Museum Preserves Hundreds Of Hours Of Interviews With Holocaust Survivors

Jan 3, 2017

A critical resource is now available for filmmakers and researchers of the Holocaust: hundreds of hours of survivor interview footage from the 1970’s and 80’s.

French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s landmark Holocaust documentary Shoah came out in 1985. He spent 12 years and a heap of film to create the 9 1/2 hour motion picture.

Two hundred twenty hours of film, to be exact. Stacks and stacks of reels in canisters.

Filmmaker Claude Lanzmann.
Credit U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Now, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has spent more than $1 million to preserve and digitize the reels.

The footage forms the basis for filmmaker Adam Benzine’s Oscar-nominated documentary Spectres of the Shoah.

“One of the things that’s quite remarkable about that footage is that it shows Holocaust survivors as quite young people,” said Benzine. “You know, we have this idea in our minds now of Holocaust survivors as very old people in their 80s, 90s, 100s, with white hair. But it’s remarkable to see people who are in their 40s and 50s. And they’re still working and they still have jobs, you know. Life continues.”

About 70 percent of Lanzmann’s footage has been preserved by the museum. It’s now available for research and freely accessible on the internet.

Three public screenings of Adam Benzine’s HBO documentary Spectre of the Shoah take place Tuesday and Wednesday in Palm Beach County. They feature a discussion with Benzine and are free to attend.

For more information on the Palm Beach County screenings, visit: https://www.ushmm.org/online/calendar/

Claude Lanzmann’s archival footage can be found on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website.