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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, conceived a “comprehensive film” designed to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, and enable viewers to relate to the victims as individual human beings, “rather than lifeless statistics.” The board, under the chairmanship of Samuel Belzberg, voted to undertake the project, and hired filmmaker and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman as director and co-producer. Hier and Schwartzman then commissioned Oxford University Professor Martin Gilbert, a Holocaust scholar, to write the “historical portion” of the script. Schwartzman and his associate, Isolde Pilot, spent five months gathering material from archives around the world. In 1980, Hier, Belzberg, and Chairwoman Esther Cohen embarked on a fundraising tour of North America. Simon Wiesenthal secured a $100,000 donation from singer Frank Sinatra, and by the end of the year, enough funds were raised from an additional twenty-one donors to enable the start of production. When the Center requested the participation of actor-director Orson Welles and actress Elizabeth Taylor, both agreed to narrate the film, but refused any remuneration. Production was underway as of May 1980. The Center also commissioned a classroom study guide to accompany the film, authored by Jewish and Christian scholars from the U.S. and Israel.
       An article in the 21 May 1981 HR described Genocide as a multimedia production, designed by Jerome Armstrong and Alan Kozlowski of Quantum Leap, a special effects company. The combination of moving images and still photographs was achieved with two 16mm projectors, one 35mm projector, and eighteen slide projectors. The 22 ... More Less

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, conceived a “comprehensive film” designed to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, and enable viewers to relate to the victims as individual human beings, “rather than lifeless statistics.” The board, under the chairmanship of Samuel Belzberg, voted to undertake the project, and hired filmmaker and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman as director and co-producer. Hier and Schwartzman then commissioned Oxford University Professor Martin Gilbert, a Holocaust scholar, to write the “historical portion” of the script. Schwartzman and his associate, Isolde Pilot, spent five months gathering material from archives around the world. In 1980, Hier, Belzberg, and Chairwoman Esther Cohen embarked on a fundraising tour of North America. Simon Wiesenthal secured a $100,000 donation from singer Frank Sinatra, and by the end of the year, enough funds were raised from an additional twenty-one donors to enable the start of production. When the Center requested the participation of actor-director Orson Welles and actress Elizabeth Taylor, both agreed to narrate the film, but refused any remuneration. Production was underway as of May 1980. The Center also commissioned a classroom study guide to accompany the film, authored by Jewish and Christian scholars from the U.S. and Israel.
       An article in the 21 May 1981 HR described Genocide as a multimedia production, designed by Jerome Armstrong and Alan Kozlowski of Quantum Leap, a special effects company. The combination of moving images and still photographs was achieved with two 16mm projectors, one 35mm projector, and eighteen slide projectors. The 22 Mar 1981 DV reported tentative plans by the Center for Holocaust Studies to build a theater to properly exhibit the film.
       The 14 Dec 1981 HR announced the 17 Jan 1982 premiere at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Event chairman Frank Sinatra would host special guests Elizabeth Taylor and Simon Wiesenthal. The 19 Jan 1982 DV estimated the average ticket price at $500, with 1,100 guests in attendance. Rabbi Hier discussed the $3 million production in the 19 Jan 1982 LAT, expressing his dismay that most young people knew more about dinosaurs than they did about the Holocaust, which could recur in the absence of vigilance. Designed to appeal specifically to young people, Genocide features “razzle-dazzle graphics, powerful music and heart-wrenching, individual stories of real people.” In attendance at the premiere was Leon Kahn, whose account of the slaughter of his neighbors and relatives appears in the film. At a press conference following the screening, a heated argument ensued between Kahn and Wiesenthal regarding the failure of Pope Pius XII to denounce the persecution of Jews. While Wiensenthal believed blame should not be placed so narrowly, Kahn argued that the massacre was committed by Polish collaborators, and because most Poles are Catholic, an admonition from the pope may have saved lives. Elizabeth Taylor, who voiced the testimonials in the film, admitted that the experience gave her nightmares. She cried uncontrollably during her first recording session, necessitating an extra day of recording to complete her narration. Rabbi Hier planned screenings of the film, first in theaters and later in schools, accompanied by a panel of Holocaust scholars in each situation.
       The premiere print concluded with the following statements: “In the 1980 congressional election in San Diego, Tom Metzger polled 45,000 votes. At the time, he was grand dragon of the California Ku Klux Klan”; “In North Carolina, Al Covington got 56,000 votes for attorney general in the 1980 election. He is one of the leaders of the American Nazi movement”; “In a 1981 government survey conducted in West Germany, 18% said they believed life was ‘better under Hitler.’”
       According to the 15 Feb 1983 HR, Manson International acquired foreign distribution rights, and screened the picture at the Mar 1983 American Film Market in Los Angeles, CA. The 22 Apr 1985 London, England, opening of Genocide was announced in the 27 Mar 1985 Var. The picture was scheduled for its U.S. television debut on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) during spring 1987, as reported in the 26 Jan 1987 DV.
       The film received an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Feature), and the home video version opens with the following statement: "Academy Award® 1981 documentary feature."

      End credits include the following statements: "Dedicated to the millions of victims of Hitler's 'Final Solution.' They have no graves but their memory will live on until the end of time"; "The Simon Wiesenthal Center wishes to express its deepest gratitude to Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles for generously contributing their time and talents to help make this project a reality"; "The producer wishes to thank the following for their kind help and cooperation: Chana Abells, Atlantic Richfield Company, Eddie Cantor Charitable Foundation, Anne & Roger Cowan, Mrs. Richard Dimbleby, Dr. Lucian Dobroszycki, Tina Dryssen, Sherman Grinberg, Rev. L H. Hardman, Leon Kahn, Nina Lagergren, Miriam Novitch, Alan Peckolick, Sydney Samuelson, Kazimierz Smolen, Dr. Roman Vishniac."
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Mar 1981.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1982
p. 6.
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Jan 1982
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
2 Feb 1983
p. 3.
New York Times
18 Jan 1982.
Part B, p. 7.
New York Times
14 Mar 1982
p. 64.
Variety
24 Feb 1982.
---
Variety
27 Mar 1985.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Narrated by
Introduced by

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Narrated by
Introduced by
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Simon Wiesenthal Center Presents
A Simon Wiesenthal Center Presentation
An Arnold Schwartzman Production, Inc.
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Prod
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Prod, Television reformatting
Prod, Television reformatting
WRITERS
Scr created by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam & lenses by Panavision®
Multi-image to film conversion
Multi-image to film conversion
Multi-image to film conversion
Multi-image to film conversion
Opt transfer
Telecine op, Television reformatting
ART DIRECTORS
Drawings and paintings by
©Copyright MMLXXXI
Hassidic drawings
Hebrew calligraphy
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutters
Ed, Television reformatting
Ed, Television reformatting
SOUND
Sd format, ed, & mixing
Addl sd rec
Addl sd rec
Narr rec at
Addl sd dubbing
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Digital sd remix
Eng, Digital sd remix
Asst, Digital sd remix
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt stills
Opt stills asst
Spec eff filmed at
Film anim, Opticals
Electronic graphics, Television reformatting
Electronic graphics, Television reformatting
Electronic graphics, Television reformatting
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Prod supv
Multi-media programming
Programmer
Tech format & addl programming
Historical consultant
Prod liaison
Facilities by, Television reformatting
ANIMATION
"The Butterfly" des and dir by
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 March 1982
Premiere Information:
premiered Washington, D.C.: 18 January 1982
New York opening: 14 March 1982
Los Angeles opening: 4 February 1983
Production Date:
began May 1980.
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo®
Black & white with color sequences
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Simon Wiesenthal stands outside the Mauthausen concentration camp, lamenting the desire of some to forget the Holocaust, and others to deny that it ever happened. As the only surviving member of his family, Simon can never forget, and fears that it may happen again. In the late nineteenth century, most of the world’s Jewish population lived in more than 10,000 small communities called “shtetls,” scattered throughout central Europe and the Russian Empire. Though many lived in poverty, these communities produced scholars, poets, and philosophers. Because of their unique traditions and style of dress, they were often treated with suspicion by their gentile neighbors, and were resented by religious leaders for their rejection of Christianity. Following World War I, Europe’s 9,500,000 Jews looked forward to a more peaceful, democratic, and just world, but the economic depression of the 1920s destroyed such hopes. Many Europeans took their frustration out on the Jews, especially in Germany, where Nazi Party leader Adolph Hitler called for the removal of all “non-Aryan” ethnic groups. Hitler’s vision of a German “master race” appealed to a people devastated by economic hardship, and following his rise to power, Hitler proceeded to remove people he determined to be “inferior,” such as Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and the disabled, from German society. Dachau, the first German concentration camp, opened in March 1933, as a prison for political dissidents, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and prominent Jews. The government ordered a boycott of Jewish businesses, and banned the works of Jewish musicians, artists, scientists, writers, and entertainers. Jews were driven from their homes, and German children were indoctrinated with anti-Semitic propaganda. Germany hosted ... +


Simon Wiesenthal stands outside the Mauthausen concentration camp, lamenting the desire of some to forget the Holocaust, and others to deny that it ever happened. As the only surviving member of his family, Simon can never forget, and fears that it may happen again. In the late nineteenth century, most of the world’s Jewish population lived in more than 10,000 small communities called “shtetls,” scattered throughout central Europe and the Russian Empire. Though many lived in poverty, these communities produced scholars, poets, and philosophers. Because of their unique traditions and style of dress, they were often treated with suspicion by their gentile neighbors, and were resented by religious leaders for their rejection of Christianity. Following World War I, Europe’s 9,500,000 Jews looked forward to a more peaceful, democratic, and just world, but the economic depression of the 1920s destroyed such hopes. Many Europeans took their frustration out on the Jews, especially in Germany, where Nazi Party leader Adolph Hitler called for the removal of all “non-Aryan” ethnic groups. Hitler’s vision of a German “master race” appealed to a people devastated by economic hardship, and following his rise to power, Hitler proceeded to remove people he determined to be “inferior,” such as Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and the disabled, from German society. Dachau, the first German concentration camp, opened in March 1933, as a prison for political dissidents, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and prominent Jews. The government ordered a boycott of Jewish businesses, and banned the works of Jewish musicians, artists, scientists, writers, and entertainers. Jews were driven from their homes, and German children were indoctrinated with anti-Semitic propaganda. Germany hosted the 1936 Olympic Games, which Hitler saw as an opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of his “master race.” He was proven wrong, however, when African American Jesse Owens won four gold medals. In 1938, thirty-two nations discussed the possibility of offering asylum to German refugees, but none would expand their immigration quotas to accommodate them. Later that year, Jewish communities were devastated as Hitler’s Storm Troopers committed acts of vandalism, rape, and violence as retribution for the assassination of a German diplomat by a Polish Jew. As Germany expanded its borders into Austria and Czechoslovakia, more Jews became victims of Hitler’s oppression, yet no other nation offered them asylum. In 1939, a ship loaded with Jewish refugees sailed to Cuba, then to the United States, but neither country allowed the passengers entry, and they were returned to Germany. Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Jewish population was quarantined in ghettos. Meanwhile, the Hitler regime ordered the execution of 70,000 disabled Germans for being “unfit to live.” With World War II underway, Germany invaded the neutral nations of Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, followed by their occupation of France, which placed 500,000 more Jews under Nazi rule. However, the persecution of Jews and other minorities was often delegated to citizens of occupied nations, with few offering aid to the victims. In 1941, Germany invaded its former ally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). As the Nazis advanced eastward, task forces, called “einsatzgruppen,” massacred Jewish villagers, disposing of the bodies in mass graves. Although many Jews resisted, many more succumbed, either because they were weak from starvation, unarmed, unwilling to abandon their children and elderly relatives, or could find no refuge. In the course of fifteen months, einsatzgruppen killed one million Jews, yet the German government sought a more efficient system. The first “death camp” opened late in 1941, and in January 1942, fifteen German officials held a summit to determine methodology. They planned to separate the prisoners by gender and place them in labor details, where most would likely die through “natural reduction.” The survivors would then be executed to prevent repopulation. Euphemisms were created to assure prisoners that they were not in danger: “deportation” became “resettlement”; “selection for death” became “special treatment”; “gas chamber” became “shower.” News of the camps received little attention from Germany’s enemies, and in October 1943, as Jews were deported from Rome, Italy, Pope Pius XII made no public protest. As the western allies invaded Europe, they ignored pleas from Jewish leaders to bomb the gas chambers, choosing instead to destroy nearby factories. A Hungarian survivor recalls the efforts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued 30,000 Jews bound for the Auschwitz death camp, by allowing them entrance to Sweden. Leon Kahn, a Polish Jew who witnessed the slaughter of several family members, discusses the dilemma he faced when his mother refused to escape their village. Aware that she would likely die in a concentration camp, Mrs. Kahn still insisted on staying with her elderly mother. She absolved Leon of any responsibility and allowed him to escape to safety, but he still regrets his decision. The few remaining residents of the ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, staged an armed revolt during the spring of 1943, though none survived. A young Auschwitz inmate named Roza Robota smuggled explosives to a resistance group inside the camp. The group sabotaged a crematorium, killing five German officers and freeing several prisoners. Roza was later tortured and executed, but never betrayed her comrades. As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz, prisoners were transported to other camps. Among them was author Anne Frank, who later died at Bergen-Belsen. When the Ohrdruf camp was liberated by American troops in April 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower was so horrified, he invited twelve leaders of Congress and twelve prominent newspaper editors to witness the carnage. British reporter Richard Dimbleby described the open graves and decaying bodies to radio audiences in England. Despite German efforts to conceal the genocide, the liberating armies found numerous artifacts left behind by the victims, such as luggage, clothing, eyeglasses, and toys. Thousands of Nazis were arrested at the end of the war, but none took responsibility for the Holocaust, nor did any of the religious leaders or heads of state who might have been able to stop it. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Simon Wiesenthal places a note in a crevice between two stones, which reads, “I am my brother’s keeper.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.