Film Screening Claude Lanzmann: Shoah

Shoah © Shoah, Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art

Mon, 27.01.2020

9:45 AM - 9:30 PM

Goethe-Institut London

International Holocaust Remembrance Day Screening

Marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, we will be screening Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah. By doing so, we will join many organisations and institutions worldwide in remembering the victims of the Holocaust and keeping the memory of the genocide of the Jews alive to prevent from it ever happening again. It is for this purpose that in 2005 the United Nations designated the 27th of January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. With this screening we would like to offer a space to remember and to learn alongside all others doing so on this day.

The film will be introduced by Toby Haggith, Senior Curator, Department of Second World War and Mid-20th Century Conflict (Imperial War Museums), who will also be participate in a discussion with Rainer  Schulze, Professor Emeritus of Modern European History (University of Essex), following the screening.


Claude Lanzmann divided Shoah into two parts. In order to allow for more breaks we will show the film in four parts followed by the discussion.

Part 1                    09:45–12:20
Part 2                    12:35–14:35
Part 3                    15:05–17:45
Part 4                    18:00–20:25
Discussion             20:35–ca 21:30

In order to keep the level of disturbance low in the cinema we would like to kindly ask you to arrive at the indicated start times.

We will provide tea and coffee for the breaks, which will be available outside the cinema. (We welcome it if you bring your own re-usable cup and food.)

Book tickets through Eventbrite About the Film

More than ten years (1974-1985) in the making, Shoah (the Hebrew word for ‘Annihilation’) brings together testimonies from both the victims of the National Socialist extermination of European Jews and from its perpetrators and observers. Many of them tell their story for the first time in 30 years. According to Claude Lanzmann, Shoah is not a film about survival but a “testimonial of death”. He not only asks the witnesses to recall their experiences; his questioning technique prompts his interviewees to relive the past events. Lanzmann’s questions revolve around events at the sites where Jews were murdered –Chelmno, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Warsaw Ghetto– laying open the bureaucratic mechanism of extermination, which began in the ghettos and was eventually implemented in the concentration and extermination camps. In its nine and a half hours, the film only makes use of only one archive document. Otherwise it exclusively relies on witness statements and newly filmed footage of the death sites showing them as they were at the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties. This was a radically new approach. Much of the film’s powerful effect stems from the montage of testimonies and the footage of the places referred to in their memories. “I travelled to the places on my own and I realized that you have to combine the two aspects. You have to know and see, and you have to see and know. That’s why the problem with the places is so immense. It is a down-to-earth film, a topographical and geographical film.” (Lanzmann)

Shoah, France 1974 – 1985, colour, DCP (16mm), ca. 566 mins, With English subtitles.
Directed by Claude Lanzmann, Camera: Dominique Chapuis, Jimmy Glasberg, William Lubtchansky, Editors: Ziva Postec, Anna Ruiz, Sound: Bernard Aubouy, Michel Vionnet.

Claude Lanzmann was born in Paris in 1925 and as a teenager experienced the invasion of German troops into France. In 1943 grammar-school pupil Lanzmann joined the resistance in Clermont-Ferrand and went underground to fight the Nazis. After the war, he completed studies in philosophy, earning his doctorate in 1947, and subsequently took a position as a lecturer at Berlin Free University in 1948/49. In 1953 Lanzmann, who belonged to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s circle, became a permanent collaborator on the legendary political and literary journal Les Temps Modernes. In 1970 he made his first forays into the world of filmmaking, which also document his political engagement against French policies in Algeria. Towards the end of the Algerian War, Lanzmann signed the “Manifeste des 121”, an open letter against French war crimes. In his 1973 film Pourquoi Israel?, Lanzmann explored his own Jewish identity. He began work on Shoah the following year. He died on 5 July 2018.

Toby Haggith is Senior Curator, Department of Second World War and Mid-20th Century Conflict (Imperial War Museums). He is the co-editor, with Joanna Newman, of Holocaust and the Moving Image: Representations in Film and Television Since 1933 (2005). He has been closely involved with the completion and restoration of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (1945/2014) and has undertaken research on the Belsen Camp Evidence Film.

Rainer Schulze is Professor Emeritus of Modern European History at the University of Essex. He is specialised in twentieth-century German history, history and memory of the Holocaust and the history of forced migrations in twentieth-century Europe. 2000-2007 he worked as one one of the project leaders for the redevelopment of the permanent exhibition at the Gedenkstätte (memorial) Bergen-Belsen. He is the founding editor of the journal "The Holocaust in History and Memory", and introduced and coordinated the annual Holocaust Memorial Week at the University of Essex.

With kind support of the IWM (Imperial War Museums).