Hitchcock's Long-forgotten Holocaust Film Finally Restored, Nearly 70 Years On

With restoration of historical Holocaust footage almost complete, how will contemporary audiences react to a film that traumatized the king of thrillers?

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A Holocaust documentary created by thriller film master Alfred Hitchcock based on Soviet and British footage of World War II camps will finally be screened to the public in its entirety nearly 70 years after it was made, The Independent revealed on Wednesday.

The film, which took longer to create than Hitchcock and patron Sidney Bernstein anticipated, was put in the drawer in 1945 when the Allied military government apparently decided that a documentary highlighting the German atrocities would do more harm than good.

"It was suppressed because of the changing political situation, particularly for the British," The Independent quotes Dr. Toby Haggith, Senior Curator at the Department of Research, Imperial War Museum, as saying. "Once they discovered the camps, the Americans and British were keen to release a film very quickly that would show the camps and get the German people to accept their responsibility for the atrocities that were there."

Five of the six film reels were stored in the Imperial War Museum, not to be seen again until the 1980s, when an American researcher found the footage in a "rusty can" in the museum, The Independent reported. The documentary was screened in its unfinished and unrefined version at the Berlin Film Festival in 1984 and on American PBS in 1985.

The Imperial War Museum subsequently undertook the task of restoring the film using digital technology to clean up the footage and attach the missing sixth reel. The final product, it believes, matches the version that Hitchcock and his co-collaborators had intended.

The documentary will finally be screened in its entirety, along with the original version, in festival and cinemas over the course of the next year, and on British television in 2015, as the world marks 70 years since the end of World War II.

The Independent's report on the documentary also reveals a little-known fact about Hitchcock: That the filmmaker who chilled millions of viewers to the bone with his psychological thrillers, was actually quite unnerved by the "real thing" he saw in the Soviet and British footage.

A young woman at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany shouts 'Shoot them, kill them as they killed our families' as Allied troops supervise Germans, 1945. Credit: AP

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