Night Will Fall…

by Dorothea

“Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall”


“Night Will Fall” is the title of a stunning documentary about a documentary. It shows film footage shot by British and American Army cameramen of the horror of the Nazi concentration camps that was intended to be used for a 1945 documentary called “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey”.

CameraArmy camera man – 1945

On the first day of Passover, April 4, 1945, the first Nazi concentration camp Ohrdruf was liberated by the U.S. Army. Ohrdruf was part of the Buchenwald concentration camp network.

EisenhowerGeneral Dwight Eisenhower tours Ohrdruf concentration camp

Amid the rapidly shifting politics of postwar Europe, however, with America and Britain confronting Soviet expansionism and suddenly interested in raising German morale, work on “Factual Survey” was abruptly halted. The finished reels, storyboards and scripts would sit in British archives for more than 60 years, until the Imperial War Museums began a restoration project in 2010, following the script and director’s notes by Alfred Hitchcock. The documentary “Night Will Fall” tells this history based on much of this unused footage.

HitchcockAlfred Hitchcock

It was the genius of producer Sidney Bernstein and director Alfred Hitchcock, who was brought in to assist in the direction, that called for the kind of long, unbroken panning shots – some with recognizable officials and trusted figures – that would be impossible to accuse of exaggeration or fakery.  Military officials were convinced that the world would not be able to believe what happened in these places unless they saw it with their own eyes – and in prophetic anticipation of later deniers.

ShotWide shot of civilians, along with former camp staff, stand along a mass grave – April 25, 1945 – photograph courtesy of the Imperial war Museum

Bernstein and Hitchcock also sought to contextualize the horror, with maps that revealed the proximity of camps to villages and towns. They insisted on long shots and tracking shots to establish the sheer scope of the crime.

mapcampsMap showing how close Dachau was to Munich

“Night Will Fall” is directed by André Singer and can be streamed online on different channels, depending where you live. I also recommend to read The Guardian review (click on link) or the New York Times review (click on link).