The Holocaust was a dark period in human history when Jews were ruthlessly killed by the Nazis for racial cleansing. Since then, humanity has struggled to understand what happened, how this brutality was organized, endured, and executed. Here are a few films based on the Holocaust that give valuable insight into the experiences of the time:
This is Stephen Spielberg’s masterpiece that cannot be avoided in a list of Holocaust movies. It is the story of Schindler, who is part of the Nazi party and a factory owner himself. After being traumatized by the execution of Jews in Poland, he decides to save the Jewish workers in his own factory from Nazi brutality. The film is a shattering account of how people struggled and preserved themselves during those times. It is also a hopeful depiction of the warmth of the human heart, which goes beyond all agendas sometimes.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
This is a heart-warming take on the Holocaust told through the eyes of two little boys. The protagonist, an 8-year-old, is the son of one of the commanders at a concentration camp. He forms a friendship with a Jewish boy from the camp and the two begin a friendship from across the fence. The film is packed with moments of truth and density that move the viewer. We come across scenes which shame us as adults because it shows how much more human kids are, and how much we all must learn from their innocence.
This is the story of a Jewish pianist who struggles to keep himself alive during the Holocaust. Director Roman Polansky delivers a classic film that opens up the brutal realities of a monstrous time in history. He also contrasts it with classical music which makes the film devastatingly beautiful. It is an atmospheric film that is hard to accept owing to its commitment to the truth of the times. The film is to date, one of the most intense on-screen portrayals of the Holocaust. The music though beautiful renders a cathartic feel to the story, which makes it all the more haunting.
Life is Beautiful
This is a warm, hopeful take on the horrible times of the Holocaust. It is the story of a Jewish-Italian bookshop owner who uses books and literature to free his young son’s mind from the cruel thoughts of the Holocaust. The film showcases a very moving bond between the due, which is an attempt to humanize young kids into imagining a world that can be better for everyone. The film, though set against tragedy, has beautiful moments of tenderness which is what makes it a timeless watch. The capability of human beings for kindness against all odds is depicted so relatable in the story that it is bound to make you feel good even though you are watching a film on the Holocaust.
This is the story of a Polish immigrant who lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend. She is trying to navigate life but is deeply haunted by her childhood memories of having survived the Holocaust. It is a difficult thing to go through as a child and experiences like this last a lifetime. The story focuses on how she deals with these demons and tries her best to not let them take her present or future away from her. The film is yet another hopeful take on the Holocaust which gives emphasis on the healing capacity of human will.
Divided We Fall
This is a Czechoslovakian film about a couple who live in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. They hide a Jewish friend at their place at great personal risk. What follows is a documentation of how humanity is threatened at the hands of the politics of the time. This is a personal story of these three characters through which the Holocaust is depicted and critiqued. It is a very engaging, intense take on how relationships change and grow even in the face of extreme personal loss.
The Diary of Anne Frank
This is the cinematic representation of the disturbing accounts from the diary of a young Jewish girl who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family hid in an attic to preserve their lives and the film takes us through her observations, emotions, and conflicts during that time. She undergoes traumatic events that children of her age seldom survive. Yet, she shows incredible resilience and uses her diary as a means to make sense of her life. Fear, isolation, and uncertainty all take shape in this story of distress told convincingly from the perspective of a child.
This is the story of a Jewish man who witnesses his family being tortured and killed in a concentration camp. He is left to live a life of hopelessness, despair and absolute guilt of not having done enough to save his loved ones. This is one of the darker films made about the Holocaust. It captures the real horrors that an individual experiences on the face of such extreme tragedy. It also shows us how hard it is to fight our own minds and stay alive.
This is a story of adventure. It follows a young Jewish boy who escaped execution at the Holocaust by pretending to be an elite German child. The boy figures out the ways in which he can forge his identity and uses it to save himself from the impending horrors of the concentration camp. This is a story of the survival instinct and presence of mind told from the exciting point of view of a child. The film was well received and won a Golden Globe for its depiction of hope, and the power of the human will.
This is perhaps one of the most iconic Holocaust films ever made. Kate Winslet plays the lead as a Nazi camp guard who is under trial. A young boy observing the trial learns that she is the older woman he once had an affair with. What follows is the unfolding of a relationship between the two of them where he discovers more layers to her than he had known. She holds a secret which he figures out in the end, and through this relationship, the film reflects on themes of human guilt, fragility, and the erratic ways in which we act when faced with moral conflicts.