International Holocaust Remembrance Day is Jan. 27, commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. As established by the United Nations, the day is a time for reflection and education in honor of the approximately six million Jewish victims and approximately five million non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust has been the subject of a myriad of films since the end of World War II, with various directors over the years depicting the enormous tragedy, shining a light on the strength of the human spirit in the face of the most horrific of circumstances, and showing the ways in which it is still felt today. Below, you will find 10 recommendations for films to watch in remembrance.
The film for which acting legend Meryl Streep won her first Oscar in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category (she had already won one for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Kramer vs. Kramer three years earlier), Sophie's Choice features Streep as Zofia "Sophie" Zawistowski, a Polish immigrant living in Brooklyn in the 1940s with her lover Nathan (Kevin Kline, in his film debut) and an author, Stingo (Peter MacNicol). Haunted by her past, Sophie contends with surviving Auschwitz, where she was sent with her two young children. Alan J. Pakula directs from a screenplay he adapted from William Styron's 1979 novel of the same name; he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Documentarian Claude Lanzmann’s film about the Holocaust – or the Shoah, in Hebrew – does not feature any archival footage. For over more than a decade, he recorded hundreds of hours of first-person testimonies from survivors, perpetrators, and witnesses. Lanzmann edited it all down to create this important nine-hour-plus epic.
Adapted from Solomon Perel's memoir, Europa Europa shows the lengths to which a young boy must go to survive. Separated from his family, 16-year-old Solomon (Marco Hofschneider) hides his Jewishness in wartime Germany by enlisting in the Hitler Youth, among other assumed identities. Agnieszka Holland wrote and directed the film, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Steven Spielberg's harrowing historical drama features Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved countless Jewish lives from the death camps by deeming them essential workers in his factories. Ben Kingsley co-stars as Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, who was instrumental to the efforts. Ralph Fiennes plays Amon Goeth, a sadistic concentration camp commandant, a character regarded as one of the most terrifying villains in film history. Schindler’s List is widely revered as one the greatest films ever made. It received twelve Academy Award nominations and won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Anne Frank Remembered includes the only known footage of its subject, pieced together with archive footage and diary extracts read by Glenn Close to tell Anne's story. Director Jon Blair's documentary is also notable for its interviews with Miep Gies, the woman who helped shelter the family and who saved Anne's diary. When the doc won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, Blair was accompanied by Gies on stage. After receiving a standing ovation, Gies was described by Blair as “a true hero.”
Filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris' documentary looks at life for Holocaust survivors immediately after the end of WWII, as narrated by Morgan Freeman. Faced with continued antisemitism and immigration constraints, Jewish refugees strive for liberation and to find their place in the world once again. The Long Way Home won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Scripted using actual transcripts of the Wannsee Conference, this BBC and HBO Films production dramatizes the meeting of senior members of the Nazi party in 1942 to discuss the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish Question." Kenneth Branagh won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for his portrayal of Reinhard Heydrich, with Stanley Tucci as Adolf Eichmann. (Conspiracy also marks one of Tom Hiddleston's earliest screen appearances, simply credited as "Phone Operator.") Oscar winner Frank Pierson directs from a script by Emmy winner Loring Mandel.
The winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (now Best International Feature Film) in 2008, the Austrian drama centers on Operation Bernhard, a secret German plan to weaken the United Kingdom by flooding its economy in the largest counterfeiting operation in history. Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and coerced to assist in the operation. The film’s script, written by Stefan Ruzowitzky, who also directed this historical drama, is based on the 1942 memoir by Adolf Burger, a Slovak Jewish typographer who was similarly imprisoned at Sachsenhausen.
A young nun is ready to take her final vows when she learns that she is in fact a Jewish orphan who was raised in a convent after her parents were killed in the German occupation. She sets out on a trip with her aunt, her only living relative, to uncover as much as possible about her past. In 2015, Ida became the first Polish film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (now Best International Feature Film).
Jessica Chastain stars as Antonina Żabiński, the titular spouse of Warsaw Zoo director Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), in this based-on-a-true-story drama from director Niki Caro (Whale Rider). During the German invasion and occupation of Poland, the Zabinskis hid hundreds of Jewish refugees within their zoo, in direct opposition to Hitler's chief zoologist, Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl).