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Today, Jan. 27, we celebrate National Holocaust Day. The holocaust has been a source of great interest and inspiration since the end of World War II in 1945, and a hot topic for movies, TV shows, books, etc. The following list consists of some of the best pieces of work across all media (visual art excluded).
10) Inglorious Basterds (Movie, 2009). While the movie doesn’t deal directly with the Holocaust it is historical fiction that details the perfect revenge against Hitler and Nazis everywhere for the atrocities they committed. It isn’t one of my favorite Quentin Tarantino movies but for everyone that wants to see Hitler get his come-uppance, you can’t go wrong.
9) Shoah (Documentary Movie, 1985). For those really wanting to immerse themselves in the world of Holocaust Shoah is the movie for you. It might have been placed higher on the list but since it is nine-and-a-half hours long, it doesn’t lend itself to mass consumption. Its documentary nature also plays a big part in that. Shoah is strong dose of the true horrors of the Holocaust.
8) Number the Stars (Young Adult Book, 1989). I won’t lie and say I have read it recently. I put this on here because it was one of my favorite books to read as a child. The book follows a Jewish family fleeing Nazi-occupied territory.
7) Night and Fog (Documentary Movie, 1951). Jean Renoir’s documentary on the Holocaust shows all the horrors at their most horrific but also shows the strength and hope of those imprisoned within the camps. A must-watch documentary.
6) Judgment at Nuremberg (Movie, 1961). This is a bit of a change. The movie centers around the Nuremberg trials, in which four former Nazi judges are tried based on their judicial sentences during the war. It is a change of pace compared to most movies revolving around the Holocaust and in the end the good guys win without firing a shot or clinging to life until the war ends.
5) Life is Beautiful (Movie, 1997). Many Holocaust movies feel like emotional slogs through the terrifying events, and justly so. Life is Beautiful, however, offers up some comedy to the somber story of the Holocaust with its main character Guido. It is still a dramatic movie and treats the Holocaust very seriously but it is a breath of fresh air for a Holocaust movie to have its main character be funny under such awful circumstances.
4) Maus (Graphic Novel, 1991). While many find “comics” juvenile, Maus offers up a very serious tale of a man talking to his grandfather, a concentration camp survivor, from an honest and grave perspective. It does not over-dramatize the events in many ways, but especially because the reader can feel at least a tiny bit of separation because the characters are animals Maus may be the most truthful account of the Holocaust available.
3) Band of Brothers Episode Nine “Why We Fight” (Television, 2001). This is really the only episode of the excellent HBO miniseries that deals with the Holocaust and concentration camps. Having had eight previous episodes revolving just around the fighting of World War II in various battles, losing many of their friends along the way, the episode in which many of the soldiers come across a concentration camp is especially poignant. Despite being tired and weary from all the fighting they have done the soldiers’ discovery gives them a sense of purpose to their accomplishments in the war. The soldiers try to feed the camp survivors but are told not to for fear of that the camp survivors would inadvertently kill themselves by shocking their systems with food is particularly moving.
2) Sophie’s Choice (1982, Movie). One of Meryl Streep’s earlier movies that helped propel her to stardom (also netting her first Academy Award for Female in a Leading Role) revolves around her and her Holocaust-obsessed lover. Sophie, as a Holocaust survivor, ends up revealing to her new lover that at one point she had to choose which of her two children was to be sent to a concentration camp and which was to be sent to the gas chambers.
1) Schindler’s List (1994, Movie). Spielberg’s movie depicts a fairly accurate view of the Holocaust and is superbly acted. The decision to use black and white film instead of color offers up a timeless feel to the movie and somehow makes the atrocities committed seem harsher.