New documentary colorizes images from Auschwitz for first time

‘My fear is that with the passage of time, the tragic events of the Holocaust could get old’

Scene from Auschwitz: Untold in Colour (photo credit: Courtesy)
Scene from Auschwitz: Untold in Colour
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A new two-part documentary released this week in honor of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz deals with the grave political climate of the time and the Final Solution, showing harrowing footage of the notorious concentration camp.
Auschwitz: Untold in Colour, commissioned by Channel 4, broke ground by colorizing the original Auschwitz photos and footage to a truly stunning effect. The carefully applied color gives the painfully familiar scenes a contemporary resonance that critics say is impossible to deny.
“The colorization of black-and-white archive is one aspect of making this history more accessible to a younger and wider audience” director David Shulman told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. “The effect is quite shocking, and the color seems to give more humanity to the people. The footage may be from over seven decades ago, but the story is certainly relevant to today’s reality.”
Narrated by Ben Kingsley, Auschwitz: Untold in Colour marks the first time that monochrome footage from inside the Nazi camps has been colorized for a television documentary.
“The color not only adds resonance, but introduces an element of humanity that was not as present in black and white,” Shulman said. “When I first saw the colored material, I was blown away by the difference it made. It is this startling difference that will make it more accessible to people.”
Shulman’s Jewish family came to America in the 1920s. He grew up with the Holocaust being “a million miles away and a million years ago.”
When he was in his 20s, he was fascinated by the subject and “read a lot about the rise of national socialism, trying to understand the reasons and background of what happened, which has helped with the making of this film.”
Shulman is a  BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Film Awards-winning director (Basquiat: Rage to Riches; Gettys: The World’s Richest Art Dynasty; Martin Scorsese: True Confessions). For Auschwitz: Untold in Colour, he gathered testimonies of 16 survivors, all determined to share their stories with the world in the name of those who perished.
“MY FEAR,” said Auschwitz survivor Mindu Hornick, “is that with the passage of time, the tragic events of the Holocaust could get old, and that the suffering and loss of six million innocent people and children could be forgotten – that would be unbearable to me.”
“It is also important to me that children know about the Holocaust and warn future generations to strive for a better future,” she said.
Auschwitz: Untold in Colour deals with the rise of fascism, the forced deportation to the extermination camp, life inside the camp and the 1945 liberation.
“Several types of footage have been colorized,” Shulman said. “A lot of it came from the period of the liberation of the camp. There’s also historical archive-related footage and prisoner photos from the Auschwitz museum.”
Among the colorized footage is The Auschwitz Album, believed to be the only visual record in existence of life inside the extermination camp. It contains 193 black-and-white photographs all taken inside Auschwitz by an official camp photographer.
The album was accidentally discovered by survivor Lilly Jacob, who in 1980 donated it to Yad Vashem.
Jacob was 18 when she was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz. There, she was separated from her parents and younger brothers, whom she never saw again.
On the day of her liberation, in a deserted SS barracks at the Dora concentration camp, she found a photo album. It was the only photographic evidence of Jews arriving in Auschwitz and, as she soon discovered, contained photos of her own family.
After the war, word of the rare photographs spread among survivors worldwide, many of whom traveled many miles to see the album in the hope of spotting relatives and friends. Most of the photos remained unidentified, but there were several rare occasions when a person would identify a family member.
In 1980, after a plea from Serge Klarsfeld, Jacob traveled to Jerusalem, where she showed the album to then prime minister Menachem Begin and entrusted it to Yad Vashem.
“If there is anything that I would like viewers to take with them, it is that this is not a film about history, but a film about today,” Shulman said. “We should all learn from it.”
Auschwitz Untold: In Colour aired on Monday, January 27, in the United Kingdom on More4. It will be followed by a 90-minute special Wednesday, January 29, at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 4.