In movie theaters and on television screens, recent films about the Shoah are educating wide audiences by telling compelling stories from the Holocaust more effectively than could virtually any other medium. Recognizing the potential of movies to reach large numbers of people and to spark powerful discussions among audiences, the Claims Conference began in 2010 to include films in its allocations for projects of Holocaust education, documentation and research.
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Each film highlighted below focuses on one particular aspect or story from the Holocaust, enabling viewers to connect emotionally with the victims and survivors. By learning of one family’s survival by hiding in a cave, or the triumph of a concentration camp soccer team, or the stories behind a tattooed number, even a viewer with no connection to the Holocaust will walk away with a realization that the vast numbers connected with the Shoah each represent a person, a story, a life taken away or forever changed.
“Son of Saul,” a film partially funded by the Claims Conference won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, the second-highest award at this most prestigious of venues. The unrelentingly grim film depicts the inconceivable work of the Sonderkommandos at Auschwitz, Jewish prisoners who were forced to prepare fellow Jews for the gas chambers and remove the corpses.
Lost Town uses cartoon as well as archival and documentary footage to illustrate one man’s obsessive attempt to get closer to his deceased father by uncovering the story of his family’s town of Trochenbrod. First made famous by Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything Is Illuminated,” Trochenbrod was the only all-Jewish town to ever exist outside of Palestine. Trochenbrod’s 5,000 Jews were obliterated by the Nazis, except for 33 townspeople who escaped the massacre there. This personal search triggers a resurgence of interest in the town and reconnects the few remaining survivors who hadn’t seen each other in over 60 years. Learn more about the film on our blog.
No Place on Earth shows the impossible experience of Jews who hid in two deep underground caves, uninterrupted, for longer than anyone in recorded history. For 18 months, 38 people survived by resourcefulness, will, luck and the strength of their bond.
Liga Terezin tells of the Jewish prisoners of Terezin who played soccer on improvised fields in the camp. Thousands of fellow prisoners watched the mixture of professional and amateur players and were briefly able to escape their constant realities of hunger, sickness, death and the terror of the transports east.
Numbered introduces 30 Israeli Holocaust survivors through their testimonies of persecution and focuses on four survivors who have tattoos on their arms. Many wear their numbers as a badge of honor.
Excerpt from the film’s website: “When Memory Comes is a film about the Jewish historian Saul Friedländer (1932, Prague) and his life-long quest to describe the extermination of the European Jews without losing or repressing a primary feeling of disbelief. Friedländer’s life and work is totally intertwined with the history of Europe and European Jewry. He survived World War II in a convent school in France while his parents tried to flee to Switzerland in vain and were deported and murdered in Auschwitz.”