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The Times (06/Sep/2014) - Lost in the vaults: the search for Hitchcock's Holocaust exposé




Lost in the vaults: the search for Hitchcock's Holocaust exposé

In 1945 the director was asked to make a film documenting Nazi death camps. Christopher Goodwin discovers its fate

For 70 years it has been one of the great mysteries of British cinema. What truth is there to the claim that, at the end of the Second World War, Alfred Hitchcock directed a never-seen documentary about the German concentration camps? Was the film suppressed by the British government because it was too horrifying and politically incendiary? Over the years this elusive film -- often referred to as "the lost Hitchcock" -- has acquired a mythological status. A tantalising newspaper story in 1984 was headlined "The Horror Film That Hitchcock Couldn't Bear to Watch" after it was mentioned in a biography of Sidney Bernstein. Lord Bernstein, who later set up Granada TV, was a leading British producer who had been head of the film section for the British-US Psychological Warfare Division during the war.

Before he died, Bernstein revealed that he and Hitchcock had indeed worked on a documentary about the German concentration camps. But for three decades after the war the film, said to be shockingly graphic, disappeared. In 1984 five grainy black and white reels were screened, with rough sound and no commentary, to a stunned audience at the Berlin film festival. Around the same time fragments were shown on British and American television.

Until very recently, though, no one had seen the completed film. Towards the end of 1945, with 100,000ft of footage in the can, Bernstein and Hitchcock were forced to abandon their film by the British government. The controversial political ...