Memory of the Camps (1985): The Holocaust Documentary that Traumatized Alfred Hitchcock, and Remained Unseen for 40 Years

You may have heard the news that the world will soon see “Alfred Hitchcock’s unseen Holocaust documentary.” That intriguing sounding announcement belies a more complicated reality. This new, restored film draws on footage shot by the British Army Film Unit in Nazi concentration camps in 1945, which was actually released in the mid-80s, in a film called Memory of the CampsThis first version, which you can watch above, took nearly forty years to reach the public, when it was finally released in 1984, first at the Berlin Film Festival, then on PBS. Until that time, the original footage sat unused in storage at the Imperial War Museum, consigned there after the Allied military government decided that such publicity for Nazi atrocities wouldn’t get Germany reconstructed any faster. How, right in the aftermath of the Second World War, might we have reacted to its hauntingly revealing coverage of Bergen-Belsen?

According to the Independent, a screening of Memory of the Camps‘ material left even Alfred Hitchcock, certainly no stranger to death and malevolence, “so traumatised that he stayed away from Pinewood Studios for a week.” He’d shown up there in the first place as an advisor, and in that capacity offered director Sidney Bernstein advice on how, visually, to place these shocking revelations in a recognizable geographical and human context. “He took a circle round each concentration camp as it were on a map, different villages, different places and the numbers of people,” Bernstein remembers. “Otherwise you could show a concentration camp, as you see them now, and it could be anywhere, miles away from humanity. He brought that into the film.” For more on Memory of the Camps and its upcoming successor, a remastered version with a “lost” sixth reel restored, see also Richard Brody’s related New Yorker post.

Memory of the Camps and other wartime films appears in our collection of 700 Free Movies Online.

Related Content:

Watch World War II Rage Across Europe in a 7 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1939 to 1945

Did Hollywood Movies Studios “Collaborate” with Hitler During WW II? Historian Makes the Case

Donald Duck’s Bad Nazi Dream and Four Other Disney Propaganda Cartoons from World War II

How Alice Herz-Sommer, the Oldest Holocaust Survivor, Survived the Horrific Ordeal with Music

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Neerja says:

    Mankind’s shameful side should not be hidden. Should be seen far and wide so that such cruelty is not repeated.

  • vahid says:

    download memory of the camps

  • Linda Gorman says:

    I have studied, read, reflected on the unbelievable history of the Holocaust since I was a child in school. Despite my reading, travelling, watching the history, still comes the question – HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED? The living must bear witness or the denier or the unaware will make it happen again and again. It has done so in so many ravaged parts of the planet. Is this what man is capable of. How can it be stopped, for good and always.

  • Julir says:

    Its happening now in present day. History has not taught the world that these atrocities should never be repeated. Still Jews are persecuted. As are Christians. All in the name of Religion

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.