A “lost” 1945 documentary on the Holocaust using harrowing footage of the death camps shot by British and Soviet film units is to be released late this year just ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, according to the British newspaper The Independent.
The film, “Memory of the Camps,” by famed filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock was never released in part because it took too long to complete and because the Allied governments feared that the gruesome footage – primarily of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after its liberation in northwest Germany — would hurt chances for postwar reconstruction, according to The Independent.
The Independent reports that the film’s release is expected to spark debate about the necessity of including such graphic pictures – images that are so explicit that they sickened Hitchcock when he first saw them. He reportedly was so distressed and traumatized by what he saw that he had to take off a week before continuing with the project.
Hitchcock, who worked on the film along with his friend and patron Sidney Bernstein, wanted to document Nazis war atrocities. His finished product includes what is described as truly shocking images. There are such pictures as naked bodies being stacked into mass graves, The Independent said.
But after the project was canceled, the completed film was shelved and left to sit in storage in London’s Imperial War Museum. It was discovered the 1980s by an American researcher. But he could only find five of the six rusty cans in which the film had been stored. Those reels were shown in the Berlin Film Festival in 1984 and broadcast on PBS in 1985 under the original title, “Memory of the Camps,” according to The Independent.
But the film’s quality had deteriorated over time and for the 70th anniversary release, it was decided to use digital technology to restore the film. In addition, it contains material from the missing sixth reel. Although actor Trevor Howard’s voice has been removed from this version, a contemporary actor mouths the original words of the script – including one scene in which he speaks of “sightseers” and a “chamber of horrors.”