Years before “O.J.: Made in America” a documentary pushed the boundaries of the medium. “Shoah” is an epic in every sense of the word. The nine-hour documentary explored the Holocaust in depth and from every angle. The documentary not only interviewed survivors but the perpetrators of the violence. There were few if any documentaries like it at the time. On Thursday, Claude Lanzmann, the director of the epic documentary passed away at the age of 92.
Lanzmann was an unconventional filmmaker, that allowed him to make unconventional films. Lanzmann was born in Paris in 1925 to Russian Jewish immigrants. During World War II, he fought in the French resistance against the Third Reich. After the war, he became a journalist. In 1950, he joined “Les Temps Moderne,” the journal edited by renowned scholar Simone de Beauvoir. He was named editor of the journal in 1986 after her passing.
Lanzmann also continued to release documentaries on about the Jewish diaspora. He conducted interviews in the 1970s to explain the importance of Israel to non-Jewish viewers. He released them in the documentary series “Why Israel?” which aired in France during the 1970s to gain support. As recently as last week, he released another four-part series on the Holocaust, following four sisters over the years. The series, “The Four Sisters” is just the latest example of how he documented the diaspora in unique and innovative ways. Lanzmann will be missed in the documentary, filmmaking, and the academic world.