In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 28th), we wanted to share a part of our interview with Mark Harris. He’s the author of Five Came Back, a book about five Hollywood filmmakers and their pivotal role in documenting World War II.
Director George Stevens filmed at the concentration camp Dachau. Faced with the horrific sight of skeletal bodies, crematoria, and immense suffering, Harris says, “he was no longer interested in making a documentary, what he was doing and what he knew he was doing from the first hour that he was there was gathering evidence.” Harris explains how later this footage was used:
"The footage that he shot proved to be extraordinarily important in the Nuremberg Trials, where it was compiled into two evidentiary movies, one of which was specifically designed to show Nazi atrocities and the other of which was designed to prove that this had been a long-term plan on the part of the Nazis — essentially to prove intent …
The defendants were forced to sit there and watch them, and many people feel that they were essentially turning points in the trial … not in that these guys were ever going to be found innocent, but in bringing home just how horrible what they had done was. Famously, a couple of German lawyers for the defendants said that after seeing the footage that Stevens had compiled, they couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with their own clients.”
Photo: Gate at Dachau