“Night Will Fall”: Powerful Holocaust Documentary Aired in HBO


Night Will Fall, a new and gripping documentary on the Holocaust which features raw footage, the ones taken by combat and newsreel cameramen during the liberation of the Nazis’ concentration camps, was aired on HBO Monday and Tuesday, January 26 and 27. The dates coincide with the liberation of Auschwitz’ 70th anniversary. The King of Horror Movies, Alfred Hitchcock himself, helmed the making of the original documentary way back in 1945 though it was never completed.

Night Will Fall: Back Story

Seven decades ago, the Allied troops – composed of the Russians, British and the Americans – were shocked at the barbarity they encountered when they liberated the Nazis’ concentration camps including Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and the infamous Auschwitz. Combat and newsreel cameramen were able to record these horrible atrocities.

When April 1945 rolled in, it was decided that the raw footage the cameramen were able to capture during the camps’ liberation would be converted into one Holocaust documentary. Director Alfred Hitchcock, known to have a penchant for making suspense and horror movies, was tapped as the planned documentary’s supervising director. The feature had the working title German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.

The documentary was supposed to be used as evidence against Nazi Germany and was to be shown in the country after the fall of the Third Reich.

But then, the plans changed.

The production of the documentary was shut down by the government before Hitchcock could finish it. WWII British Prime Minister Winston Churchill left his position ultimately, UK sought Germany against the Soviet Union.

In 1952, the five incomplete cuts of the six planned reels for the feature were brought to the War Imperial Museum in London along with a hundred compilation reels of unedited footage, a voice-over commentary script as well as a detailed shot list for the completed documentary.

The Birth of Night Will Fall

Hollywood director Brett Ratner has produced this “lost” Holocaust documentary of Alfred Hitchcock through his new powerful feature Night Will Fall. 

With Andre Singer as director and actress Helen Bonham Carter doing the narration, Night Will Fall recounts the making of the original German Concentration Camps Factual Survey film and how the Allied soldiers who took the raw footage during the concentration camps’ liberation were trained. It features restored raw pictures from the original.  It also shows interviews of soldiers who witnessed firsthand the liberation of these Nazi death camps as well as several Holocaust survivors including Looking Back author Mania Salinger who spent time in five Nazi concentration camps throughout WWII with the last being Berger-Belsen.


In an email interview, Night Will Fall director Andre Singer admitted that he was shocked upon seeing the original documentary from where the new feature was based. He even said that he believes he will take the images he saw in the said film to his grave.

During last moments of WWII, it was  Sidney Bernstein who came up with the idea for the film with the purpose of showing the German people the atrocities done under the Third Reich and to use it as a visual evidence for the war trials that he knew would follow after the war ended. He was the one who assembled the team for the feature. he also contacted Hitchcock, who was a good friend of his, to direct it.

Alfred Hitchcock making the script for his documentary from where Night Will Fall was based upon.
Alfred Hitchcock making the script for his documentary from where Night Will Fall was based upon.

Reports say that when the Master of Suspense first saw the raw footage taken by the soldiers from the concentration camps, he was so horrified that he stayed out of production for a week. He also did not talk about the unfinished documentary in the years after WWII ended.

The Imperial War Museum has also restored the original documentary and was screened Tuesday, January 27, at LA’s Museum of Tolerance.


Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE