One of the darkest chapters of human history, the Holocaust claimed the lives of about six million Jewish people, roughly two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe before the war. In the ensuing years, it has served as the subject of multiple TV shows and movies. Generations of filmmakers have revisited this chapter to commemorate the ones we have lost and in an attempt to understand the hate and fear that led the perpetrators to commit such atrocities. HBO Max has an impressive library, with films on every subject imaginable, including the Holocaust. Here are some of the best ones among them.
8. Denial (2016)
Truth is stranger than fiction. And as far as the Holocaust is concerned, ‘Denial’ is a sheer proof of that. Based on true events, the film follows Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University, Atlanta, who has to prove that the Holocaust did indeed happen in the aftermath of declaring British writer David Irving (Timothy Spall) as a Holocaust denier in her book and being sued for it by him in the UK in 1996. What follows is how she gathers evidence, since in the UK, the defendants have to prove their point in libel cases by paying a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Her research gives the viewers a harrowing reminder of the tragic times. The film is directed by Mick Jackson. You can stream ‘Denial’ here.
7. Primo (2007)
Directed by Richard Wilson, ‘Primo’ is a theatrical monologue that is adapted from the book “If This Is a Man” (1947) by Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor. The film throws light on his capture and his time at the terrifying Nazi concentration camp. Antony Sher wrote the adapted screenplay and also starred in the film as the titular personality. You can watch the film here.
6. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
‘Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport’ is a poignant documentary that delves into the Holocaust by recounting the remarkable rescue efforts of the Kindertransport, a mission that saved nearly 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazis. The film, narrated by Dame Judi Dench, features interviews with the survivors, many of whom share their emotional and harrowing experiences. Through personal anecdotes, it explores themes of loss, separation, resilience, and the enduring impact of the Holocaust on these young lives. The documentary weaves together historical footage and evocative reenactments, bringing to life the heart-wrenching decisions made by parents to send their children to an uncertain future in a foreign land. ‘Into the Arms of Strangers’ serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of the Holocaust and the profound acts of kindness that provided a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times. You can stream the film here.
5. Conspiracy (2001)
‘Conspiracy’ is a gripping historical drama that delves into the horrors of the Holocaust. Directed by Frank Pierson, the film stars Kenneth Branagh as SS General Reinhard Heydrich and Stanley Tucci as SS Major Adolf Eichmann, portraying real-life figures from Nazi Germany. The movie unfolds during the infamous Wannsee Conference in 1942, where high-ranking Nazi officials planned the systematic extermination of Europe’s Jews. The intense dialogue-driven plot encapsulates the chilling and bureaucratic nature of the Holocaust, exploring themes of moral complicity, ethical dilemmas, and the banality of evil, leaving viewers with a profound sense of the horrors that unfolded during this dark chapter in history. You can watch ‘Conspiracy’ here.
4. One Survivor Remembers (1995)
‘One Survivor Remembers’ is a short documentary film that revolves around Weissmann Klein, a Holocaust survivor who lost her family and friends and endured six years of utter horror at the hands of the Nazi oppressors. The documentary consists of Klein’s interview as she recounts her life. ‘One Survivor Remembers’ earned the Best Documentary Short Subject accolade at the 1996 Oscar as well as the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Informational Special. You can check out the documentary here.
3. The Survivor (2021)
‘The Survivor’ is a biographical drama film about Auschwitz survivor Harry Haft. As Haft has a good physique, he draws the interest of his captors, who begin extensively training him to be a boxer. Soon, he finds himself fighting fellow inmates to the death for survival. As always, Ben Foster is at the top of his game as Haft and delivers a haunting and powerful performance. Feel free to check out the movie here.
2. Au Revoir les Enfants (1987)
‘Au Revoir les Enfanbts’ is an autobiographical French film made by Louis Malle. Set in Nazi-occupied France in 1943-44, the story predominantly takes place at a Carmelite boarding school. Julien Quentin returns to the school after a vacation and encounters three new students. Julien discovers that at least one of them, Jean Bonnet, is about the same age as him.
Initially, Julien’s response to these new pupils is as hostile as the rest of the student body. One night, Julien wakes up to find Jean praying in Hebrew. Moreover, he notices that the other boy has a kippah on the top of his head. Julien eventually discovers that all three new boys are Jewish, whom the school’s headmaster has decided to hide from the occupying Nazi forces. Jean’s real name is Jean Kippelstein. After the truth is out, the two boys become friends, not realizing their idyllic life isn’t destined to last long. You may watch the film here.
1. Europa Europa (1990)
The German war drama ‘Europa Europa’ dramatizes the true story of a young Jewish man who survives by hiding among the Nazis. Kristallnacht takes place on the eve of Solomon “Solek” Perel’s bar mitzvah. Avoiding the Nazis on the way, Solomon returns home to find that his sister has been killed. Realizing the danger the family is in, Solomon’s father decides to relocate them to Łódź, Poland, the city where he was born.
World War II begins with Germany’s invasion of Poland. Solomon’s family sends him and his brother to Eastern Europe, where Solomon learns Russian. When Germany invades Russia, Solomon hides his real identity, claiming his name is Josef Peters, prompting the Germans to hire him as their interpreter. Trapped in his strange circumstances, Solomon has to ensure that no one sees him without his clothes, fearing exposure. You can watch the movie here.
Read More: Holocaust Movies on Netflix