The original French version had no subtitles either - when someone speaks in another language, we hear the translator the director used to do those interviews at work. (I wonder if this is one reason for the UK version being shorter - we don't hear the French translation when someone speaks in English.)
With that sort of length it was clearly never going to be at many people's local cinema, so I first saw it when Channel Four put in on one evening in the mid 80s with no ad breaks - how could you have them in the middle of this? - but keeping the single intermission for toilet visits etc.
I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it since, so it was very good to see that the BBC are showing it in two halves. The first is on iPlayer for about another four weeks and doubtless the second will be too after it's shown next Sunday.
There are criticisms of it - if you look at the WP article, you'll see that there are Polish people who don't like it because there are Polish witnesses who don't look good in it. A specific complaint is that the suffering of the Polish under Nazi rule isn't shown enough, but that the majority of people who were murdered were Polish is. And one memory of a couple of holidays in Poland is looking at a modern 'history of Poland' guide book which barely mentions the Holocaust despite three million Poles killed in Poland as part of it. I think a castle changing hands in the 13th Century got more space.
There is a lack of context for some of this: this was made when Poland was under communist rule and right from the start, the communists took the attitude of 'de-Jewing' the Holocaust. Even the Soviets' great war correspondent wasn't allowed to tell the truth: Vasily Grossman's reports on places like Treblinka were censored to remove the ethnicity of the majority of victims, Jews like himself.
And there are some mistakes. There weren't just two survivors from Chełmno, where somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million were gassed in vans, for example. It was still in single figures though, and there are interviews with two of them, including the last who survived being shot in the head as the Nazis attempted to remove all the evidence of what they had done.
As I say, unforgettable.
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