsburg Empire, demanding a change of names so as not to seem Jewish;  allegiance to a Hungary controlled by anti-semitic upper-crust families who demanded conversion to Catholicism; and allegiance to the proletariat equality promoted by the communist dictatorship and secret police who replaced the fascists.  Family virtues also crumble through "lust" in the form of adulterous temptations in each generation.  The audience knows that all these attempts to assimilate will fail to protect these Jews from the murder perpetrated by Hungarian Nazis and by soldiers at Auschwitz;  even the later communists begin executing Jews for being dangerous Zionist conspirators.  The family secret to survival turns out to rest in Grandmother Valerie's ability to discover beauty in the world around her (perhaps like the director, Szabo).  Recommended!  (1999, 180 min.)

The Pawnbroker     PN1997 .P374 (DVD)  Based on Edward Louis Wallant's 1961 novel of the same title.  Sol Nazerman, Holocaust survivor become Harlem pawnbroker, whose entire family died and wife was raped at Auschwitz, lives, in the words of one character, like a walking dead-man:  cynical, without emotion, indifferent to the suffering of others, rejecting God and religion.  He proclaims that money is now the only value in life and sees Jewish history as unending persecution, weakness, homeless wandering, forced to rely on one's wits and money;  Judaism is a mistaken belief in a non-existent bearded one.   The plot slowly undermines and destroys his defenses.  Directed by Sidney Lumet.  Powerful performance by Rod Steiger as Nazerman.  Fine discordant jazz score by Quincy Jones.  First American movie to deal with the Holocaust from the viewpoint of a survivor.   The film was criticized by Black groups and Jewish groups for ethnic stereotyping;  was criticized also for equating the Holocaust with inner-city crime and violence.  (1964, 110 min., b&w)

Fateless  Based on the Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész's semi-autobiographical novel about a young Jewish boy's deportation in 1944 from Budapest, his struggle to survive in the concentration camps, and his subsequent surrealistic homecoming.  Screenplay by the author, music by Ennio Morricone.  Beautifully filmed in almost colorless tones washed over with sepia and grey, many striking images and scenes, e.g., the boy laid out, near death and almost naked, in a large room with showerheads in the ceiling, expecting to die by poison gas.  Contains a speech about the sad "fate" of God punishing the Jewish people, discussions of what it means to be Jewish and whether one can choose, two speeches from minor characters expressing a theology of Holocaust suffering, several scenes of Jews praying - but the main character, Gyorgy, a non-believer, gradually loses his childhood innocence, adjusts to the cruel absurdity of the camps, and when he finally returns to Budapest, refuses to identify with either Hungarians in general or the Jews of Budapest.  (2002, Hungarian, 140 min)

The Last Stage (Ostatni etap)   directed by Wanda Jakubowska; screenplay by Gerda Schneider.  Based on the film director's own experience as a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Filmed (eerily) on location at Birkenau just three years after the camp's liberation.  Some of the actors are professional Polish actors and others are played by camp survivors.  Follows the story of Marta, a Polish Jew, who survives through her ability to translate German and Polish, and other women in the camp, especially those at the infirmary, led by a courageous Polish doctor.  The women suffer under the harsh treatment of their house bosses (block seniors) and risk their lives to help the male prisoners bomb a crematorium and tell the truth about the camps to the world.  Nazi commanders and their wives, planning genocide, take part.  Ostatni Etap is a classic Polish movie, one of the top 20 films of Polish cinema.  (105 min., Polish and German dialogue with English translation, b&w, 1948) 

Sarah's Key     10-year-old Sarah Starzynski was among the Jewish families of Paris who were rounded up and deported by French police in June, 1942.  The theme of courage joins her with the contemporary journalist who discovers her story.  Another theme: how to continue living despite remorse and painful memories of the past.  (French, 110 min.)

In Darkness    Directed by Agnieszka Holland, from Robert Marshall's book In the Sewers of Lvov: A Heroic Story of Survival from the Holocaust which in turn is based on Krystyna Chiger's memoir, The Girl in the Green Sweater.  Story of a "Righteous Gentile" named Leopold Socha who saves some Jews in Lvov (part of Poland at the time, now in the Ukraine).  Socha is a Catholic sewer worker by day and petty thief by night;  the plot revolves around his change of character in relationship to the Jews whom he helps to hide in the sewers of the city.  The idea that Jesus was Jewish helps to change his attitude.  The Jewish characters don't change in any important ways, and some of them are deplorable human beings;  others do their best to help the others.  Above ground, in the light, Nazis and Ukrainian soldiers behave sadistically and mercilessly, and only someone with the craftiness and bravery of Socha can save the few Jews left in the city, who hide in darkness.  Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film 2011 (144 min.)

Adam Resurrected    Based on the novel by Yoram Kaniuk (Israeli).  Directed by Paul Schrader, starring Jeff Goldblum.  "A survivor spends the next 15 years of his life as a patient at a hidden insane asylum where he uses his magic tricks and comic abilities to stay sane. When he tries to help a young boy also suffering, he must encounter his own pain. " Filmed in Bucharest, Israel, and Germany.  (2008, 106 min.)

Under the Domim Tree (Eitz Ha-Domim Tafus)  Portrays the Holocaust as human cruelty;  the victims are teenage orphans on a youth kibbutz in Israel in 1953 who find solace and times of joy through human community -- which fits a secular Zionist worldview.  The narrator, named Aviya, though born in Palestine, has a mother (played by Gila Almagor) traumatized by wartime experiences.  Based on a young-adult novel by Gila Almagor.  (1995, Israel, 100 min.)

Summer of Aviya  Ten-year-old Aviya has lived in orphanages most of her life because her mother, Henya, has spent much of this time in a mental hospital. In the film Henya, played by the famous actress Gila Almagor, takes Aviya home to live with her, but we see Henya struggling against her memories of Nazi Europe, where she fought as a partisan against the Nazis before being captured and placed in a concentration camp. The film's plot revolves around Aviya's attempt to discover her father alive, during the summer of the first year of Israel's independence, when many refugees were streaming into the new state. The story is based on the life of Almagor herself, who wrote and produced the film, and stars in it as her own mother. Directed by Eli Cohen. Winner of the Silver Bear award, Berlin Film Festival, and of three Silver Menorah Awards in Israel. (1989, Israel. Color. Hebrew with subtitles. 96 min.) 

Matchmaker (Pa'am Hayiti)     Directed and written by Avi Nesher, based on the novel When Heroes Fly by award-winning author Amir Gutfreund. Haifa in summer of 1967, Yankele Bride is a Holocaust survivor who works as a matchmaker, and hires young Arik to confirm some of his clients' claims. "A different kind of coming-of-age story, one infused with the lingering horrors of the Holocaust" --Bill Goodykoontz. "The shadow of the Holocaust hangs over this unique Israeli coming-of-age film, which deals with a special kind of survivor's guilt" --John Hartl. (2 hrs, Hebrew, 2010)

Holocaust  Discs 1-3    Television miniseries broadcast in four parts in 1978 by NBC, which tells a history of the Holocaust from the perspective of a fictional family from Berlin named Weiss and of a rising member of the SS.  The film portrays numerous important events which occurred up to and during World War II, such as Kristallnacht, the creation of Jewish ghettos, massacres in the Ukraine such as Babi Yar, and later, the use of gas chambers.  The members of the Weiss family serve as representatives of various Jewish experiences: one is gassed to death for mental illness, one is sent to a concentration camp, two go to the Warsaw Ghetto and resist the Nazi occupation, one becomes a partisan fighting the Nazis and saving Jews.  The miniseries won eight Emmy awards and four Golden Globe awards, but despite some horrific scenes and film footage, the series was criticized by some for "trivializing" the Holocaust.  The miniseries was a watershed event in influencing popular memory of the Holocaust, not only in the United States but also West Germany.  Written by Gerald Green.  (450 min.)  D804.3 .H64 2008  (See the fine review by Anne Morey at Museum of Broadcast Communications)

The Truce (1996, 2 hours), based on the memoir by famous Holocaust survivor and author, Primo Levi, about his journey back to Turin after the Russians liberated Auschwitz;  directed lovingly, with on-location scenes in Poland and the Ukraine, by Franciesco Rosi, starring John Turturro and Italian film stars

Left Luggage     Set in Belgium in 1972,  Chaja (Laura Fraser) is a rebellious philosophy student whose parents are Holocaust survivors;  her mother represses her memories and her father is obsessed with finding the suitcases he buried during the war, suitcases holding family albums and keepsakes, his former life.  Needing money, Chaja goes to work as a nanny for a Hasidic family with 5 children, one of them a troubled 4-year old who doesn't speak.  She feels repelled by Hasidic rules but loves the little boy and determines to help him. As the film progresses, Chaja (and the viewers) come to respect and sympathize with the Hasidic community, as well as see its faults (too passive toward oppressors), and to understand Chaja's parents.  Chaja gradually embraces her own identity as a Jew and child of survivors, seeking her own "lost luggage" with her father.  Chaim Topol plays Mr. Appleschnitt, a kindly Orthodox elder offering wise advice to Chaja.  In English, a Flemish and Dutch production.  (1998, 100 minutes)

Enemies: a love story   With Anjelica Houston, Ron Silver, Lena Olin, Margaret Sophie Stein, Alan King. Directed by Paul Mazursky, music by Maurice Jarre. In New York City, 1949, Holocaust survivor and polygamist Herman Broder struggles with conflicting memories, desires, and obligations, in this ironic comedy. A screen adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel. (1989, USA. Color. 121 min.) 

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis [Italian]     (DVD) PQ4807.A79 G513

Playing for Time
 Written by Arthur Miller for TV.  Won many awards.  Based on the story of Fania Fenelon, a Jewish cabaret singer, at Auschwitz.  Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Alexander, Shirley Knight,  (1980, 150 min.)

Europa Europa Based on the memoirs of Solomon Perel. A Jewish teenager survives World War II by living as a communist and then a Nazi for 7 years. Best Foreign Film Golden Globe Award.  Begins with a scene of his ritual circumcision, the later threat to his secret.  Sympathizing with anti-religious communists and anti-Semitic Nazis who temporarily protect him, he questions his identity.   (German, 115 min., 1991)  D810.J4 P473 ‎‎‎2003

Everything is illuminated  Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer  A young American man journeys to find the woman who saved his Jewish grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village that was razed by the Nazis.  (2005, 105 min.)

Out of the Ashes   (Showtime presents)  Based on the book "I was a doctor in Auschwitz" by Dr. Gisella Perl.  (2003, 2 hours, R rating)  Law Library

QB VII PN1995.9.J8 Q2 1984 (3 tapes)

Schindler's List      (DVD) PR9619.3.K46 S3 2004

Die Fälscher = The counterfeiters, 2008 (best foreign language Oscar)

Zwartboek = Black book, Dutch, 2006

Amen   When a newly commissioned SS Lieutenant witnesses the chemical disinfectant he's helped ‎perfect being used to systematically murder interred Jews, he knows he must act. The only ‎symphatic ear he finds is a young priest with ties to the Vatican. As the two unlikely allies fight ‎to reveal the truth to the Church and world, they discover that a man of conscience can commit ‎treason and a man of God can commit heresy in order to thwart genocide

The pianist

The Diary of Anne Frank (DVD) D810 .J4 F715 (1959, 3 hours)

Jakob the liar

The Great dictator (1940, Charlie Chaplin)


The Reader

God on trial  / BBC Scotland, 2009
(Concentration camp inmates begin asking how God could allow so much suffering. )

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  Based on best-selling novel by John Boyne.  Criticized for portraying people near Auschwitz as unaware of the horrors of
the camp, and for imagining that the Nazis allowed 8-year-old boys to stay alive in Auschwitz.  (94 min., 2009)

Hanna's War         PN1997.H3 1988

La vita č bella [videorecording] = Life is beautiful  VHS

Herman Wouk's War and Remembrance

Sophie's choice

Divided We Fall =  Musíme si pomáhat
  A Czech Television production   During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, a couple, Josef and Marie, decide to hide a young Jewish neighbor in their small apartment.  (122 min., 2000)  

Obchod na korze (Shop on Main Street)
Based on the novel by Ladislav Grosman (1964, Czech, b&w, 125 min.)

 Based on the play, "Bent," by Martin Sherman.  "Pursued and captured by the Nazis because he is gay, Max is placed in a concentration camp where he pretends to be Jewish to avoid even worse persecution." (1997, 100 min.)

The devil's arithmetic [videorecording] / Showtime presents
An American Jewish teenager dreams that she has been transported through time to a Polish concentration camp

  / HBO Films presents, produced in association with BBC Films ; producer, Nick Gillott ; writer, Loring Mandel ; director, Frank Pierson      PN1997 ‎‎.C6558 2002

/ a film by Andrzej Wajda ; Studio Filmowe "Perspektwa."     Tells the true story of Janusz Korczak, a renowned physician and author who ran a home for Jewish orphans in 1930's Warsaw.      VHS   c1993

Primo  adapted from Surival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi; starring Antony Sher, who dramatizes major scenes from Levi's account of his life at Auschwitz.  (2005, 88 min.)  D805.P7 L441 2005


The last days  Through well-edited and lively interviews with Hungarian survivors, and onsite scenes of Hungary (small towns, Budapest) and Auschwitz-Birkenou, as well as stark historical footage, this film tells the story of the Nazi destruction of Hungarian Jews in the last year of the war.  During their retelling, the survivors mention God twice and "soul" once;  and we hear brief comments on the role of God and the larger moral meaning in the event.  We watch the survivors return to concentration camps and to their Hungarian homes.  We also learn how they have determined to contribute to society in their lives today.  (Best Documentary 1998, 87 min.)

I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life And Legacy Of Simon Wiesenthal   Narrated by Nicole Kidman.  Through interviews with Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005), his family, and associates, using archival footage and TV news clips, the film chronicles his life, from his childhood in a Polish village, then his ordeal during the Holocaust, and then his gradual decision to research information about Nazi war criminals, build legal cases, and bring them to justice over the next 50 years.  Includes discussion of his more controversial decisions, and the suffering of his wife Cyla and daughter Paulinka.  Ends with the celebration of his 90th birthday in Hitler's favorite hotel in Vienna, a bittersweet Jewish affirmation.  (2006, 105 min.)

America and the Holocaust: deceit and indifference  Written, produced, and directed by Martin Ostrow   Uses interviews, official photos, home movies, and archival footage to explore the factors that shaped America's response to the Holocaust and asks the question "Why didn't America do more?" Looks at America's inaction through the experiences of a Jewish refugee trying to save his parents, and through documented evidence of official policy of the U.S. government.   D804.3 .A53 ‎‎2005   (2005, 90 min.)

Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust   examines the American film and television industry's response to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi persecution of the Jews before, during, and after World War II. Uses film clips, newsreel footage and interviews of filmmakers and Holocaust survivors.  Informative discussions of "The Pawnbroker" the TV mini-series "Holocaust," "War and Remembrance" (graphic), and "Schindler's List."  Interviews with Prof. Michael Berenbaum, Annette Insdorf, and Neal Gabler.  Narrated by Gene Hackman.  (2009, 90 min.)

Broken Silence   
Collation of five documentaries by Steven Spielberg and Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation:  "Some who lived" (57 min.) weaves together testimonies of Holocaust survivors now living in Argentina and Uruguay.  In "Eyes of the Holocaust" (57 min.) survivors describe the slow erosion of their lives when the Nazis took over and began to liquidate the Hungarian Jewish population.  "Children from the Abyss" (56 min.) uses testimonies of survivors who were children at the time to describe the horror of the Nazi invasion of Russia, with the mass killings conducted by the Einsatzgruppen after the Wehrmacht had moved further into the country. "I remember" (58 min.) juxtaposes the testimonies of four Polish Holocaust survivors with images of young people taking part in the annual March of the Years in the extermination camp at Auschwitz.  "Hell on Earth" (57 min.) tells of the inhabitants of the 'model' ghetto at Theresienstadt, which was set up by the Nazis to deceive the world about how they treated Jews.   (2004, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian dialogue with English subtitles)

Faith Amid the Flames   This film shows the spiritual heroism and resistance of Orthodox Jews during the Holocaust. The film records the strong faith of observant Jews and also deals with the fascinating struggle the leading rabbis endured in order to answer questions on Jewish law brought out by the Holocaust.   D180 .J4 F53 (VHS, 30 min.)

Shoah  Claude Lanzmann, 1985.    The Nazi extermination of Jews is examined through interviews of survivors, witnesses and perpetrators and through footage of the sites of the death camps and environs as they appear today. Those interviewed include Jewish survivors of the death camps and the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Polish farmers and villagers who lived near the camps and Nazis who worked in the camps and the ghettos.  5 tapes, VHS

Frontline: Memory of the Camps    Based on a 1945 film made by British and American film crews, directed in part by Alfred Hitchcock.  Rebroadcast by PBS Frontline (2004, 1 hr.)

Hiding and seeking: faith and tolerance after the Holocaust / Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky

The Jews of Poland  
           DS135 .P6 J47 1988 

The Last Journey  
           DS135 .R92 L37 1987 

Doublecrossing: the Voyage of the St. Louis
     D810. J4 D68 1992 

             D810 .J4 S4 (5 tapes) 

   (DVD)      D810 .J4 G45 1981 

The Longest Hatred  
       DS145 .L68 

Timewatch : out of the ashes 
         DS125 .T55 1996

Les Violons du bal       Filmmaker Michel Drach tells the story of his childhood during World War II and his family's escape from the Nazis. But no producer would finance the project until he cast Jean-Louis Trintignant as himself. The film intercuts between his present quest to make the film and the past viewed from a child's perspective.         PN1997 .V528 1992

Paper clips / directed by Elliot Berlin, Joe Fab (2006)

Auschwitz--inside the Nazi state (KCET/BBC co-production, 2 discs, 300 min.)

Memory of the camps / WGBH Educational Foundation

A Jew among the Germans / Frontline, 2005

The children of Chabannes

A Portrait of Elie Wiesel: in the shadow of flames (1988)

Das Boot ist voll = The boat is full

Genocide / Simon Wiesenthal Center ; Produced By Arnold Schwartzman, Marvin H

Weapons of the spirit      Pierre Sauvage, 1989.    As a Jew born in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during World War II, filmmaker Pierre Sauvage relates the story of how the village successfully shielded 5,000 Jews from the Nazis. The documentary is followed by an interview with Sauvage, conducted by Bill Moyers.

Unlikely heroes

Auschwitz--inside the Nazi state  / a KCET/BBC co-production ; written & produced by Laurence Rees

Into the arms of strangers: stories of the Kindertransport ‎‎[videorecording] : Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Sabine Films, Skywalker, U.S. Holocaust Museum ; producer, Deborah Oppenheimer ; written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris      VHS VIDEO/FILM DS135.G5 A1436 2001 2001

The long way home [videorecording] / produced by Rabbi Marvin Hier & Richard Trank ; written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris      DVD DS126.5 .L66 2007 

Liberation / Moriah Films, the Jack and Pearl Resnick Film Division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center ; producers: Arnold Schwartzman, Rabbi Marvin Hier ; written by Sir Martin Gilbert & Rabbi Marvin Hier ; screenplay adaptation by Arnold Schwartzman ; directed by Arnold Schwartzman              DVD VIDEOS D755.7 .L53 ‎‎2007              2007

Strafsache 4 Ks 2/63 Auschwitz vor dem Frankfurter Schwurgericht ; Dokumentation von Rolf Bickel und Dietrich Wagner ; Produktionsleitung, Fred Steinbach. Der Frankfurter Auschwitz Prozess / ein Film von Rolf Bickel und Dietrich Wagner ; Produktion, Gerhard Hehrlein [videorecording] :          DVD VIDEOS KK73.5.A98 S75 2006           2006

The ninth day = Der neunte tag [videorecording] / Provobis Film ; Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) ; Videopress ‎‎; produced by Jürgen Haase ; written by Eberhard Görner and Andreas Pflüger ; directed by Volker Schlöndorff     DVD VIDEOS D805.G3 B482 2005            2005

Partisans of Vilna: the untold story of Jewish resistance during World War II [videorecording] : The Ciesla Foundation presents ; directed by Josh Waletzky ; produced by Aviva Kempner ; narration written by Josh Waletzky   DVD D810.J4 P35       2005

Night and fog
Nuit et brouillard [videorecording] = une co-production Como Films, Argos Films, Cocinor and Janus Films director, Alain Resnais            DVD D805.G3 N4 ‎‎2003

Conspiracy  / HBO Films presents, produced in association with BBC Films ; producer, Nick Gillott ; writer, Loring Mandel ; director, Frank Pierson       DVD VIDEOS PN1997 ‎‎.C6558 2002              2002

The Bielski brothers the unknown partisans ‎‎[videorecording] : / SOMA Productions ; directed by Arun Kumar ; written and produced by David Herman        VHS VIDEO/FILM R853.H8 N89 1997      c1996

Flames in the ashes / Ghetto Fighters House, Teuda Films ; a film by Haim Gouri, Jacquot Ehrlich           VHS VIDEO/FILM D810.J4 F53     1987

The Wannsee Conference  / a co-production of Infafilm GMBH Munich, Austrian Television-O.R.F. and Bavarian Broadcasting Corp           VHS D810.J4 W36 1987            1987