It was just last week that we were alerted again to an odd spot in the career of Alfred Hitchcock: one, a documentary, and two, a project so distressing an initial viewing reportedly kept him away from work at Pinewood Studios for a week. Featuring footage of Nazi concentration camps shot by the British Army Film Unit in 1945, and with Hitchcock onboard as advisor next to director Sidney Bernstein, the film was completed yet put into storage. It’s since been restored once and put on television in the mid-80s, and before new footage is implemented in a new cinema release this year, you can catch the entirety of Hitchcock and Bernstein’s work.
Released in 1984 at the Berlin Film Festival and then on PBS, “Memory of the Camps” has popped up online (via Open Culture) and all 53 minutes of it indeed showcase an unblinking snapshot of the end of WWII and the horrific discoveries that followed. In a piece surrounding the PBS showing, Bernstein recalls Hitchcock’s contributions: “He took a circle round each concentration camp as it were on a map, different villages, different places and the numbers of people,” he said. “Otherwise you could show a concentration camp, as you see them now, and it could be anywhere, miles away from humanity. He brought that into the film.”
‘Memory’ is a result of five reels of footage, assembled to fit the intent of the filmmakers’ wishes; the new, as-yet-untitled version will add in a sixth reel, along with a new companion documentary entitled “Night Will Fall”. That pair of projects will hit cinemas and British television later this year, but check out the largely unseen, harrowing work from Hitchcock, Bernstein, and co. below.