Auschwitz's 70th Anniversary: Hollywood's Holocaust Stories Through the Years

Universal Pictures/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

In the years since Auschwitz's liberation, Hollywood has continued to honor Holocaust survivors through films depicting the horrors they endured.

Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a network of concentration and extermination camps where the Nazis massacred more than 1.1 million people from 1940-1945.

In the 70 years since Auschwitz was liberated, Hollywood has commemorated Holocaust victims and survivors through films documenting the horrific events that took place in Europe during World War II. Steven Spielberg, Robert Benigni, George Stevens and Roman Polanski are just some of the directors who've dedicated feature films to the remembrance of victims and pledged "never to forget."

In honor of Tuesday's anniversary, The Hollywood Reporter looks back at 10 films — seven of which won Oscars — about the Holocaust.

Night and Fog (1955), director: Alain Resnais

The French documentary short film (32 minutes) revisits the present-day abandoned Auschwitz and Majdanek camps while showing footage from World War II. Made 10 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the film documents the trials and brutality that prisoners endured, shifting between historic Holocaust footage and present-day footage of the empty camps.

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), director: George Stevens

Stevens immortalized the story of Anne Frank, one of the best-known names from the Holocaust, in his 1959 film, The Diary of Anne Frank. Before she and her family were captured by Nazis, the Jewish teen wrote in her journal — which was found and later published as The Diary of a Young Girl —  for two years while in hiding. The film won three Oscars, including best actress, best cinematography and best art/set direction.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), director: Stanley Kramer

Judgment at Nuremberg follows the story of four Nazi judges who are tried for charges against humanity. The film stars Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster and Richard Wildmark and won two Oscars for best actor and best screenplay.

Sophie's Choice (1982), director: Alan J. Pakula

Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol, Sophie's Choice tells the story of a Polish Holocaust survivor who lives in Brooklyn with her emotionally fragile lover and befriends a writer who learns of her prewar life. Streep won the best actress Oscar for her role as Sophie.

Shoah (1985), director: Claude Lanzmann

Shoah is a nine-and-a-half hour French documentary that features interviews from Holocaust survivors, former Nazis and witnesses about the events that took place. The film captures minute details about the genocide from numerous, varying perspectives.

Europa Europa (1990), director: Agnieszka Holland

Set in Nazi Germany, Europa Europa tells the story of a Jewish teen who joins the Hitler Youth and disguises his heritage by identifying himself as a German Aryan. The 1990 film stars Solomon Perel, Marco Hofschneider and Julie Delpy.

Schindler's List (1993), director: Steven Spielberg

Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley, the movie won seven Oscars, including best picture, best director and best screenplay, for its depiction of Poland during World War II. The black-and-white film — apart from a shot of a red coat — tells the story of German businessman Oskar Schindler (Neeson), who employs and saves Jewish refugees.

Life Is Beautiful (1997), director: Robert Benigni

Life Is Beautiful follows a Jewish Italian bookshop owner who falls in love and raises a son with his wife. After being forced into a concentration camp with his son, the man uses humor to shield his son from the surrounding horrors by pretending that the camp is a game. Life Is Beautiful won Oscars for best actor, best music and best foreign language film. 

The Pianist (2002), director: Roman Polanski

Polanski directed the historical drama that follows Polish-Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) and his family into extermination camps. The pianist eventually escapes and must learn to survive amid the destruction of World War II. The film won three Oscars, including best actor, best director and best adapted screenplay.

The Reader (2008), director: Stephen Daldry

Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet co-star in the post-WWII drama about a German lawyer who, as a teen, had an affair with an older woman who disappears. The pair’s paths eventually cross in the courtroom, when Hanna Schmitz (Winslet) is a defendant in a war crimes trial. The Reader won the best actress Oscar in 2009.

Jessie Katz contributed to this report.

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