In the mid-1940s, newsreel footage of the Allied liberation of Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and Buchenwald horrified viewers across the world. The images of human devastation at Nazi concentration camps crystallized reigning negative opinions of Germany. But one unseen film featuring Belsen boasted a surprising adviser: the King of Horror himself, Alfred Hitchcock.
Made in 1945, Memory of the Camps intended to shock German viewers into recognizing their country’s crimes. Hitchcock –who released the Allied propaganda film Bon Voyage a year earlier—consulted on the editing of the six-reel film, but was so disturbed by what he saw that he took a leave of absence from the studio. As the war drew to a close, the Allies felt that its sensitive content would disturb the audience more than it educated them, and chose to shelve the project. After an American discovered the reels decades later, a poor quality version aired in the 1980s, but the final reel was missing.
Now the film has been restored and will be released in its intended form for the first time. We’ll never know exactly how much of Hitchcock’s vision went into the film, but we imagine that his concept of “horror” was forever altered.
See Memory of the Camps: