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The cinematic engagement with the Holocaust has formed a key concern of our work since the very foundation of our association in 1963, then called Friends of the German Cinematheque. This is still apparent to this day, whether in our cinema program, that of the Berlinale Forum we organize, or in our arsenal distribution portfolio. One of the most prominent events at the 1986 Forum was thus the German premiere of Claude Lanzmann’s SHOAH at the Delphi-Filmpalast, a film that has since formed part of our distribution range. Additional films on the same theme shown at the Forum and subsequently added to our film archive include DIE FEUERPROBE by Erwin Leiser, HA’MAKAH HA’SHMONIM VE’AHAT (The 81st Blow) by David Bergman et al, and Lanzmann’s SOBIBOR, 14 OCTOBRE 1943, 16 HEURES. These special audiovisual documents of their times are in danger of fading into obscurity. On the one hand, the film print stock is under threat from both decay and wear and tear, while the media shift of recent years on the other means that there are fewer and fewer places capable of screening analogue films. In order to ensure this form of cinematic remembrance also remains accessible for coming generations, a selection of around 50 titles from our film collection has been put together, ten of which were digitalized or, if already available in digital form, acquired for digital projection. The selection includes both well-known films as well as those that have received less attention or been undeservedly forgotten. The entire selection of films is available for rental to cinemas.

A catalogue of all thematically relevant works from our collection is available to present and contextualize the films in question. It has been published in cooperation with Christian Pischel’s seminar at the Department of Film Studies at the FU Berlin to present and contextualize the films.

In January and October 2015 a comprehensive film series including introductions, Q&As, and discussions took place at the Arsenal cinema. The focus was on questions of memory, archives, and public spheres. Two films from the programme were presented as part of the Berlinale Forum programme in the same year: HA'MAKAH HA'SHMONIM VE'AHAT (THE 81ST BLOW) by David Bergman, Haim Gouri, Jacques Ehrlich, Miriam Novitch and Zvi Shner (Israel 1977) as well as ME'KIVUN HA'YAAR (OUT OF THE FOREST) by Limor Pinhasov Ben Yosef and Yaron Kaftoroi Ben Yosef (Israel 2003). Both films had received their German premieres as part of the Forum.

The project "Asynchronous. Documentaries and Experimental Films on the Holocaust. From the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art e.V. Collection" was funded by the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin.

Digital available films

Ten of the films were digitized or, if already available in digital form, acquired for digital projection in the course of the project so future generations can watch them. The films are available for distribution as DCPs and some also on Blu-ray. The films are:

Irene Angelico, Abbey Neidik, Canada 1985, 82 mins

The filmmaker, whose parents survived the Vilna Ghetto, talks to other children of survivors in Canada and Israel. What influence did the persecution of their parents have on their own lives? In Germany, the director meets the children of perpetrators who talk about discovering about their parents' crimes and how they deal with their own guilt.

Paul Rosdy, Austria 2011, 94 mins. 

Alfred Schreyer tells the story of his family - over a century of tragedy and will to live. The 90-year-old was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. In 1945, he returned to his hometown.

David Bergman, Jacques Ehrlich, Haim Gouri, Miriam Novitch, Zvi Shner, Israel 1975, 115 mins

As a child in the Przemysl ghetto, a German soldier gave Michael Goldmann-Gilad 80 lashes that almost killed him. He later moved to Israel where nobody believed him and this felt to him like the 81st blow. Without commentary, the filmmakers combine little-known archive material of witness statements at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem to provide meticulous burden of proof. They tell of Jewish life in Europe, of Hitler’s rise to power, of the outbreak of war, of the Warsaw Ghetto, the uprising there, and its subsequent liquidation, and finally of deportations and extermination camps.

Tsipi Reibenbach, Israel 1993, 118 min
"Why did you allow yourself to be taken from one camp to the next? Why didn’t you do anything?” Reibenbach wants to understand her parents, who both survived the Holocaust. While she observes their ritualized daily life in an Israeli residential complex, the father talks about life in the ghetto and the camps and the mother silently cooks and cleans.

Limor Pinhasov Ben Yosef, Yaron Kaftori Ben Yosef, Israel 2003, 94 mins 

Between 1941 and 1944, more than one hundred thousand people, most of them Jewish, were shot in Ponary, a village near Vilnius. The film compares the memories of survivors with those of villagers - Poles and Lithuanians - and shows how differently the terrible events were perceived.

Josh Waletzky, USA 1986, 130 min
This is the first documentary to chronicle the endeavors of the Jewish resistance fighters, who courageously staged a sabotage offensive against the Nazi army in Vilna and the nearby forests. The film skillfully blends songs, newsreels and rare archival footage dating from 1939-44 and contemporary interviews with 40 partisan survivors (including Abba Kovner, a founder of the partisan movement and one of Israel's leading poets)

Claude Lanzmann, France 1974-1985, 566 mins, DCP only
A cinematic examination of the Holocaust is also one about how to portray the unportrayable. Shoah, radical to this date and strict in terms of form, was Lanzmann's first extraordinary contribution to this debate. He spoke to the witnesses of the mass murder in extermination camps and to the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, with perpetrators, observers, and survivors of the sonderkommandos. He juxtaposed the interviews with shots of the locations where the crimes were committed.

Claude Lanzmann, France 2001, 100 mins 

"Sobibor, 14th October 1943, 16.00" denotes where and when the only successful armed uprising to take place in a Nazi extermination camp began. With images of what has now become a memorial site in the background, Yehuda Lerner answers Lanzmann’s questions in clear and simple words about his life as a 16-year-old forced laborer in the camp and his participation in the uprising.

Margareta Heinrich, Eduard Erne, Austria, Germany, Netherlands 1994, 88 mins
Ten days before the Red Army arrived, a massacre occurred outside the village of Rechnitz in Austria. Notables and SS officers are suspected of having murdered almost 200 Jewish forced laborers during a party at a local castle. The circumstances remain unclear to this day and historians have differed over exactly happened.

Debbie Goodstein, USA 1988, 60 mins
The filmmaker travels with five cousins and her aunt to Poland to see the attic where her parents and other relatives hid from Nazi persecution for two years. These two years have left their trace on the psyche of the younger generations – in the form of a collective trauma. 

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
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