In the spring of 1945, the Ministry of Information in London asked Sydney Bernstein (who later founded ITV) to make a documentary film about the liberation of concentration camps. The project started with Bergen-Belsen, the camp liberated by the British Army in April 1945, but soon became a larger project to involve concentration camps liberated by the Americans and Soviets. Bernstein asked his friend Alfred Hitchcock to advise; he duly arrived and although did not direct the film, he contributed substantially with excellent ideas. By the time the film was nearing its completion, the Allies’ priorities changed: instead of confronting the Germans with the atrocities they had committed, the priority became to get them on the side of the Allies in what was becoming the Cold War. For this reason the film was shelved for 70 years in the Imperial War Museum (IWM). It was not until recently that the film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was restored and the last unfinished reel completed under the direction of Dr Toby Haggith, Senior Curator of the IWM (www.iwm.org.uk). Not only the list of the takes, but also the script, written by Richard Crossman and Colin Wills have survived.
The original film was complemented by an 7-8 minute introduction, explaining the eventful history of the documentary and an “epilogue” in which experts, historians, curators, psychologists, archivists and filmmakers talk about their opinions, the restoration of the film and its significance. As a survivor I was asked to comment on the film. German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was projected on several occasions in the British Film Institute (BFI), including the London Film Festival and will be distributed by the BFI (www.bfi.or.uk). As part of this development, the script is being translated into foreign languages, and I was asked to prepare the Hungarian translation. This has been delivered to the BFI before Christmas.