Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Night And Fog (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Night and Fog (1955, Fr.) (aka Nuit et Brouillard)

In director Alain Resnais' documentary-style short film about the horrors of war - a potent and very poignant French documentary about genocide filmed 10 years following the end of WWII, providing a profound exploration of the sinister Nazi concentration death camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek; the haunting movie about the barbarity of the "Final Solution" was descriptively narrated (a detached voice-over by Michel Bouquet).

The title of the film referred to the "Night and Fog" Decree (Nacht und Nebel Erlass) issued on December 7, 1941 by Adolf Hitler that called for the seizure of "persons endangering Germany's security."

  • the documentary began by surveying the colorful, present "peaceful landscape" around the former main death camp, with barbed wire fencing, the railroad tracks that brought prisoners, the guard towers, and the abandoned empty buildings where the Jews were housed and mostly exterminated; these views were interspersed with archival, historical black and white footage of Hitler addressing hordes of his followers of the Third Reich at Nuremberg in 1933 during his rise to power ("The machine gets underway")

Opening Tracking Shot

Archival Footage - Hitler

Abandoned Buildings and Barbed Wire Fencing
  • the camps were built in preparation for rounding up and moving millions of Jews on crowded and sealed boxcar trains on tracks leading to the barren camp's living areas: ("Hunger, thirst, suffocation, madness"), arriving in the "night and fog" - "The first sight of the camp. It's another planet"; the sign above the camp's front steel gate read: "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Labor Liberates) - a deceptive euphemism to falsely advertise that the locale was a work camp to serve the Third Reich
  • the "political prisoners" were stripped, shaved, tattooed, numbered, and uniformed, and then housed in crowded bunk areas (with three to a bunk); during the day, those who were chosen as workers were marched off to a factory or quarry in all weather conditions while supervised by the SS (SchutzStaffel, or the elite guard)
  • there were harsh and relentless images of the severity of treatment, including "hospitals" for lethal drug injections, "needless operations, amputations, experimental mutilations," castrations, and chemical factories testing their toxic products on prisoners ("guinea pigs"), with a view of crude operating tables with canals that channeled blood to a central drain; the Kapos (cruel supervisors) at the camps maintained a brothel with "better-fed women but equally doomed to die"; there were prisons with inhumane tiny cells designed for torture - air vents were not soundproof, allowing for the horrors to be heard ("Air vents don't muffle the cries")
  • the film documented how Nazi officer Heinrich Himmler arrived with the goal of annihilating and exterminating as many camp prisoners as possible with greater efficiency by building gas chambers and crematoriums: ("A crematorium might look a bit like a postcard. Today, tourists have their picture taken in front of them"); Zyklon B poison gas was used (hydrocyanic or prussic acid); women and children and the weak and elderly were often immediately separated upon arrival and executed

A Typical Gas Chamber

A Fake Shower Room

Piled Up Bodies
  • the film photographed the outside and interior of a typical gas chamber, constructed to appear to be a shower room (with locked doors), with close-ups of finger-nail scratch marks on the concrete ceiling of a gas chamber; newly-constructed crematoriums were very successful: ("The new ovens consumed thousands of bodies a day"), but couldn't handle the backlog of bodies, so large wooden pyres were built: "When the crematoria prove insufficient, pyres are set up"

Discarded Eyeglasses

Shaved Off Women's Hair

Human Bones For Fertilizer
  • the film built to a climax with shocking, gruesome, sobering and horrific images of the Holocaust victims - with stockpiles of discarded eyeglasses, hair combs, clothing, warehouse piles of shaved-off women's hair (to make cloth material and rugs) and bones (to make fertilizer), and rooms filled with emaciated dead bodies (to make soap) [Note: There was actually no evidence that the Nazis made soap from corpses. This one factual error in the film was used by certain groups to argue that the entire Holocaust was a myth.]
  • decapitated heads were stacked neatly in large buckets; human skin was used to make sheets of paper
Bulldozing the Corpses Into Mass Grave-Pits
  • the lifeless corpses were bulldozed into a mass grave
  • the film concluded with the liberation of the country and the camps, and questioning who was responsible for the atrocities; kapos and officers all testified: "I'm not responsible"
  • the narrator then memorably asked as the film returned to views of the present day facility and surveyed the ruins: "Then who is responsible. As I speak to you now, cold water from the ponds and ruins fills the mass graves, a water as cold and murky as our own faulty memory. War has dozed off - one eye still open.... Nine million dead haunt this landscape"
    [Note: The actual figure of the deceased was 11 million, six million Jews and five million non-Jews.]
  • the film pondered questions about why and how the apocalyptic Holocaust had ever happened, and how it might inform the historical future with a final warning that the unique event could be repeated - and the urgent need for vigilance if we ever forget the past (in the fog of suppression): "Who among us keeps watch from this strange watchtower to warn of the arrival of new executioners? Are their faces really so different from ours?"
  • the narration ended: "We survey these ruins with a heartfelt gaze, certain the old monster lies crushed beneath the rubble. We pretend to regain hope as the image recedes, as though we've been cured of that plague. We tell ourselves it was all confined to one country, one point in time. We turn a blind eye to what surrounds us and a deaf ear to the never-ending cries"

Loading Boxcars

Rail Tracks Leading to The Concentration Camp

Arrival at the Camp in the "Night and Fog" - With

Stripped Prisoners

Uniformed, Shaved Workers

Skeletal Figure in a "Hospital"

Burned Bodies in Pyres

A Typical Crematorium

Piles of Bodies - Decapitated Heads

Depositing a Corpse Into a Grave

Faces of Victims Being Liberated Behind Barbed Wire


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