Director Claude Lanzmann dies at age 92

Esteemed film director, creator of film 'Shoah', dies in Paris. For decades he documented Jews, Israel, and especially Holocaust survivors.

Mordechai Sones,

Claude Lanzmann at Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem
Claude Lanzmann at Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem
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Jewish film director and Holocaust survivor Claude Lanzmann passed away today at age 92, French media reported as quoted by Ynet. Lanzmann was an acclaimed and award-winning documentary filmmaker on the Holocaust and the Jewish people. His best-known work is the film Shoah from 1985, which collected testimonies of Holocaust survivors and Nazi criminals for nine-and-a-half hours.

Lanzmann was born in Paris. During the Second World War he served in the French underground and received many decorations. He acquired his academic education at the University of Tübgen, Germany, where he studied philosophy. Later on he served as a lecturer in French literature and philosophy, but spent most of his energies in journalism.

Lanzmann took his first steps in film-making in the early 1970's. His first film, Israel, Why? (1972) documented his journey throughout Israel during which he held meetings with citizens of different origins and social strata. His cinematic and social aspiration was to create a picture of Israeli reality in all its complexity and various layers.

French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann
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The production of the film Shoah (1985), Lanzmann's most famous film, lasted 11 years, and raw material amounted to 300 hours of video footage. The film gives a detailed and meticulous description of the process of annihilation of the Jewish people during World War II through interviews with survivors and Nazi criminals (some of whom were documented by hidden camera). The harsh testimony of the survivors, and of the Germans themselves, is presented against the backdrop of close-ups of the interviewees, without any use of archival material to illustrate the events described. The length of the film - nine-and-a-half hours - is also considered exceptional in the film world.

Lanzmann's other films include: The IDF (1994) - a film that examines through the Israeli army the changes that have taken place in the Jewish people's status - from a persecuted minority to a state that protects its citizens; Sobibor (2001) - a film about the Jewish prisoner uprising that broke out in the Sobibor extermination camp in October 1943; The Last of the Righteous (2013) - Which tells the story of Rabbi Binyamin Mermelstein who was a Jewish activist and head of the Judenrat in the ghetto. In the same year he was also honored for his extensive work at the Berlin Festival. About a year ago, his film Napalm, about North Korea, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and the Jerusalem Film Festival last year. His latest work is a four-part series that came out this year called The Four Sisters, dealing with women who survived the Holocaust.

In 2011, his autobiography The Rabbit from Patagonia was published in Hebrew. In it he humorously describes events that changed his life, from fighting in the ranks of the French underground to his long relationship with French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. The book also describes his many visits to Israel and the process of making the film Shoah.