Film Documents and Contemporary History:

Memory of the Camps


January 16, 2008
Throughout 2008, the Film Museum's emphasis will be on cinematographic testimony from the 20th Century. Curated by Michael Loebenstein and Siegfried Mattl, the series will present rare archival films from the collection and offer interpretations of this material on several levels. One evening per month is dedicated to this series. The shows will include early newsreels, amateur films, archival compilations, documentary films from beyond the auteurist canon, fragments and artists’ films based on "found (documentary) footage”.
The tension between film and history itself lies at the heart of the series: film is both a witness of past events – a document of "what was" – and an independent form of writing history: a specific reshaping of reality by the media. In order to bring this double discourse to the fore, the screenings will include introductions and discussions with the audience. In advance of the shows, experts and University students from various disciplines will be prepare written material about the films and the respective subjects. All texts will be available online, and each programme will be documented on video. The series aims to provide a new interface between archives, scholarly research and the public.
The first evening bears the title Memory of the Camps and is devoted to the deeply disturbing and horrifying film material shot by British Army cameramen in April 1945 during the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In the summer of 1945 the production of a feature-length film based on these images was already underway; Alfred Hitchcock had been hired as an artistic consultant. Eventually, however, the project was abandoned due to aesthetic, moral and political considerations. Memory of the Camps remained a fragment and was not publicly shown until 1984.
Aside from the film itself, the programme will include further visual and sound material created in the course of the Bergen-Belsen liberation. Toby Haggith, film and video curator at the Imperial War Museum in London, will be on hand to provide background information.
A joint programme of the Film Museum and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society, in cooperation with the University of Vienna and the Imperial War Museum, London.