Saturday, May 06, 2017

Die Todesmühlen / Death Mills (The Nitrate Picture Show)

Die Todesmühlen. Germans face the consequences of their actions in Buchenwald.

Hans Burger, US 1945
Running time: 22 minutes
The Nitrate Picture Show, George Eastman Museum, Dryden Theatre, 6 May 2017

Print source: Österreichisches Filmmuseum (Austrian Film Museum), Vienna
About the prints: The print of Rouen was donated to the Austrian Film Museum by the Institut français d’Autriche in Vienna on June 1, 1976, as an example of work deemed important by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development in Paris, and thus exported abroad. The print of Die Todesmühlen was acquired from a private collector who most likely found it at a flea market. Both nitrate prints show extensive wear and tear throughout the footage. Shrinkage: 1.2%, in both prints
About the films: Both films address the destructive consequences of World War II. Rouen is about the “martyrdom of a city”; Todesmühlen is the most important postwar re-education film made by the Allied Forces, showing to the German and Austrian population the horrors of concentration camps.

AA: Shown as a part of Alexander Horwath's James Card Lecture, one of the most important films in history, a film that was required viewing for Germans after the end of the Second World War.

The film registers the original shock of the concentration camps. We witness the living skeletons, the mountains of corpses, the monumental evidence of industrial murder. The children of Auschwitz who have forgotten their names, now identified but via numbers tattooed on their arms.

Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Maidanek, Mauthausen, Ohrdruf, Lambach, Landsberg, Dachau, Ebensee, Belsen, Leipzig, Schlossendorf...

From each German city there was but a short distance to a concentration camp.

German leaders are ordered to examine the consequences of their crimes. The inhabitants of Weimar get to see what they have done. Many had been informed on by neighbours. Many had looked the other way.

The words Holocaust and Shoah are not in use yet. Among the victims of terror several groups are named, the last among them, Jews. This is not a film about the genocide of the Jews. In Alain Resnais's Nuit et brouillard ten years later even the word "Jew" was still not mentioned.

There was a unique frisson in watching a vintage print, likely to have been seen by thousands of Germans 72 years ago.

After the screening the silence was palpable.

No comments: