January 30, 2015 6:45 PM

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I have been wanting to write about Night Will Fall, aired last week on HBO. It's a documentary about a documentary. The original, produced by Sidney Bernstein for the British Psychological Warfare Division in 1945, had the working title, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey--a purposefully non-dramatic title. It was never finished or released, for what might seem to be largely cynical political reasons. It was based on a compilation of footage shot by mostly British and American soldiers present at the liberation of several of the Nazi death camps. It was made because military officials were convinced that the world would not be able to believe what happened in these places unless they saw it with their own eyes--and in prophetic anticipation of later deniers. It was the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, who was brought in to assist in the direction, that called for the kind of long, unbroken panning shots--some with recognizable officials and trusted figures--that would be impossible to accuse of exaggeration or fakery.

Much of the footage is familiar: the haggard faces and the skeletal bodies of survivors, the piles of naked bodies stacked up like cord wood, the long trenches filled with the remains of the thousands who died, the camp guards, male and female, and the SS officers and men forced to engage in the dis...

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