This is the story of a film that was never finished. A rough cut, stored in Germany’s Federal Film Archive, is all that remains. It is the longest film that the Nazi’s propaganda team ever filmed in the Warsaw ghetto. Filmed shortly before the deportation of the ghetto’s inhabitants, it contains elaborately dramatised scenes describing the allegedly luxurious lives of Jews in the ghetto which are juxtaposed with shots of hunger, death and the suffering of other inhabitants. It is not known why this propaganda film was made, or who was meant to see it. Some of this film material turned up as ‘archive footage’ after the war in documentaries about the Warsaw ghetto. For her film, Yael Hersonski has conducted interviews with people who remember the filming of this propaganda film; she has also sought, and found, diaries written by ghetto inhabitants, and even discovered the records of the film cameraman’s interrogation. All these testimonials provide evidence of the cynicism with which the film was made. But they also call into question the uncritical use of such images.
Yael Hersonski: “More than other forms of witnessing such as oral testimony and written documents, images, by nature, remain open to interpretation and are capable of conveying much more than people are able or willing to see. Archival footage of the Holocaust marks the beginning of the systematic cinematic documentation of war crimes. After the world had visually witnessed something of the catastrophe, the images were no longer what they had been before. Something had changed, a certain human shield was removed, and slowly, the veil of numbness that had obscured the inconceivable and concealed its true horror was lifted.”