The Truth about World War II

October 18, 2007

To conclude our survey of documentaries, we studied a bunch of films made during or about World War II. First was Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl. She had made a few fiction films in Germany and impressed an up and coming political figure named Adolf Hitler, so he hired her to make a documentary about the Nazi party’s convention in 1933. By this time Hitler had been elected chancellor and things were looking up for the German people. He was quite the public speaker and seemed to be leading them up out of poverty, building the labour force and boosting the economy. Little did they know.

Next we saw what Walt Disney was doing at the time to promote the war in America. He made an animated documentary called Victory by Air to convince the government to build up the air force.

Finally we saw one of the most difficult films ever made. Night and Fog, made by Alain Resnais in 1955 is composed of footage they found in germany shot by the nazi soldiers inside the concentration camps, combined with color footage of the ruins of the camps shot by Resnais in ’55. The narration was written by Jean Cayrol who was imprisoned in a concentration camp. The footage of what went on inside the camps is horrifying and infuriating, but stands as a testimony and reminder of what can happen when a majority of a country’s citizens can’t be bothered to stand up for what’s right. Even though by the 40’s most germans didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing, very few had the courage to say “No, I won’t be a part of this.” Instead, as we see in the film, everyone gives the same answer: “I’m not responsible.” “I’m not responsible.” “I’m not responsible.”

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