André Singer’s Night Will Fall, a documentary about the Allied liberation of Nazi concentration camps, is a weighty reminder of an awful past which even today some people still either deny or belittle as propaganda.
In 1945 the British Ministry of Information sought to prove conclusively to the public that the Holocaust was real, making use of British, American and Russian footage. Media baron Sidney Bernstein, later the founder of Granada Television, commissioned the film and used none other than Alfred Hitchcock as an adviser.
Yet despite initial support from the British and American governments the footage was shelved. Only now, restored and completed by the Imperial War Museum, can it be seen in full.
The intervening 70 years have shown that, though the concentration camps were one of the world’s most horrifying examples of man’s inhumanity, there have been many appalling massacres since then, some of them recorded on film. But this documentary is one of the most eloquent and clear-sighted examinations of genocide.
The footage from the camps is, of course, nightmarish. The failure of the authorities to release the film is also discussed and, along with archive material and eyewitness testimonies, forms an integral part of the production.
Narration would have been unthinkable in those days but Helena Bonham Carter’s works well now and the final film stands as a warning that the world at large has failed to learn its lesson from history.