Foreign Policy Blogs

A Film Unfinished (2010)

Four reels of film were discovered in Germany decades after World War II was ended.
The film had no credits and no soundtrack.
This rough cut showed scenes from the Warsaw ghetto in May 1942.
The makers of this movie interviewed the cameraman who took the footage. They also showed survivors of the ghetto the film and recorded their responses to the images they saw.


When the 1942 film was made, it appears their objective was clear: provide propaganda and dismiss allegations that Jews were being mistreated in the ghetto.
Memorable parts of the film are when people (well dressed and well fed) are seen eating and drinking in luxury and dancing. Those people were actors.
Given the squalor in which the Jews of the ghetto lived, such film making is despicable.
But there are other parts of the 1942 film, parts that show people in ragged clothes, emaciated, and filthy.
One particularly hard thing to watch is how the 1942 film shows a hearse bringing a body to a cemetery to be buried. Juxtapose that with scenes of corpses being thrown in a mass grave and the stark reality becomes clear.
One woman, a ghetto survivor, covers her eyes at this point because it is too horrific to watch.

A Film Unfinished (2010)It is understandable that the Nazis wanted to create propaganda showing Jews living the life of luxury.
So, why did they allow footage to remain showing people living in worse than deplorable conditions?
Was it because it wasn’t finished and all the true parts hadn’t been edited out?
Even the cameraman says he does not know the answer.
This film provides no answers but does document a moment in human history that should not be forgotten.
A Film Unfinished is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]



Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;