Film is a creative medium that has been used to tell the story of the Holocaust from a number of perspectives over decades. These films document and memorialize the atrocities while bearing witness to new generations. Furthermore, they help audiences collectively confront with this horrific act.
Since WWII many films have been made about the Holocaust, leading to some of the most memorable and thought-provoking works of the last eight decades. From family survival dramas and love stories to award-winning fare and foreign arthouse standouts, these films help us collectively remember and reconcile our shared tragic past.
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” starring a young Asa Butterfield, offers a glimpse of WWII and its atrocities through the eyes of an innocent eight-year-old son of an SS Commander at a German concentration camp. Utterly heartbreaking, this serious cautionary tale handles a difficult topic with sensitivity, authenticity and memorable acting performances.
On the other hand, “Remembrance” tells the story of a Polish man who falls in love with and rescues a Jewish woman during WWII. Subsequently separated, they are reunited 30 years later after a chance encounter. Memories are rehashed and the two are left to sort out their feelings and the lives they have lead in the years since their separation. Simplistically shot and beautifully acted, this German and English film shows that love is the key to survival and is stronger than hate.
Writer/director Frank Pierson‘s historical re-creation, “Conspiracy” depicts the meeting of senior Nazi officials in 1942 where the decision is made on the implementation of the “Final Solution.” This made-for-television movie earned Stanley Tucci a Golden Globe and Kenneth Branagh an Emmy for their respective performances. Although not on the epic scale of some of the other works, this film was an acting masterclass. Examining the depths of our humanity (and depravity) and showing the chilling effects of “group think,” this film is a profound work.
Other notable films that stand out include the Oscar-winners “Schindler’s List,” “The Reader,” “Life is Beautiful,” “The Pianist” and “Judgement At Nuremberg.” While telling the story of this period in history from vastly different perspectives, these films captivate and move audiences, bringing us to tears, outrage, or both. Whether opening new generations’ eyes to the depravity of humankind or teaching valuable lessons about love and hate, these films simultaneously horrify and leave viewers hopeful of a better future.