In the 1990s, Georges Bensoussan emphasised that 'the genocide of the Jews is almostabsent from the film',
while Annette Wieviorka went further, saying that 'this film hasnothing to say regarding the genocide of the Jews'.
By reconstructing the genesis of the film, I will endeavour to show how the filmmakers tried constantly to convey and interweave heterogeneous elements of the Naziconcentration camp system. However, my working hypothesis is that, far from havingonly been subject to the context in which it was deployed, the collective experience of
Night and Fog
can be seen today as an essential stage in the work of remembering
(the years of Occupation) and the Final Solution.
When and why was Night and Fog made?
During 1954 a certain number of initiatives were taken that marked an inflection inFrench policy regarding the memory of the camps. On 14 April a law was passed inaugurating a National Day of Remembrance for the Victims and Heroes of the Deportation.On 10 November, an exhibition opened at the Pedagogical Museum at 29 rue d'Ulm entitled
Inaugurated by the Minister of Education, theexhibition received almost 60,000 visitors including 30,000 students from educationalestablishments in Paris. Conceived by the Committee for the History of the SecondWorld War (Comité d'Histoire de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale, CHGM), the exhibition played no small part in transmitting the memory of the war and deportations.One of the outcomes of the exhibition was the concern expressed by the MunicipalCouncil of Paris about the fate of the documents assembled for the occasion and thislaunched the idea of'the creation in Paris of a Municipal Museum of the Resistance,Liberation and Deportation in which the first elements will be made up of the documents above'.
This proposal would also be taken up in the Assemblée Nationale byMadame de Lipovsky who would present a 'proposal' with a similar outcome in mind.If 1954 marked the tenth anniversary of the Liberation of France, the following yearwould commemorate the opening of the camps. To allow for the two events to overlap,the exhibition, scheduled to close on 9 January, was extended until 23 January 1955 atthe request of Pierre Mendès-France, the Président du Conseil.The exhibition was acclaimed by the press both nationally and internationally forthe importance of its subject. If the
New York Times
straightforwardly stated that 'thevisitor learns how the occupier behaved and rediscovers the spirit behind the struggle for the Liberation',
lauded the 'objectivity' of the perspective adopted:"'beyond the homage to the Resistance, this exhibition offers an objective commentaryon Nazi methods in occupied France and in the concentration camps'.
In this regard,
Déportation et Liberté
emphasised that 'it was a good thing that such an exhibition attempted to show a large audience what the concentration camps were, using images toexplain how what happened in them was a deliberate execution of a plan that, fortunately, had been stopped'.
As well as photographic images, there were daily projections of films about the war,the resistance and the deportations. The deportations were recalled thanks to a montage of French newsreels screened in 1945,
Les Camps de la mort,
and a Polish fictionfilm,
Ostatni etap (The Last Stage),
directed by Wanda Jakubowska in 1948. Thesewould be among the first documents watched by the producers
of Night and Fog
128 HOLOCAUST AND THE MOVING IMAGE