A powerful new documentary about the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the efforts made by Allied cameramen to film the horrors encountered there opens in cinemas this weekend.
Using archive footage and eyewitness testimonies, Night Will Fall tells the story of the filming of the camps by photographers from the British, American and Soviet forces. Narrated by actress Helena Bonham Carter, the film explores how a team of top cameramen came together in 1945 to make a documentary about the horrific discoveries that had been made in the camps as a way of providing undeniable evidence of the Nazis’ crimes.
The project was masterminded by Sidney Bernstein, founder of Granada TV, who enlisted his friend Alfred Hitchcock to help edit it. But despite initial support from the British and US governments, the film was never finished. Today, 70 years on, after being rediscovered in the 1980s, it has been restored and completed by Imperial War Museums.
Acclaimed filmmaker André Singer, who chronicles the untold story of the film’s history and the fate of Bernstein’s project, said: “It has been an enormous privilege to talk to the soldiers who first entered the camps, the cameramen who filmed, the editors who viewed the footage, and the victims who suffered there and who were recorded on film in the first, unbelievable moments when rescue finally came.”
Among the survivors, liberators and others who talk about their experiences in new and archive interviews are Branko Lustig, producer of Schindler’s List. who survived incarceration in Auschwitz.
Other speakers are renowned cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a surviving member of the Women’s Orchestra in Auschwitz, and Lt. Col. Leonard Berney, one of the first British soldiers to enter Bergen-Belsen. There are also reminiscences by Sergeant Mike Lewis, a combat cameraman with the Army Film and Photographic Unit, and film editor John Krish, who saw some of the shocking raw footage of Dachau when it first arrived in London.
In another segment, Sidney Bernstein describes the evolution of his film project, and David Dimbleby talks about his father, Richard, a legendary figure of public broadcasting, who recorded a now-famous on-site report from Bergen-Belsen.
• Night Will Fall, made with the support of the British Film Institute, opens on 19 September in cinemas nationwide