Humanity has often been subdued by the ruthless impulses of tyrants. People have been slaughtered and freedom has been lost in many wars since the very beginning of time. But, one of the most infamous and tragic moments of our past is the Holocaust. The mass genocide committed during World War II by Nazi forces and their allies resulted in the murder of close to six million Jews. Add to this the fact that it happened in recent history, and the war will have you questioning the very existence of humanity. There is a reason that to this day, the Holocaust is considered as one of the biggest genocides in the history of mankind.
Holocaust movies have not only focused on the atrocities committed during World War II, but also the following decades wherein one could see the after-effects of the crimes. Most of these films have focused on grim central ideas and forgotten heroes who succeeded in saving the Jewish populace. However meager the collection of such productions might be on Netflix, their overall presence is significant. Here’s a list of really good Holocaust movies on the streaming giant today. But consider yourself warned because some of these are real tear-jerkers.
15. Defiance (2008)
A tale of survival, endurance, and courage, ’Defiance’ is a movie that is based on the very real escapades of the Bielski group and how they protected more than a thousand Jews from the Nazis. It stars Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, and George MacKay as the Bielski brothers, and is a dramatized account of how the group stood up to the Nazi occupiers to save their fellow men. This movie shines a light on the trials and tribulations that these people had to face in order to simply even live another day. Catch this war story here.
14. My Führer – The Really Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler (2007)
A comedy about one of the most dangerous men in history is always interesting, and the movie ‘My Führer – The Really Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler’ boasts of some rather hilarious moments which make it a fine film. The story is set in 1945, a time when Hitler has realized that the battle cannot be won. Depressed, the legendary orator cannot even come up with a decent speech to inspire the population of Germany. In such a situation, Goebbels, one of the top leaders of the Nazi Party, brings a Jew out of a concentration camp to help Hitler write his speech. The film, in its hilarious moments, always remains true to history and the references in dialogues also bear this hallmark. The performances are good and do justice to the witty screenplay by writer-director Dani Levy, and you can watch it here.
13. The Forgotten Battle (2021)
Set in German-occupied Zeeland, ‘The Forgotten Battle’ is a haunting account of events that bind together three seemingly unrelated individuals in the days leading up to the Battle of the Scheldt. The first of the three, Teuntje Visser, is a reluctant Resistance recruit who finds solace in the movement after the Nazis execute her brother for attacking a convoy. Although Marinus van Staveren, a Dutch Nazi volunteer, sympathizes with Teuntje and tries to get a lighter sentence for her brother, the system ultimately gets the upper hand. Disillusioned by the Nazi regime and all that it stands for, Staveren grows increasingly unsure about his alliance with the Nazi cause. Meanwhile, Glider Pilot Regiment Sergeant Will Sinclair and a few others crash land in the area before coming in combat with German troops. As the events lead up to the Battle of Walcheren Causeway, the movie wonderfully portrays how fate intertwines the trio’s lives, with each playing a part in the other’s redemption.
12. The Devil’s Mistress (2016)
A historical biography film that wonderfully documents the beginning of World War II, ‘The Devil’s Mistress’ explores the life of actress Lída Baarová and portrays her experiences of being involved with Nazi officer Joseph Goebbels. Lída Baarová was a Czechoslovakian actress who moved to Germany intending to appear in the movie ‘Barcarole.’ The film documents how after moving to Germany, she meets and gets acquainted with top-rank Nazi Officer Joseph Goebbels. Soon the acquaintance turns romantic, and Lída settles down in her new life. However, her closeness with Goebbels makes her aware of the rise of Nazi Germany and all that it stands for. Guilt-ridden for being linked to such a movement, the rest of the movie follows Lída’s dilemma as she struggles to accept the advent of the Second World War. The film does a beautiful job of documenting the politics and conflicts of early Nazi Germany and gives an authentic insight into how Hitler came to power.
11. Riphagen – The Untouchable (2016)
As opposed to the patriot Walraven Van Hall, who stood for the Dutch people by funding the resistance, Riphagen literally ripped the country off for his own good. He was a traitor who treacherously stole the many riches, handed Jews over to the Nazis, systematically hunted and brought down the resistance, and subdued any kind of justice. ‘Riphagen – The Untouchable’ is essentially an account of the spiteful activities undertaken by Riphagen and the aftermath of these events. Watch the movie here.
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10. Steal a Pencil For Me (2007)
If we told you about a production that features a love story during the Holocaust, you’d probably think that we are talking about a movie with a fictional premise. After all, given the horrors of World War II, this is one angle that is not explored much through the lens of a camera. But ‘Steal a Pencil For Me’ is actually a documentary that unfolds the very true story of Jack “Jaap” Polak, who was in a concentration with both his wife (with whom he was in an unhappy marriage) and his girlfriend. This feature is a testament to the power of love, set amidst the many atrocities of war. You can watch it here.
9. Hitler: A Career (1977)
Perhaps one of the most defining documentaries made on the life and times of Hitler, this film is about the lust for power that led to the death and displacement of millions and forced countries into war. The abuse of power that Hitler afflicted are put forward in an objective manner so that audiences get to know he really was. The fact that he actually hired a bunch of photographers for the photo-ops to further his propaganda is an astonishing truth that is the crux of this documentary. ‘Hitler: A Career’ features rare clippings, photographs, and video reels of his speeches: all decisive moments in history. They also forevermore changed the course of Germany, and the rest of the world, as we know it. Watch the movie here.
8. #AnneFrank. Parallel Stories (2019)
The story of Anne Frank is, perhaps, the most well-known one from the Holocaust. Barely a teenager when she went into hiding for two years, the Gestapo, unfortunately, arrested the family in 1944 and sent them to concentration camps. Only Anne’s father survived the war, and he went on to publish his daughter’s annals under the name ‘The Diary of a Young Girl.’ Well, in ‘#AnneFrank. Parallel Stories,’ Helen Mirren retraces the events that occurred in the young girl’s life while drawing parallels with the lives of 5 other women who ended up surviving the Holocaust. A poignant tale that proves how ruthless the Nazis really were, this is one eye-opening documentary. You can watch it here.
7. Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis (2021)
‘Camp Confidential’ is a short animated documentary movie that documents the functioning of a top-secret US prisoner of war camp near Washington. The camp, which was kept classified for around five decades, was used by Jewish soldiers to host and interrogate Nazi prisoners of war after World War II. The film provides a fascinating insight into the workings of the camp and even draws up a visual plan of its construction and infrastructure, making this a must-watch for fans who enjoy a sneak-peek into history.
6. The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)
Based on the eponymous non-fiction novel by Diane Ackerman, ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ recounts the true story of how Jan and Antonina Żabiński rescued numerous jews and kept them inside the Warsaw Zoo during World War II. The film opens with the aerial bombardment of Warsaw and shows how Dr. Lutz Heck, the head of the Berlin Zoo, visits the Warsaw establishment to take away the prize animals and shoot the others. Once the director of Warsaw Zoo, Dr. Jan Żabiński, returns, he and his wife, Antonina, decide to use their establishment as a safe haven for Jews being prosecuted in concentration camps. Turning the establishment into a pig farm, the couple then takes the help of local resistance and begins smuggling prisoners out of the Ghetto before hiding them away in the zoo. Offering a raw and authentic insight into the plight of polish Jewish prisoners, the rest of the film then proceeds to document the couple’s struggles and brushes with death as they bravely face the Nazi onslaught.
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)
This romantic drama, set in 1946, stars Lily James as Juliet Ashton, an author who is exchanging letters with a man who lives in Guernsey, an area that was under German occupation during the war. This interaction piques her interest, and so she visits the island to get a better picture of what life was really like in those times. She also learns that the fate of one person is still not known, and so she tries to determine what has happened. The movie looks at the travesty that occurred during the German occupation through the eyes of the protagonist, and this is also why it makes for a compelling watch. This is where you can find it.
4. The Last Days (1998)
An incredible documentary exploring the plight of prisoners during the holocaust, ‘The Last Days,’ paints a vivid picture of the extremities of Nazi Germany through authentic photographs, documents, archival footage, and interviews with holocaust survivors. The documentary speaks about the Nazi’s final solution, wherein the Third Reich used up massive resources to kill or deport thousands of Jews from Hungary during 1944. By then, the Nazis knew that defeat was imminent, and thus, backed into a corner, they began massacring jews as a last resort. Offering an authentic insight by interviewing five Hungarian Jews who survived Auschwitz and lived through the final solution, the documentary showcases how even the most terrible of evils weren’t able to suppress humanity.
3. Operation Finale (2018)
Set fifteen years after the end of World War II, ‘Operation Finale’ follows a top-secret operation undertaken by a team of Israeli agents to track down Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. Although several of his fellow officers were charged with war crimes post the Second World War, Eichmann managed to escape and remained under the radar. The film documents how a team of Israeli agents travel to Argentina after confirming Eichmann’s presence in the country. They scout out his house and daily schedule for days, ultimately honing in on an abduction strategy that barely works. However, the kidnapping alerts his personal guards, and thus the Israelis soon find themselves playing a dangerous game of hide-and-seek with police authorities and Nazi officials as they try their best to escape the foreign country.
2. The Resistance Banker (2018)
‘The Resistance Banker’ is set during the Dutch resistance of the ’40s. Essentially a biopic of a Dutch banker named Walraven van Hall, the film begins its story in the German-occupied Netherlands. Van Hall is approached by one of the members of the resistance who is seeking funding using his outreach. Along with his brother, Van Hall devises a foolproof network of fake loans to fund guerilla warfare and to help out the ones in exile. The siblings then go ahead with creating fraud guilders worth millions to aid the resistance movement from the Dutch bank, right under the nose of the Nazis. Holland is liberated soon after 1945 as Hall goes into hiding to escape his capture. With remarkable performances, this one is a must-see. Watch the movie here.
1. The Photographer of Mauthausen (2018)
‘The Photographer of Mauthausen,’ also known as ‘El fotógrafo de Mauthausen,’ is a Spanish biography drama historical film. Based on real events, the feature revolves around Francesc Boix, who is a Spaniard inmate in the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen in Austria. He is someone who tries to save the shreds of evidence of the horrors committed inside its walls. It is easily one of the most eye-opening films on this list, and we recommend seeing it for the harrowing story. Watch the movie here.
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