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It's a little known fact that the great director made a film about the Nazi death camps – but, horrified by the footage he saw, the documentary was never shown. Geoffrey Macnab reports The British Army Film Unit cameramen who shot the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 used to joke about the reaction of Alfred Hitchcock to the horrific footage they filmed.
When Hitchcock first saw the footage, the legendary British director was reportedly so traumatised that he stayed away from Pinewood Studios for a week.
Hitchcock may have been the king of horror movies but he was utterly appalled by "the real thing".
In 1945, Hitchcock had been enlisted by his friend and patron Sidney Bernstein to help with a documentary on German wartime atrocities, based on the footage of the camps shot by British and Soviet film units. "It was suppressed because of the changing political situation, particularly for the British," suggests Dr Toby Haggith, Senior Curator at the Department of Research, Imperial War Museum.
"Once they discovered the camps, the Americans and British were keen to release a film very quickly that would show the camps and get the German people to accept their responsibility for the atrocities that were there." The film took far longer to make than had originally been envisaged. The Allied military government decided that rubbing the Germans' noses in their own guilt wouldn't help with postwar reconstruction.