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Film Depicting French Apathy Toward Nazi Occupation and Deportation of Jews Shown for First Time on

October 29, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

French State Television is showing tonight, for the first time, a 12-year-old film “The Sorrow And The Pity” which describes the average Frenchman’s reaction, or as many say “lack of reaction” to the Nazi occupation of France and the deportation of most of the country’s Jews.

Though the film was shot in 1969 by top European director Max Ophuls, France’s three television channels refused to show it and most country-wide distributors banned it from mass audience cinemas. One of the first decisions of the new television management, appointed after last May’s Socialist victory, was to acquire the film for national programming in prime time.

The 4-hour film, to be shown tonight and tomorrow, describes with the help of war-time news reels, France’s disinterest in the Nazi occupation and its consequences. The movie-makers interviewed over a dozen survivors, including former Premier Pierre Mendes-France, on their war-time experience in France. Most deplore the lack of solidarity shown by their compatriots.

The film, purchased for a reported $300,000, was repeatedly turned down by the State Television’s former management so as “not to open old wounds” and fan anew old passions, quarrels and accusations. But practically all of France’s press now welcomes the showing as “a lesson of past history”.

Le Monde in a front page article, summed up the general feeling: “In many homes tonight, after the film, parents and grandparents will have to give a detailed account of their former actions or lack of them, their children and grandchildren will want to know and skeletons will emerge from formerly well shut closets.”

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