Thirteen Movies About the Holocaust

scholl movie

I’ve seen a lot of movies and documentaries about the Holocaust or with themes related to the Holocaust and totalitarianism.  Of the films I’ve seen, these are the thirteen that stayed with me.  Please note that these movies have adult themes; they may not be suitable for children or teens.

  1. American History X (1998): Searing movie about neo-Nazis and the power of hate.  Violent scenes for mature audiences only.
  2. Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001): Excellent dramatization of Anne Frank’s life, to include the tragic end at Bergen-Belsen.
  3. For My Father (2008): A movie about Palestinians, Israelis, and suicide bombers, but also a movie about the difficulties of confronting and overcoming prejudice.
  4. Hotel Rwanda (2004): The genocide in Rwanda, and how one brave man made a difference.
  5. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961): Powerful indictment of Nazi war criminals after World War II. 
  6. Katyn (2007): A reminder that the Nazis weren’t the only mass murderers in World War II.
  7. The Last Days (1998): Incredibly moving documentary that explores the fate of Hungarian Jews.  Highly recommended.
  8. Life Is Beautiful (1997): It’s hard to believe that a comedy could be made about the Holocaust.  But I think this movie works precisely because the main character is so resourceful and full of life.
  9. The Lives of Others (2006): Astonishing movie about life under a totalitarian regime (East Germany).  A “must see” to understand how people can be controlled and cowed and coerced, but also how some find ways to resist.
  10. Lore (2012): Movie about a German teenager who has to survive in the chaos of 1945 as the Third Reich comes crashing down.  Various small scenes show the hold that Hitler had over the German people, and the reluctance of many Germans to believe that the Holocaust occurred and that Hitler had ordered it.
  11. Sarah’s Key (2010): Heart-wrenching movie about the roundup of Jews in France, which reminds us that the Nazis had plenty of helpers and collaborators.
  12. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005): Inspiring movie about Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany.  The Scholls were college students who took a courageous stand against the Nazis.  Executed as traitors in 1943, they are now celebrated as heroes in Germany. 
  13. The Wave (2008): Compelling movie about the allure of fascism and “the Fuhrer (leader) principle.”  Highly recommended, especially if you want to know how Hitler got so many young people to follow him.

W.J. Astore

3 thoughts on “Thirteen Movies About the Holocaust

  1. I have to say the absence of Alain Resnais’s “Night & Fog” from this list is a glaring omission. Showing hardly any photos of emaciated camp inmates, this documentary nevertheless conveys the magnitude of the Nazi death machine’s “productivity.” I am currently reading EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM (yes, I’m “slightly” behind in my reading!). I was amazed that, according to Ms. Arendt, the Italians refrained from interning Jews as much as possible; they only were in deep trouble when the Italian regime fell and Germany invaded. Mussolini was a Fascist bastard, to be sure, but not infected with Hitler’s virulent, pathological Jew-hatred, per this remarkable book.

    • Greg.. The German Wehrmacht was in Italy right from the beginning. They were in Sicily by late 1941 and their Luftwaffe and ground forces were very active in that battle defending their African flank. Hitler put pressure on Mussolini to deal with the “Jewish problem” from the beginning. After the Allied landings on the mainland and the slow German retreat across the Italian peninsula they pushed the Italian Fascists into destroying as many Jews as possible. A good book to read about the air war over Sicily is Doorknob 52, by P-38 fighter pilot Fred Arnold.
      This same scenario played out as they retreated across Hungary and pushed the Hungarian fascists in a “final solution” for the Hungarian Jews. My Aunt and two very young nephews were murdered in Auschwitz in this program by the more than complicit Hungarian anti Semites which virtually eliminated Hungarian Jewry within three months. Book suggestion ” The Fall by Imre Kertesz

    • HI Greg: I teach a course on the Holocaust, during which I show “Night and Fog.” It is a powerful documentary. with harrowing images. Yet interestingly it doesn’t specify that the Jews were the primary target of the Nazis and their death camps. I also show some scenes from “The Sorrow and the Pity,” another great documentary.

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