(In color): We are moving at a walking pace across a verdant
landscape; a blue sky filled with fluffy clouds.
[Narrator:] "A peaceful landscape ..."
Barbed wire nailed to high wooden posts. Then moving along
another field; a cottage on the horizon; birds take wing.
"An ordinary field with flights of crows,
harvests, grass fires."
Moving along another fence,the wires severed and limp.
"An ordinary road where cars and peasants
and lovers pass."
Moving past abundant grass in bright sunlight. Two walls of
wire appear, weeds growing high between them, a watchtower
in the distance.
"An ordinary village for vacationers -
with a marketplace and a steeple - can
lead all too easily to a concentration
A camp today, surrounded by wires and posts cutting across
"Struthof, Oranienburg, Auschwitz,
Neuengamme, Belsen, Ravensbruck and
Dachau were names like any others on maps
and in guidebooks."
Still moving, a closer view of the maze of wires, with weeds
growing around the fence posts.
"The blood has dried, the tongues are
silent. The blocks are visited only by a
camera. Weeds have grown where the
prisoners used to walk. No footstep is
heard but our own."
Passing row after row of barbed wire.
(From color to black and white): Nazi soldiers marching in
unison, rigid as the fence posts.
1933 -- The machine gets underway.
A rally hall, soldiers parading; stiff-arm salutes; a
procession begins, with banners bearing the swastika,
banners reading DEUTSCHLAND ERWACHE. An officer reviews
marching columns of the Nazi military power; Hitler,
standing in an open car, salutes the troops. An ecstatic
crowd waving and cheering; buildings draped with swastika
banners. Streicher, the Nazi newspaper boss, punctuates his
speech with a fist.
A nation must have no discord.
A fist strikes a drum. Two youth beat a drum roll. Hitler
is on a podium, making a speech.
Bare-chested men, standing in military formation, hold
spades on their shoulders like rifles.
They get to work.
In unison, the spades are lowered to their sides.
Marshes extend for miles.
A concentration camp is built like, a
stadium or a big hotel.
Men in the field survey the land.
You need contractors, estimates,
A steam shovel hangs motionless from a factory rig.
And no doubt a bribe or two.
Wooden watchtowers in trees. Watchtowers with sloped roofs,
slanted roofs, flat roofs, each overlooking a barbed-wire
Any style will do. It's left to the
imagination. Swiss style; garage style;
Japanese style; no style at all.
Buildings resembling villas at the entrance to a camp.
The architects calmly plan the gates
through which no one will enter more than
Spelled out in ironwork above an entrance gate:
Meanwhile -- Burgher, a German Communist;
Stern, a Jewish student from Amsterdam;
Another main building of the camp, its gate closed, a
crane towering over the camp.
Schmulszki, a merchant in Cracow;
Rows of flat barracks bounded by barbed wire.
Annette, a schoolgirl in Bordeaux--
High stone walls seclude a camp beyond.
All go on living their everyday lives,
Rows of barracks with rounded roofs.
Not knowing that there is a place, a
thousand miles away, already awaiting
Rows of barracks with slanted roofs.
The day comes when their quarters are
A camp extending for miles.
Nothing is missing but the occupants.
Arms raised above their heads, men, women, and children
being gathered at gunpoint; a soldier pointing his rifle at
a frightened child.
Rounded up in Warsaw,
Streets packed with people being herded by soldiers; some of
the people carry sacks on their backs; the Jews wear a star
on their coats.
Deported from Lodz, from Prague, Brussels,
A closer view of the patch on the coats -- two cloth
triangles sewn in the shape of a star; many carry their few
belongings; a Nazi officer smiles.
From Zagreb, Odessa, or Rome.
Children, directed by a uniformed woman, file into a boxcar.
Interned at Pithiviers ...
Nazi officers standing idle near the barracks, awaiting the
arrival of transports. Hundreds of those to be transported
gather at the depot; some stand and wait, others sleep on
Arrested at the Vel-d'Hiv ...
Men file by -- as always, under scrutiny.
Members of the Resistance herded at
The depot filled to capacity, the platform a mass of
All those caught in the act, arrested by
mistake, or chosen at random, make their
way toward the camps.
A woman rocks her infant in her lap, a friend stroking the
child's head. A woman stares into space; the aged sleep
around her. The crowd moves onto a train; officers examining
papers. A bearded man and three children hurry along the
platform, the children bewildered, frightened. A woman in a
cart is wheeled to the train, her suitcase at her feet.
Officers chat at the depot, checking off the deportees.
Prisoners march into boxcars. A child peers through a crack
in the door. A hand waves farewell from within the train,
as soldiers with rifles lock the doors. The train departs,
as the officers look on. Soldiers board the runways of the
moving train; car after car rolls by.
Sealed trains, bolted. One hundred
deportees to every car. No night, no day;
just hunger, thirst, suffocation, and
A scrap of paper drops from a rushing train.
A message flutters down -- and sometimes
is picked up. Death makes its first
choice. A second is made on arrival in
the night and fog.
A train steams into a depot, glowing in the night like a
furnace; soldiers await the transports with guns poised in
(From black and white to color): Moving along an abandoned
railroad track, the rails gleaming in the sun, with weeds,
grass and flowers growing among the ties.
Today, along the same tracks, the sun
shines. Go slowly along it, looking for
what? For a trace of the corpses that
fell out of the cars when the doors were
opened? Or the footprints of those first
arrivals, driven toward camp at gunpoint
while dogs barbed, searchlights wheeled,
and the incinerator flamed in the
(Black and white): A watchtower looms over a camp recessed
in trees; the entrance gate promises ARBEIT MACHT FREI.
In one of those nocturnal settings so
beloved by the Nazis.
A startled face, eyes wide with disbelief.
First sight of the camp.
Throngs of people, naked and clothed, fill the yard of the
It is another planet.
Rows of bewildered, naked men, some of them hiding their
genitals with their hands.
"For the sake of hygiene," they are
delivered to the camp stark naked, these
men who have already been humiliated.
A marked arm.
A numbered patch on a uniform.
Two triangles in the shape of a star on a striped sleeve.
Dressed in blue striped uniforms, caught
up in the game of a still incomprehensible
The letters N N daubed in white paint on the back of a shirt.
Sometimes classified as Nacht und Nebel
-- Night and Fog.
Various homemade triangles sewn onto shirts.
Political deportees with their red
triangles meet the green triangles:
common criminals, masters in the ranks.
An arm band spelling Kapo.
Above them, the Kapo.
An arrestingly brutish, bloated face.
Almost always: a common criminal.
An officer; in the background striped prisoners marching to
Still higher: the S.S., the untouchable.
One addresses him four four yards away.
Another officer, this one smiling, posing for a snapshot on
the parapet above a concentration camp.
Highest of all: the Commandant. From afar
he presides over the rites. He pretends to
know nothing of the camp.
(Into color, moving): A maze of wire, a stone camp, and
wooden barracks set in luxurious grass, framed by the sky
and warmed by a bright sun.
And who does know anything? Is it in vain
that we in our turn try to remember. What
remains of the reality of these camps --
despised by those who made them,
incomprehensible to those who suffered
here? These wooden barracks, these beds
where three people slept, these burrows
where people hid, where they furtively
ate, and where sleep itself was perilous.
Inside, moving along a row or triple-tiered wooden beds;
there is sunlight spilling into the empty barracks; the row
of beds goes on and on.
No description, no picture can restore
their true dimension: endless,
uninterrupted fear. We would need the
very mattress where scraps of food were
hidden, the blanket that was fought over,
the shouts and curses, the orders repeated
in every tongue, the sudden appearance of
the S.S., seized with a desire for a spot
check or for a practical joke. Of this
brick dormitory, of these threatened
sleepers, we can only show you the shell,
Moving along a corridor of cubicles with wooden planks
ranged up each wall and embedded in brick -- three "beds"
per cubicle for prisoners to sleep on.
Outdoors, still moving: soft grass, vivid flowers, and then
sunlit brick buildings.
Here is the setting: buildings that might
be stables, garages, workshops. A piece
of land that's become a wasteland, an
autumn sky indifferent to everything.
(Black and white): Night silhouettes the distant camp, the
watchtower and barbed wire; a speck of light flickers in
the distance, the moon above the watchtower.
This is all that is left us to evoke a
night shattered by screams, by
inspections, by lice, a night of
chattering teeth. Get to sleep quickly.
An endless row of cubicles; the prisoners in their quarters:
the three-tiered beds cramped beyond capacity, three
prisoners to each bed. Shaved and starved they stare at the
Waking at the crack of dawn, they stumble
over one another, looking for stolen
belongings. The interminable roll call in
the Appelplatz. Those who died in the
night always confuse the bookkeeping. An
orchestra plays a march from some operetta
at the time to leave for the quarry or the
A conductor leads a band of woodwinds, brass and strings;
soldiers guarding the prisoners outside the camp.
Prisoners march in the snow, Nazi soldiers bringing up the rear.
Work in the snow that soon becomes frozen
Men behind a barbed wire fence scraping the ditches and
loading carts with stones; an endless stream of men with
picks and shovels and poles.
Work in the August sun -- thirst and
An endless flight of sun-baked steps.
Three thousand Spaniards died building
this staircase that leads to the
A mass of white rock -- a black pit for its entrance. An
empty, underground factory. Bulbs from the ceiling light
the dreary workshops. The machines are still.
Work in the underground factories. Month
after month, they burrow, they bury, they
hide, they kill. The factories all have
women's names: Dora, Laura.
Men in striped clothes work at machines in a dismal,
cavelike factory, with soldiers on guard.
But these foreign workmen who weigh
seventy pounds are unreliable. The S.S.
watches them, supervises them.
The factory is filled with smoke and steam as the prisoners
work, drilling and welding; an S.S. officer standing over
He reassembles, inspects them, and
searches them before they return to camp.
With shaved and bowed heads, prisoners file along the road.
Road signs point the way to camp.
Signs in rustic style direct everyone home.
A score sheet -- a column for each day. We see tallies of
94, 57, 60.
The Kapo has only to count the day's
Prisoners in uniforms sit hunched over; a man staring
blankly, his chin in his hands.
The deportee returns to the obsession
which rules his life and dreams: food.
Behind barbed wire, men crouch with their bowls of soup.
Soup. Each spoon is priceless. One spoon
less is one less day to live.
The prisoners share their food.
You swap two or three cigarettes for a
pan of soup.
The men crowd together, their hands raised above their
heads; some sit while others rest in a heap on the pavement.
Many are too weak to defend their ration
Moving along black barbed wire and rows of barracks, framed
against the snow.
They wait for the mud or snow to take
them. At last to stretch out somewhere,
anywhere, and at least have one's death
(Into color): Moving now down a corridor of latrines, dozens
and dozens of neatly cut black holes in an interminable
public toilet bench; eventually, sunlight on the concrete
The latrines and their approaches.
Skeletons with babies' bellies came here
seven or eight times a night. The soup
guaranteed that. Woe to him who met a
drunken Kapo in the moonlight. They
watched one another in fear, on the
lookout for the familiar symptoms. "To
pass blood" was the sign of death. The
black market: clandestine buying there,
clandestine selling there; even
clandestine killing there. You met with
your friends there, exchanged news and
rumors, organized resistance groups. A
society took shape, made in the image of
terror. Less mad though than that of the
S.S. whose precepts ran:
(In black and white): REINLICHKEIT IST GESUNDHEIT.
"Cleanliness is health."
The iron gate with ARBEIT MACHT FREI spelled out across the
"Work is freedom."
Soldiers behind a gate reading JEDEM DAS SEINE.
"To each his due."
A skull painted on a sign: EINE LAUS DEIN TOD!
"A louse means death!" What about an S.S.
An orchestra arranged in a semicircle, officers idly
Each camp has its surprises: a symphony
A bear crouching on a mound of snow.
A row of sun-filled glass buildings.
Hothouses where Himmler cultivates
A majestic oak in front of a camp.
Goethe's oak tree at Buchenwald. They
built the camp around it, because they
respected the oak tree.
Wide-eyed children march in the snow; they are wrapped in
An orphanage, transient but constantly
A column of hopping amputees supported by their crutches;
stumps replace their legs.
A barracks for the disabled.
Barbed wire strung tightly on posts; beyond it, homes, a
Then the real world of peaceful
landscapes, the world of the past, it
seems far off -- yet not so far.
(Into color, moving): A view of the barracks and buildings
seen through watchtower windows.
For the deportee it was an image. He
belonged only to this finite, closed
universe defined by watchtowers from which
the conduct of the camp was studied by
soldiers constantly watching the deportees
and, on occasion, killing them out of
(Black and white): A man clawing a barbed wire fence, his
mouth hanging open, his nose bleeding; he is dead. Another
prisoner ripped and spiked on the wires, a man strolling in
the distance. Uniformed prisoners lie on the ground. Rows
of naked men: the young, the old, the young grown old; a
column of shaven heads, prominent ribs, distended bellies;
men shielding their bodies with their hands.
Anything is a pretext for bullying, for
punishment. For humiliation. The roll
call lasts two hours.
A man being whipped and kicked; a soldier looks on.
A badly made bed means twenty lashes of
With hands on hips, the guards watch the prisoners work.
Pass unnoticed. Make no sign to the gods.
A gallows; the noose hanging empty and still.
They have their gallows, their sacrificial
An empty courtyard: trees seclude the yard, the gallows cast
a shadow on a bullet-riddled wall.
This yard in Block XI, quite out of sight,
has been specially arranged for executions,
with its walls protected against
A view of a castle.
This is the castle of Hartheim where
coaches with smoked window's brought
passengers we shall never see again.
A cloud of dust trails a moving truck with a cargo of human
Black transport trucks that leave in the
night and of which no one will ever know
A handmade toy soldier.
Yet man has incredible powers of
resistance. When the body is worn out with
fatigue, the mind goes on working. Hands
covered with bandages go on working. They
make spoons, marionettes which they
A toy crocodile.
A handmade match box.
Notes scratched on papers.
They managed to write, make notes.
A French menu.
Train the memory with dreams.
A Hebrew Scripture.
They can think of God.
Two men huddle together, looking about cautiously.
They even come to organize politically,
disputing with the common criminals their
right to control the internal life of the
A sick and aged man stands wrapped in a blanket.
They look after friends worse off than
Men lie feebly on the ground. Inmates support the sick under
They set up centers for mutual aid.
(Into color): Moving in on a brick hospital, its façade
bright with sun.
As a last resort and with anguished hearts,
they take the dying to the hospital -- the
"dream house." Approach this door and you
had the hallucination of real sickness,
the dream of a real bed. And you ran the
risk of death by injection.
(Black and white): Wooden beds with thin mattresses; and men
lying wrapped in blankets and bandages, their limbs shrunk
to the bone. A husk of a man lies still in his bed, his
bones bulging his tissue-thin skin; his leg twitches.
The medicines are a mockery, the
dressings mere paper.
A man writhes in his blankets, his medicine glass and spoon
on a nearby table.
The same ointment is used on every sore.
Sometimes the starving eat their
A double berth: below, a man's chest heaves; above, a man
with a skeletal body stares wildly.
Eventually, the deportees come to look
alike, conforming to a model that has no
age but dies with its eyes wide open.
(In color): Moving among the buildings; the hospital again.
There was a surgical block. It almost
looked like a real clinic.
(Black and white): The fat face of a balding, spectacled
An S.S. doctor.
A fierce, gap-toothed woman in white nods as she talks.
A terrifying nurse.
White cabinets line the surgical room, an operating table
prepared with sheets. A stained stone morgue table with a
drain for blood.
What's behind the façade? Useless
operations, amputations, experimental
The surgical instruments: glass tubes and rubber gloves,
syringes, ointments, hypodermic needles, cartons of
capsules, cartons of poison.
The Kapos as well as the S.S. surgeons
keep their hands in. The big chemical
factories send samples of their toxic
products to the camps or, better yet,
they buy direct a batch of deportees to
try them out on.
A doctor with calipers measures a swollen square on a
Of these guinea pigs a few survive,
Three men sit on a table, bare-chested, their hands in
their laps; one is speaking to a doctor.
A hand holds a glistening foot in the air. It is burnt to
the bone. It twitches. A patient watches from his bed.
Burned with phosphorus.
A woman reveals her shriveled limbs.
There are some whose flesh will be marked
Hands thumb through identification cards and registers that
are filled with names; occasional lines are drawn through
The administration photographs these men
and women as soon as they arrive. Names
also are noted. Names from twenty-two
nations. They fill hundreds of ledgers,
thousands of index files. The dead have a
red stroke through their names. Deportees
keep these mad, always inaccurate books
under the eyes of the S.S. men and
privileged Kapos. These are the bosses,
the upper crust, of the camp.
An immaculate sun-filled room, striped uniforms hanging in
the closet, a vase of flowers adorning the table, a rug
covering the floor; there is a dresser, a wash bowl, a neat
The Kapo has his own room where he can
hoard supplies, and at night receive his
A villa recessed in the trees.
Quite near the camp is the Commandant's
The Commandant, his wife, and his dog relax in their home.
The Commandant entertains a friend with chess.
Here his wife manages to maintain a family
life and sometimes a social life, as in
any other garrison town.
Guests are assembled, chatting, laughing, drinking.
Perhaps, though, she is a trifle more
bored. The war seems determined not to
(Into color): Moving past barred windows.
Luckier still, the Kapos had a brothel.
Better fed women, but prisoners still,
like the others doomed to death. Sometimes
from these windows a crust of bread falls
for a comrade outside. So the S.S. had
managed to reconstitute in the camp the
semblance of a real city, with its
hospital, its residential district, its
red-light district and -- yes, even its
Traveling past metal air vents embedded in the brick wall.
Useless to describe what went on in these
cells. In cages so designed that they
could neither stand nor lie down, men and
women were conscientiously punished for
days on end. The air holes were not
(Black and white): The arrival of Himmler; he greets the
Commandant, who takes him on a tour of the camp. He
discusses and plans the crematoriums with technicians and
officers. A blueprint of the crematorium. A model of the
crematorium. The actual crematorium, inmates helping to
1942. A visit from Himmler. "We must
destroy, but productively." Leaving the
production aspects to his technicians,
Himmler concentrates on the destruction
side. Plans, models are studied. They are
carried out, the deportees themselves take
part in the work.
(In color): Moving around the peaceful crematorium, shaded
by trees that sway in the breeze.
A crematorium can be made to look like a
picture-postcard. Today, tourists have
themselves photographed in front of them.
(Black and white): People congregate with their suitcases
Deportation extends to all of Europe.
A train arrives carrying deportees; people piled in dead
heaps in cars, a tangled mass of limbs.
Convoys get lost, stop, then start again,
are bombed, but finally arrive. For some,
the choice has already been made.
Officers driving people toward the camps; the captives are
stripped; soldiers survey a row of nude women.
For the rest, the choice is made immediately. Those
on tie left will work. Those on the right ...
Women stand naked in the grass, clutching their children,
and themselves, shielding their bodies with their hands;
soldiers stand in the background.
These pictures were taken a few moments
Naked men and boys await their execution. Crates of
cylinders of gas are piled one on the other.
Killing by hand takes time. Cylinders of
zyklon gas are ordered.
(Into color): Moving again outside -- blue sky, peaceful
landscape -- a sunlit building that contained a gas chamber.
Moving inside the building: gas tanks, steel doors, valves
and nozzles for the gas to escape.
Nothing distinguished the gas chamber
from an ordinary block. Inside, what
looked like a shower room welcomed the
newcomers. Their hosts closed the doors.
Moving into the room, looking at the ceiling. The wood is
cracked, the concrete scratched.
The only sign -- but you have to know it
-- is this ceiling, dug into by
fingernails. Even the concrete was torn.
(Black and white): A dead woman stares. The air is thick
with smoke as men burn a heap of bodies.
When the incinerators proved inadequate,
open fires were used.
The faces of prisoners are smoking ash. A heap of bodies,
cinders, steam on the ground.
(In color): Moving along past the ovens: the doors hang
open, the ovens are empty.
Yet the new ovens had a capacity of
several thousand bodies per day.
(Black and white): A mountain of spectacles, combs, dishes
and pans, clothing and shoes, scissors, and shaving brushes.
Everything was saved. Here are the
stockpiles of the Nazis at war. Here are
An enormous mountain of gleaming hair rising toward the sky.
Nothing but women's hair ...
Reams of cloth, its hair surface glistening in the light.
At fifteen pfennig the kilo, they made
cloth from it.
An oven door is opened, bones line the pit. Bones of skulls,
torsos, legs, and arms rise in massive heaps.
From bones ...
A stretch of fertile land and vegetation.
Manure. At least they tried.
Open crates packed with shriveled corpses. A barrel of human
heads. Rows of decapitated bodies.
From bodies ... But there's nothing left
Cakes of soap on a table.
From bodies, they wanted to make ... soap.
Bins of dried skin. Sketches inked on dried skin.
As for skin ...
Aerial views of the camps. Endless rows of barracks in the
1945. The camps are full and spreading.
They are cities of 100,000 inhabitants.
Full house everywhere. Heavy industry
takes an interest in this indefinitely
replenishable labor force. Factories
have their own camps, forbidden to the
S.S. Steyer, Krupp, Heinckel, I.G.
Farben, Siemens, Hermann Goering do their
shopping at these markets. The Nazis may
win the war. These new towns are part of
their economy. But they are losing. There
is enough coal for the incinerators, not
enough bread for the men. The streets of
the camps are strewn with corpses.
The streets are lined with dead piles of naked bodies.
A monstrous mass of knotted limbs -- abstractions in bone.
A pyramid of heads with eyes opened or eyes removed. An
array of stray legs. A dead woman stares, her mouth gaping.
A bulldozer pushes the bodies, hurling the dead into pits.
When the Allies open the doors ...
Led out by the Allies, Nazi women in knee boots stream out
of a barracks door, soldiers following.
All the doors ...
Allies stand guard as men file out with the dead on their
backs. Corpse after corpse is hurled into a pit. Nazis
carry human heads. The skulls are arranged on the ground.
Prisoners huddle together and peer through the wires.
The inmates look on without understanding.
Are they free? Will they return to everyday
A Kapo, a Junker, and then an earnest, pleasant-looking
young man testify in court.
"I am not responsible," says the Kapo.
"I am not responsible," says the officer.
"I am not responsible."
A final look at a mountain of naked, mutilated corpses.
Then who is responsible?
(Into color): Moving over a rich field with flowers; the
twigs and rocks on the ground are reminiscent of the human
At the moment I speak to you, the icy
water of the ponds and ruins is filling
up the hollows of the charnel house. A
water as cold and murky as our own bad
memories. War is napping, but with one
eye always open.
Moving along the sunny landscape, flowers swaying in the
breeze; the camps are in the background.
The faithful grass has come up again on
the Appelplatz, around the cell blocks. An
abandoned village, but still full of peril.
Still moving: crematorium ruins; twisted wires; broken
watchtowers; crumbled chambers; slabs of cracked concrete;
abstract figures of stone.
The crematorium is no longer in use. The
devices of the Nazis are out of date. Nine
million dead haunt this landscape. Who is
on the lookout from this strange tower to
warn us of the coming of new executioners?
Are their faces really different from our
own? Somewhere among us, there are lucky
Kapos, reinstated officers, and unknown
informers. There are those who refused to
believe this, or believed it only from
time to time. And there are those of us
who sincerely look upon the ruins today,
as if the old concentration camp monster
were dead and buried beneath them. Those
who pretend to take hope again as the
image fades, as though there were a cure
for the plague of these camps. Those of
us who pretend to believe that all this
happened only once, at a certain time and
in a certain place, and those who refuse
to see, who do not hear the cry to the
end of time.
Narration by Jean Cayrol