Seventy years after Auschwitz’s liberation, this documentary film collection sets out to examine a story whose roots begin before the dawn of the 20th century - a story which is still being played out today. Divided into 8 episodes, the films will travel back to the roots of the genocide. Our central question is not “Why…?” but “How were Europe’s Jews destroyed?” How was such a crime conceived, implemented and carried out, first in Germany and then across Europe.
The Final Solution is inexplicable unless one takes into account the participation of all of the regime’s sectors, its entire social structure. For the destruction of Europe’s Jews was not the work of a little group of hardened criminals. An entire society took part. On their own scale, each link of the chain applied normal procedures to an exceptional situation, either mechanically or out of love for work well done, applying the jewels of ingenuity to define, classify and transport, as if – despite the language’s camouflaging intent – nothing separated the “Final Solution” from business as usual.
Our goal is to thoroughly explore the causes, functioning mechanisms and ultimate consequences of this horrific event on an international level, making it relevant for today’s viewers. We are all too aware that memories dissolve over time, and that with its passing both the younger and older generations tend to push historical facts up to the attic of antiquities where Hitler, Napoleon and Christopher Columbus lay side-by-side.
The film was partly motivated by results of a French poll in 2010, which found that 57 to 67% of those under 35 had never heard of the massive round ups of Jews in Paris, neither had 25% of those over 65! And yet paradoxically more than 85% of French said that preserving the memory of the Holocaust was important. When digging further we were stunned to find out that France is not the only country losing its memory: Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia, the USA and even Israel also had similar figures… This disconnect is why we feel strongly about producing a mainstream film, a prime time TV film, that can reach viewers across the generations: from the oldest who think they know to the youngest for whom learning and having the history passed down, seems absolutely crucial.
The film’s originality comes both from its length and from the breadth of its scope (almost a century of history). The overall aim is to give an unprecedented, coherent and global overview of the event, and to grasp it in its full spectrum from beforehand up to the present, taking into consideration all the light shed upon it over the decades by historical research, literature, philosophy…
The film’s treatment will overlay archival footage – both known and unknown – interviews with historians, eyewitness accounts, and images from the extermination sites as well as memorials across Europe, Israel and the USA, in a chronological-thematic account. While the film will not be dry and didactic in nature, the subject demands a great soberness and does not allow for esthetic enrichments or for over-dramatizing.
Since the 80s, the Berlin Wall has fallen, East Europe’s archives have opened, and there has also been the inevitable loss of the survivors and other witnesses. Our intention is to evoke this vanishing living memory through the work of a new generation of writers and historians, shedding new light and new interpretation to the events. A rich and vast array of some of the most prominent contemporary historians from the USA, UK, France, Germany and Israel will be at the heart of this film.
Chapters (8 x 52’):
Episode 1: The End of Illusions
Episode 2: The Trap
Episode 3: The Nazi Machine
Episode 4: In the Face of Death
Episode 5: The “Final Solution”
Episode 6: The Departed
Episode 7: Autopsy of a Mass Murder
Episode 8: Lest We Forget
Watch the trailer
About the Directors
William Karel is a compelling and distinctly original director who has made a wide range of memorable and award-winning historical and political documentaries, notably Lest We Forget which won an Emmy and an Europa Award. He specializes in portraying power behind the scenes and has directed films on many high-profile political figures including Barack Obama, Margaret Thatcher, François Mitterrand or Nicolas Sarkozy. He is a shrewd and passionate observer of humanity and politics and was awarded the EUROPA Gold Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2003.
Blanche Finger is a documentary researcher specialized in historical films, but also a filmmaker and has notably co-directed several films around the Holocaust with her husband and longtime co-conspirator William Karel, including The Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup (France 3, 1992), Lest We Forget (France 2, 1995) and Album(s) from Auschwitz (France 2, 2011). She has also published the literary work Opération Vent Printanier (about the roundup of Vel d’Hiv) with the publisher Editions La Découverte, Paris, 1992.