Humanity has often been subdued by the ruthless impulses of tyrants. People have been slaughtered and freedom has been lost in many wars since the very beginning of time. But, one of the most infamous and tragic moments of our past is the Holocaust. The mass genocide committed during World War II by Nazi forces and their allies resulted in the murder of close to six million Jews. Add to this the fact that it happened in recent history, and the war will have you questioning the very existence of humanity. There is a reason that to this day, the Holocaust is considered as one of the biggest genocides in the history of mankind.
Holocaust movies have not only focused on the atrocities committed during World War II, but also the following decades wherein one could see the after-effects of the crimes. Most of these films have focused on grim central ideas and forgotten heroes who succeeded in saving the Jewish populace. However meager the collection of such productions might be on Netflix, their overall presence is significant. Here’s a list of really good Holocaust movies on the streaming giant today. But consider yourself warned because some of these are real tear-jerkers.
20. My Honor Was Loyalty (2016)
In this movie, Leone Frisa stars as Untersharführer Ludwig Herckel, a devoted and patriotic soldier that belongs to the elite 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. In a fight against the Soviets, he is knocked unconscious after an explosion. When he comes to, he goes to the woods where he meets another soldier from his hometown. This person tells the protagonist that he is worried about his wife, who is Jewish. The story then follows Herckel as he comes to terms with what the war actually represents and how it impacts people from all spheres of life. You can catch this gripping tale here.
19. Playing for Time (1980)
In what seems like one of the most defining films of the ’80s, ‘Playing For Time’ is the story of a French-Jewish singer and pianist, Fania, who is sent to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp by the Nazi forces. Being a musician, she is not subjected to the atrocities as others are but is, instead, enlisted in the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. Using her influence amongst the other singers, Fania, in order to help her friend, enlists Marianne in the singing group as well. Though the women of the orchestra are subjected to less torture, are fed well, and are looked after, they still suffer from physical and mental abuse. Fania is seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place. ‘Playing for Time’ is a tear-jerking film, so keep your tissues handy. Watch the movie here.
18. Sarah’s Key (2010)
There are many movies that have chronicled the helping hand that had saved many Jewish people from persecution during the war, and ‘Sarah’s Key’ is one such production. It is the story of how 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski deals with the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942, and also its aftermath. But the buck doesn’t stop here, as her story is intertwined with that of a curious journalist, Julia Jarmond, who lives in the 2000s. This is one film that takes a look at how World War II really affected people for generations to come, and the beautiful performances by Mélusine Mayance, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Natasha Mashkevich really make it worth a watch. Find it here.
17. Defiance (2008)
A tale of survival, endurance, and courage, ’Defiance’ is a movie that is based on the very real escapades of the Bielski group and how they protected more than a thousand Jews from the Nazis. It stars Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, and George MacKay as the Bielski brothers, and is a dramatized account of how the group stood up to the Nazi occupiers to save their fellow men. This movie shines a light on the trials and tribulations that these people had to face in order to simply even live another day. Catch this war story here.
16. Hitler’s Steel Beast (2016)
A defining documentary about Hitler’s specially-built train that could withstand attacks from bombs, bullets, and aerial warfare, ‘Hitler’s Steel Beast’ might not be a film that necessarily highlights the Holocaust directly. But, it definitely touches upon the many contributing factors.
The movie begins with how Hitler’s train was a bunker, headquarter, and refuge on wheels. It was almost like Air Force One, just not airborne. It is said that Hitler took many decisive meetings onboard his Steel Beast, and was even confined in it during the final days of the war. Dispelling rumors and telling us about the “lost treasure” of the second world war, very few records remain of Hitler’s Steel Beast to this day. Set during the days of the Holocaust until the death of Hitler, perhaps this was the most famous train at the time. Watch the movie here.
15. Alone in Berlin (2016)
This war drama is based on a true story and is one that stars Emma Thompson, Daniel Brühl, and Brendan Gleeson in the lead roles. First, a working-class married couple loses their only son to the battle in France, and then, their old Jewish neighbor commits suicide due to religious persecution. The pair then initiate a micro-resistance campaign against Hitler. How? Well, they write postcards and urge the public to stand up to the fascist regime. Gestapo Inspector Escherich is given the responsibility of tracing the source of these cards, and what ensues is a cat-and-mouse game between the protagonists. The film is riveting and follows a less prominent path in the Holocaust genre than most other movies. Head on over here to watch ‘Alone in Berlin.’
14. My Führer – The Really Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler (2007)
A comedy about one of the most dangerous men in history is always interesting, and the movie ‘My Führer – The Really Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler’ boasts of some rather hilarious moments which make it a fine film. The story is set in 1945, a time when Hitler has realized that the battle cannot be won. Depressed, the legendary orator cannot even come up with a decent speech to inspire the population of Germany. In such a situation, Goebbels, one of the top leaders of the Nazi Party, brings a Jew out of a concentration camp to help Hitler write his speech. The film, in its hilarious moments, always remains true to history and the references in dialogues also bear this hallmark. The performances are good and do justice to the witty screenplay by writer-director Dani Levy, and you can watch it here.
13. The Pact (2014)
When we discuss the Holocaust, we always think (and rightly so) about the pain that many of the survivors had to go through. But have you ever wondered about how Hitler’s own family was affected by the events of World War II? Well, this is where ‘The Pact,’ also called ‘Le serment des Hitler,’ comes in. The documentary takes a look at the Fuhrer’s nephew, William-Patrick Hitler, and how he moved to the US after the war, where he had four sons. So what is the pact between the brothers about? Well, we don’t want to spoil it for you, so why don’t you head on over here to watch the documentary?
12. Numbered (2012)
To have etched onto your body a constant reminder of the Holocaust is a thought that is just… heartbreaking. But this was, and to some extent, still is the reality for around the 400,000 people who were tattooed with serial numbers on their chest and arms in Auschwitz. With only a few survivors around today, ‘Numbered’ is a sobering and gut-wrenchingly honest look at the many predicaments (for the lack of a better word) that these men and women had to go through. This poignant documentary looks at their resilience in the face of these adversities and showcases what those numbers mean to them now. You can watch this production here.
11. Riphagen – The Untouchable (2016)
As opposed to the patriot Walraven Van Hall, who stood for the Dutch people by funding the resistance, Riphagen literally ripped the country off for his own good. He was a traitor who treacherously stole the many riches, handed Jews over to the Nazis, systematically hunted and brought down the resistance, and subdued any kind of justice. ‘Riphagen – The Untouchable’ is essentially an account of the spiteful activities undertaken by Riphagen and the aftermath of these events. Watch the movie here.
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10. Steal a Pencil For Me (2007)
If we told you about a production that features a love story during the Holocaust, you’d probably think that we are talking about a movie with a fictional premise. After all, given the horrors of World War II, this is one angle that is not explored much through the lens of a camera. But ‘Steal a Pencil For Me’ is actually a documentary that unfolds the very true story of Jack “Jaap” Polak, who was in a concentration with both his wife (with whom he was in an unhappy marriage) and his girlfriend. This feature is a testament to the power of love, set amidst the many atrocities of war. You can watch it here.
9. Hitler: A Career (1977)
Perhaps one of the most defining documentaries made on the life and times of Hitler, this film is about the lust for power that led to the death and displacement of millions and forced countries into war. The abuse of power that Hitler afflicted are put forward in an objective manner so that audiences get to know he really was. The fact that he actually hired a bunch of photographers for the photo-ops to further his propaganda is an astonishing truth that is the crux of this documentary. ‘Hitler: A Career’ features rare clippings, photographs, and video reels of his speeches: all decisive moments in history. They also forevermore changed the course of Germany, and the rest of the world, as we know it. Watch the movie here.
8. #AnneFrank. Parallel Stories (2019)
The story of Anne Frank is, perhaps, the most well-known one from the Holocaust. Barely a teenager when she went into hiding for two years, the Gestapo, unfortunately, arrested the family in 1944 and sent them to concentration camps. Only Anne’s father survived the war, and he went on to publish his daughter’s annals under the name ‘The Diary of a Young Girl.’ Well, in ‘#AnneFrank. Parallel Stories,’ Helen Mirren retraces the events that occurred in the young girl’s life while drawing parallels with the lives of 5 other women who ended up surviving the Holocaust. A poignant tale that proves how ruthless the Nazis really were, this is one eye-opening documentary. You can watch it here.
7. The Accountant Of Auschwitz (2018)
The “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” was a man called Oskar Gröning, and during the war, he was in charge of handling the money and other items that were taken from the prisoners in the camp. 70 years after the war ended, he was on trial for charges of accessory to murder. After all, 300,000 people lost their lives in the concentration camp. Of the many thousand guards that worked in such facilities, only a handful of them were ever legally prosecuted. In this documentary, you can learn about what happens to the man more than half a century after the war has ended. The piece is also a stark reminder of the aftermath of the Holocaust, especially with regards to the culprits. You can watch this here.
6. Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz (2018)
Ben Ferencz is an American lawyer who was at the frontline of the Nuremberg trial. For the uninitiated, these hearings were a series of 12 military tribunals to hold the high ranking officials of Nazi Germany culpable for their involvement in the war. Now the only remaining prosecutor from the trial, the lawyer has still not given up fighting injustices. ‘Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz’ follows the incredible journey of the man as he continues to pursue world peace. A moving historical presentation, this is one production you must watch when it comes to the Holocaust. You can catch it here.
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)
This romantic drama, set in 1946, stars Lily James as Juliet Ashton, an author who is exchanging letters with a man who lives in Guernsey, an area that was under German occupation during the war. This interaction piques her interest, and so she visits the island to get a better picture of what life was really like in those times. She also learns that the fate of one person is still not known, and so she tries to determine what has happened. The movie looks at the travesty that occurred during the German occupation through the eyes of the protagonist, and this is also why it makes for a compelling watch. This is where you can find it.
4. Nazi Concentration Camps (1945)
‘Nazi Concentration Camps’ is the official documentary report compiled from over 80,000 feet of film, shot by Allied military photographers in the German concentration camps immediately after liberation. The footage was taken in order to provide proof of the many horrors that the liberators witnessed. Besides that, some attention is also placed on the humanitarian work done in the camps by the rescuers. Watch the movie here.
3. The Eichmann Show (2015)
Two filmmakers, Milton Fruchtman and Leo Hurwitz, who are ostracised in America for their liberal beliefs, embark on a mission to televise the trial of one of the most dangerous Nazis ever, Adolf Eichmann. Captured by Israeli agents, the German now faces a hearing for war crimes, especially since he was responsible for the terrible conditions of the trains that took Jews to Auschwitz. The Americans, however, believe that this trial needs to be aired so that even the common men can understand exactly how gruesome the Holocaust was. The movie takes on a different angle within the genre and stars Martin Freeman and Anthony LaPaglia. Watch it here.
2. The Resistance Banker (2018)
‘The Resistance Banker’ is set during the Dutch resistance of the ’40s. Essentially a biopic of a Dutch banker named Walraven van Hall, the film begins its story in the German-occupied Netherlands. Van Hall is approached by one of the members of the resistance who is seeking funding using his outreach. Along with his brother, Van Hall devises a foolproof network of fake loans to fund guerilla warfare and to help out the ones in exile. The siblings then go ahead with creating fraud guilders worth millions to aid the resistance movement from the Dutch bank, right under the nose of the Nazis. Holland is liberated soon after 1945 as Hall goes into hiding to escape his capture. With remarkable performances, this one is a must-see. Watch the movie here.
1. The Photographer of Mauthausen (2018)
‘The Photographer of Mauthausen,’ also known as ‘El fotógrafo de Mauthausen,’ is a Spanish biography drama historical film. Based on real events, the feature revolves around Francesc Boix, who is a Spaniard inmate in the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen in Austria. He is someone who tries to save the shreds of evidence of the horrors committed inside its walls. It is easily one of the most eye-opening films on this list, and we recommend seeing it for the harrowing story. Watch the movie here.
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