Worldwide Screening: Shoah (1985), dir. Claude Lanzmann

Shoah © New Yorker Films © New Yorker Films

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day – January 27, 2020, also the 75-year anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – the Goethe-Institut North America and several local project partners present screenings of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985, documentary film). This is a rare opportunity to see the 9.5-hour film in its entirety on a big screen.

​The International Literature Festival Berlin (das internationale literaturfestival berlin, or ilb) has called individuals, schools, universities, media outlets, television stations, and cultural institutions to join a worldwide screening of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah on January 27. Seven Goethe-Instituts in cities across North America – Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, San Francisco, and Washington – are participating in collective observance of this anniversary.

​In the 9.5-hour documentary, surviving victims and perpetrators of the systematic extermination of Jewish people and other persecuted groups by the Third Reich relate the events of the Holocaust to audiences in their own words. For eleven years (1974 to 1985), French director Claude Lanzmann worked on Shoah. In 2013, the Berlinale awarded Lanzmann with the Honorary Golden Bear for his life’s work, but Shoah did not necessarily have a ceremonious premiere. Regarded as an „epochal masterpiece of memory culture,“ Shoah was relegated only to screenings on obscure public programming stations in Germany, instead of having a cinematic release. Consequently, many people nowadays know very little of Claude Lanzmann or his film. In 2005, the United Nations declared January 27 International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, in order to commemorate the Holocaust and the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on January 27, 1945. This worldwide screening of Shoah commemorates 75 years since the liberation, 35 years since the film’s release, and 15 years of Holocaust Remembrance Day. For a full list of participants across the world, visit:  https://www.literaturfestival.com/.

Claude Lanzmann (1925–2018) was one of the great French filmmakers and intellectuals. As a teenager, he experienced the Nazi invasion of France. In 1943, grammar-school student 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 the Free University of Berlin (Freie-Universität Berlin) in 1948/49. In 1953, Lanzmann, who belonged to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s intellectual 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. In his 1973 film Pourquoi Israel?, Lanzmann explored his own Jewish identity. He began work on Shoah the following year. Lanzmann worked on the film for eleven years, from 1974–1985. The Berlinale awarded the director the Honorary Golden Bear for his life’s work in 2013.

The Goethe-Instituts of North America in turn call friends and partners to participate in this worldwide screening event. These screenings can be in small private circles or in large venues, through television channels, or anywhere else possible. The film is subtitled in English, Spanish, French, and German, and can be purchased in many places where DVDs and Blu-Rays are sold. Please send information about your own screening to worldwidescreening@literaturfestival.com, so that the organizers can post all events on their websites https://www.literaturfestival.com/ and https://www.worldwide-reading.com/.​

Article: "The Voice on the River"
Claude Lanzmann’s 9.5-hour documentary Shoah (1985) takes viewers through the stories of survivors, perpetrators, and bystanders. 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, where do we position ourselves as the audience?
Read more here.