The 12 best films about the Nazi Holocaust

The Second World War gave rise to millions of anecdotes and stories that were captured on the big screen in the form of films. In a few weeks the House of Hope arrives on the billboards, a real case that occurred in Poland after the start of the war. It was to be released this week but the “Final effect of Champions” has moved many titles of date and this has been one of the examples.

There are many titles but we have selected the 12 must-haves that you should know. Although surely you sound all or almost all…

What is your favorite film about the Holocaust?

Whether you want romance, comedy, drama, or any genre in between, these are the are best Movies to watch now.

12. The Pianist (2002)

During the WWII, acclaimed Polish musician Wladyslaw faces various struggles as he loses contact with his family. As the situation worsens, he hides in the ruins of Warsaw in order to survive.

The best role of the career of Adrien Brody, who thereafter seems not to have been recovering his pulse as a flag actor. Here he proved to be a great and took the well-deserved Oscar for his role as pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman.

Directed by the always remarkable Roman Polanski (who also won the Oscar for best direction) is one of the best biographies ever taken to the big screen, with tears and pain passing through the images.

The Pianist - The 12 best films about the Nazi Holocaust

The Pianist is an incredible film in many aspects. Roman Polanski’s account of the survival of the pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is a document about how one man can overcome the worst possible situations in a world gone completely mad around him.

The only fault one can find with the adaptation of Mr. Szpilman’s story by playwright Ronald Harwood, is the fact that we never get to know the real Wladyslaw Szpilman, the man, as some of the comments made to this forum also have indicated.

There is a very interesting point raised by the the pianist’s father who upon reading something in the paper, comments about how the Americans have forgotten them. Well, not only the Americans, but the rest of the world would not raise a finger to do anything for the people that were being imprisoned and made to live in the confined area of Warsaw. The exterminating camps will come later.

What is amazing in the film, is the frankness in which director Polanski portrays the duplicity of some Jews in the ghetto. The fact that Jews were used to control other Jews is mind boggling, but it was a fact, and it’s treated here matter of factly. Had this been made by an American director, this aspect would have never surfaced at all. Yet, Mr. Polanski and Mr. Harewood show us that all was not as noble and dignified as some other films have treated this ugly side of war.

Wladyslaw Szpilman, as played by Adrien Brody, is puzzling sometimes, in that we never get to know what’s in his mind. He’s a man intent in not dying, but he’s not a fighter. He accepts the kindness extended to him. He never offers to do anything other than keep on hiding, which is a human instinct. He will never fight side by side with the real heroes of the ghetto uprising. His role is simply to witness the battle from his vantage point in one of the safe houses across the street from where the action takes place.

Adrien Brody is an interesting actor to watch. As the pianist of the story he exudes intelligence. There is a scene where Szpilman, in one of the safe houses he is taken, discovers an upright piano. One can see the music in his head and he can’t contain himself in moving his fingers outside the closed instrument playing the glorious music from which he can only imagine what it will sound in his mind.

The supporting cast is excellent. Frank Findlay, a magnificent English actor is the father of the pianist and Maureen Lipman, another veteran of the stage, plays the mother with refined dignity.

In watching this film one can only shudder at the thought of another conflict that is currently brewing in front of our eyes. We wonder if the leaders of the different factions could be made to sit through a showing of The Pianist to make them realize that war is hell.

11. Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List (1993) One of the greatest Holocaust films of all time and recipient of seven Academy Awards, Steven Spielberg’s sweeping epic Schindler’s List follows the real-life story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 mostly Polish Jews by employing them in his factories during the Second World War. The stellar cast includes Ralph Fiennes as sadistic SS officer Amon Goeth and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant.

Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party, tries to save his Jewish employees after witnessing the persecution of Jews in Poland.

Chilling is one of the more accurate terms to use to describe this film. This is not a horror movie, it’s a snapshot of the industrialized murder that was the Holocaust, and a self-indulgent German businessman who became an unlikely hero.

Spielberg pays close attention to historical detail here, with dates, names, people, places, along with positively appalling levels of deprivation and brutality.

To the occupying Germans, the Jews are little more than untermensch (sub-human) villains that must be eradicated from all of Europe.

The 12 best films about the Nazi Holocaust Schindler's List

The ever-resourceful Schindler ingratiates himself with military leaders to win lucrative contracts to provide enamel cookware for use in field kitchens by the German army. He then finds and persuades Jewish investors to buy the plant, and then hires a Jewish accountant to run the business for him.

Schindler then hires Jews from the local Krakow ghetto as production workers due to their lower hourly cost than Gentile Poles. The Jews themselves are paid nothing, as their wages are paid directly to the SS and the Reich Economic Commission. Working there allows them to leave the ghetto daily and to engage in black market activities to secure staples such as eggs, milk, and bread.

Amidst all of the killing and depravity orchestrated by the Allgemeine (General) SS, the brutal, efficient paramilitary organization that runs the camps and ghettoes, Schindler slowly but surely begins taking pity on his employees- who would one day be referred to as Schindlerjuden (Schindler’s Jews).

This war, like all others, would eventually end, and Schindler would ultimately be responsible for saving the lives of some 1,100 Schindlerjuden, who would have otherwise faced certain death in the gas chambers at regional concentration camps.

After the war, he was named as Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem organization in Israel.

There are also some glaring historical inaccuracies from a blatantly and shamelessly antisemitic review posted by Sharda Shah, that must be addressed.

It seems that no one can either talk about (or even make a movie) about the Holocaust without some antisemitic fanatic crashing the gate, and coming in to complain about Israel, and the “poor Palestinians”.

Haj al-Husseini, the WWII-era Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a war criminal that collaborated with the notorious Waffen (Military) SS, which was as equally brutal and fanatical as its administrative parent agency, the aforementioned Allgemeine SS.

al-Husseini recruited hordes of enthusiastic Bosniak and Albanian Muslims for service in the Waffen SS 13th and 21st Mountain Divisions, which were under the overall command of the Wehrmacht’s Heersgruppe F in the Balkans, and were led by German aristocrat and war criminal Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs.

Collectively, these units had a hand in the extermination of some 800,000 Serbian Orthodox Christians, as well as 60,000 Serbian Jews.

These were hardly the only Muslims that collaborated with and committed atrocities for the Germans. In the East, there were still more units, such as 162 Turkestanisch Infanterie Division, 444 Sicherunes Division, 1st Ostmusclemanisch Regiment, and too many others to list.

Their ethnicities included Turkomen, Crimean Tartars, Azeris, Uzbeks, Chechens, Tajiks, Kazakhs, and many others from throughout the Soviet Union.

The bottom line is that Sharda Shah has little room to complain about Jews and the Holocaust when there were literally hundreds of thousands of Muslim collaborators that were active participants in it.

The number given of 150 million Indians killed by American Colonialists is another spectacular lie, as there were only 2.5 million Americans living in the original 13 states in 1776, and perhaps two to five million Indians. The U.S. population would not exceed 100 million until 1920.

As for the rest of Frau Shah’s rants, please feel free to draw your own conclusions.

10. Life is beautiful (1997)

Roberto Benigni won over everyone with this film that he decided to direct and interpret. Accompanied by his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, and the discovery of the little Giorgio Cantarini (away from acting despite having achieved one of the most iconic roles in Italian cinema in this film and having appeared in passing in Gladiator), the hyperactive Benigni hit the target and divided this film into two clearly differentiated parts. One of the essential films on this subject in any self-respecting list.

The rawness of the Holocaust from a group of Jews, in the second part of the film where the encierro takes place, is simply masterful for its mixture of tears, humor, hardness and script…

“Buongiorno principessa!”

9. Son of Saul (2015)

Opera prima by László Nemes, who captured his vision of the Holocaust from a very experimental point of view. Very authentic film that is filmed in 4/3 format (opposite the panoramic) from the eyes of a single character who is always followed by the camera (great role of Géza Röhrig as Saul himself in the title).

In addition, another turning point is that this protagonist is a Hungarian prisoner who works cleaning in a crematorium where thousands of atrocities happen. Quite tough film but also necessary.

8. The Last Train to Auschwitz (2006)

One of the darkest films of the German Joseph Vilsmaier, who directs and serves as director of photography of this story. It is not that the film tells anything that was not already known but its dialogues, sequences, actors and technical level are remarkable.

The aim was to recreate as faithfully as possible the atrocity of how the Nazis transported thousands and thousands of Jews by train to Auschwitz. Vilsmaier sought to convey the pain and claustrophobia of these human beings to their uncertain and horrible end.

7. The Counterfeiters (2007)

Austrian film that defended very well in the direction Stefan Ruzowitzky. Aside from including a dramatic theme, as expected, the film has quite a few parts of entertainment.

The film has the courage to tell how many Jews participated in the Operation known as “Bernhard”, where many archives and documents were falsified to enrich the Nazis themselves. Everything was worth in order to maintain privileges and not to fall like his comrades in the concentration camps…

6. The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

The best version of this autobiographical story and that little Anna wrote in Amsterdam in a small diary with her experiences after the arrival of the Nazis in her city. It was Millie Perkins who had the tough challenge of being Anna on screen.

George Stevens filmed the film and paid tribute in his own way to the little girl. The film won three Oscars and although there is another more recent version of 2009, also emotional, it has nothing to do with the quality of the original.

5. The Nuremberg Trial (1961)

Also known under the title Winners or losers? Stanley Kramer directed a film that should be a must-see for all history faculties dealing with the Holocaust and the end of World War II.

Only for the greatness of its cast it deserves to be seen (huge actors in the best stage of their respective careers: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich or Montgomery Clift, among many others). Honestly intoxicating and faithful recreation of what the capitulation of Germany and its direct or indirect “responsible” for the Jewish genocide meant.

4. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

John Boyne’s best seller was published in 2006 and had the virtue of reaching adults, children and all kinds of general public alike, bringing the world of the Holocaust from a child’s point of view. However, it took little time to bring the story to the cinema, due to its literary success as a phenomenon.

The film is 95% adapted to the pages of Boyne (I only remember the omission of a chapter, which to me seemed quite juicy, where a dinner takes place with Hitler himself and the boy’s father). Mark Herman directed little Asa Butterfield as the protagonist. It is recommended to read the book first, which reaches something more inside.

3. Destiny (2005)

Hungarian writer Imre Kertész, who died in 2016 and is the Nobel Prize winner for Literature, told his story in first person in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchhenwald.

How he survived there thanks to luck and ingenuity is something to discover in this Hungarian film shot by his compatriot Lajos Koltai, who had worked as a cinematographer to date. A very tough story and good film quite faithfully adapted if you want to know a little more about this subject.

2. The Black Book (2006)

One day someone will explain to us why the cinema of the Dutchman Paul Verhoeven is often mistreated or vilified by many critics. The director of works such as Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, the original Robocop and Total Challenge or the more recent Elle, sometimes had to deal with the controversy. In the Black Book (its original title is Zwartboek) he gave the opportunity to shine to actress Carice van Houten.

Intrigues, thefts of secrets, seduction and sex in the middle of a controlling Nazi regime that will see how a beautiful Jewish of Dutch origin can break their schemes.

1. The Gray Zone (2001)

From the autobiography of the jewish doctor Miklos Nyiszli, entitled Auschwitz: a doctor’s eyewitness account, the film aims to give an air of documentary and realistic to the activities of the Sonderkommandos (jews who helped, forced by the nazis, to coordinate the death of other jews, to those who sent to the gas chamber).

Brutally shot, there is an excellent cast with Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and David Arquette at the head as more recognizable faces.

FINAL COMPLEMENT: Another small group of films that are also recommended, although less focused as such on the Holocaust but on tangential themes of Nazism and World War II in general or Hitler in particular are The tin Drum (1979), Resistance (2008), The Great Dictator (1940) or The Sinking (2004). Don’t miss them!

Source: 1, 2, 3, 4


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