Night Will Fall

Synopsis: During the April of 1945, in Germany, the World War II was drawing to a close, with the Allied Forces moving towards Berlin. Among their ranks were also soldiers that were newly trained as combat cameramen with the sole duty to document the gruesome scenes behind the recently liberated Nazi concentration camps on behalf of the British Government. The 1945 documentary was named "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey" and it was produced by Sidney Bernstein with the participation of Alfred Hitchcock. For nearly seven decades, the film was shelved in the British archives, abandoned without a public screening for either political reasons or shifted Government priorities, to be ultimately completed by a team of historians and film scholars of the British Imperial War Museum, who meticulously restored the original footage. Intertwined with interviews of both survivors and liberators, as well as short newsreel films and raw footage from the original film, the 2014 documentary chronicles t
Director(s): Andre Singer
Production: Spring Films Ltd.
  7 wins & 13 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
75 min

With World War II

in Europe drawing to a close,

the 3 Allied armies,

British, Soviet and American,

began their move towards Berlin.

Among their ranks

were soldiers newly trained

as cameramen.

In April 1945,

an advancing British unit

halted by the River Aller,

Northern Germany.

As events unfolded,

they were recorded

by the army camera crews.

I think it was

about the 12th of April.

Apparently two German

officers approached

our front line

with a white flag,

asking to speak to our General,

and they were ushered through,

blindfolded actually,

and taken to our corps


where I happened to be,

and they had a message

from their General.

The message was that we

were approaching or probably

going to approach a large

civilian prison camp

where typhus had broken out,

and their General wanted to

send a message to say

that he didn't think

it was a good idea if we

fought through that camp

because those inmates

with typhus would get loose

and would get

amongst the civilian population

and the German army

and the British army.

They pulled us out up a track,

and we had to hoist

a white flag of truce.

This is... out of nowhere,

this has happened.

We were sent

under the flag of truce

miles behind enemy lines.

The Germans, in fairness

to them, on the roads,

they all got off the road,

and they were all armed

on the side of the roads

as we were driving through.

The more I think about it now,

I'm amazed that none

of us opened fire,

but in fairness to the Germans,

not one of them fired,

and not one of us fired either.

The British

camera crews continued to film.

Their footage was to become part

of an extraordinary

documentary produced

for the allies

by Sidney Bernstein

with a team that included

the director Alfred Hitchcock.

This film, called "German

Concentration Camps Factual Survey,"

has been described

as a forgotten masterpiece

of British documentary cinema,

yet it was abandoned

unfinished until now,

70 years later.

In the spring of 1945,

the allies advancing

into the heart on Germany

came to Bergen-Belsen.

Neat and tidy orchards,

well-stocked farms lined

the wayside,

and the British soldier

did not fail to admire

the place and its inhabitants

at least, until he began

to feel a smell.

Then dawn came up,

and then we could see

where the stench

was coming from.

I think one of the first

things we did was to line up

all the SS men and women

and took them...

made them prisoners

of war basically.

The SS were still there.

Josef Kramer was still there,

the camp commandant.

I looked at the tower,

and the and the tower was empty,

and there was always

a German there

with a shotgun

or... or with whatever he had.

And I started screaming,

"The Germans are gone.

I don't see any Germans!"

And some girls ran with me,

and we made it to the gate,

and I am behind

a barbed wire fence

to witness the first

British troop entering the camp.

We had

a loudspeaker van with us.

We'd entered the camp

to see what we could see,

and of course,

what we could see was

a complete utter shock,

and... and, um,

I'll never forget it.

Through a loudspeaker

in different languages,

they said, "Be calm,

be calm, be calm.

"Stay where you are.

Be calm.

"Help is on the way.

"We're the British soldiers.

Help is on the way."

And people went just crazy.

It was an unbelievable moment.

Suddenly you hear

English spoken,

and, you know,

we should remain calm,

don't leave the camp,

help is on the way,

you know, that sort of thing.

Ja. It's... it's very

difficult to describe.

It was... you know, you

spent years preparing

yourself to die, and suddenly,

you're still here, you know.

I was 19 when

the liberation came,

and, I mean, it was

very difficult

to actually take on board.

We thought we were

dreaming really,

and every British soldier

looked like a god to us.

Ja. Well, it was...

it was not what we expected,

to still be alive,

but there we were.

We didn't know what

we were going to go into.

We were sent...

um, and then we drove...

excuse me.

Sorry about this.

Too painful.

Dead prisoners hurled out

and stacked in twisted heaps.

Dead women like

marble statues in the mire.

This was what these inmates

had to live among

and die among.

The dead which lay there

were not numbered

in hundreds but in thousands.

Not one or two thousands

but 30,000.

We drove in and saw

a sight that shook us

as nothing, even the sights

of war had ever, ever,

ever shaken us before.

It was pain to look at it,

pain that this could

happen to people.

There were hundreds

and hundreds of dead bodies

sort of piled up.

There were... there was

a stench of death everywhere.

There was pits containing

bodies of people as large

as lawn tennis courts,

containing babies, girls,

youths, men, women, old, young,

and how deep we didn't know.

These half-dead people

walking about,

glazed eyes and...



There was hopelessness.

The stare, the appalling smell,

the whole atmosphere

of depression

Like the end had come.

The... the bodies, you...

you lost contact,

and reality went...

they were dummies,

they were dolls, they were...

I don't know whether you...

we ourselves withdrew

into another space,

time, existence,

but you could never

associate what you were seeing

with your own life,

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Lynette Singer

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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