Tisha B’Av is a day that’s meant to be mournful, commemorating the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem and other disasters throughout Jewish history. Because of this, the holiday is considered to be the “saddest day” of the Jewish calendar.
Many people have taken on the tradition of watching sad movies or shows on this day to reflect on the tragedies in Jewish history. We compiled a list of Holocaust films that will properly set the mournful tone of the day.
Son of Saul
The movie depicts a Sonderkommando (Jewish prisoners who worked in the crematoriums) in Auschwitz. The Sonderkommando believes to have found his son’s dead body and is determined to give him a proper Jewish burial. This harrowing tale won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
Available on Amazon Prime Video and Pluto TV.
Judgment at Nuremberg
“Judgment at Nuremberg” is exactly what it sounds like– a movie about the Nuremberg Trials. With an all star cast (Judy Garland plays Irene Hoffman), the film is about four Nazi judges who put on trial and testimonies are heard from a variety of sources. This movie won two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes.
Available on Amazon Prime Video.
With a run time of nine hours, this groundbreaking film can be your entire activity for Tisha Ba’Av. “Shoah” is a compilation of testimonies from survivors, bystanders, and perpetrators of the Holocaust– the film is often referred to as the greatest documentary ever made. Director Claude Lanzmann conducted these interviews, refusing to use Nazi archival footage. The documentary is incredibly educational and especially important now as Holocaust survivors age and Holocaust denial grows.
Thought to be Meryl Streep’s greatest performance, “Sophie’s Choice” shows the effects of the Holocaust. Specifically, being forced to make the abominable choice between the lives of her two children. The movie includes flashbacks to the Holocaust as well as “present-day” scenes which are 1940s Brooklyn. The movie won seven major awards including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
Woman in Gold
“Woman in Gold” is the true story of Maria Altman fighting to reclaim her family’s possessions before the Holocaust. Among her family’s old assets is a Klimt portrait of Altman’s aunt. The painting is regarded as a national treasure for Austria, making Altman’s mission all the more difficult. The scenes switch from wartime to the present day allowing the viewer to understand the full picture of how the paintings were taken during the war, the pain of loss, and how survivors live with the memories of their destroyed lives and families.
Available on Amazon Prime Video.
When thinking of Holocaust movies, “Schindlers List” is typically the first to come to mind. The movie portrays the real story of how Oskar Schindler saved more than 1,000 Jews in Poland during the Holocaust. Although Schindler was a member of the Nazi party, Schindler witnessed the atrocities his Nazi associates inflicted on the Jews and his Jewish assistant urged him to help the cause. Director Steven Spielberg, who is Jewish, used black and white to replicate actual Nazi footage from the time, taking you inside a concentration camp to witness the horrors that were endured.
The ending of the film shows the real life characters placing stones at Schindlers’ grave in Israel.
“Schindler’s List” won seven Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and many other awards.
Another classic, heartbreaking Holocaust film is “The Pianist.” The movie tells the true survival story of a Polish musician during the Holocaust. Losing his whole family, Wladyslaw Szpilman attempts to survive in Poland. The graphic violence in the film allows the viewers to bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. “The Pianist” won three Academy Awards along with many others.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” depicts a fictional friendship between two young boys. One was a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp and the other was the German son of the commandant of the camp. The two boys become friends while separated by a barbed wire fence. The movie won many awards including three British Independent Film Awards.
Life is Beautiful
This movie depicts a Jewish Italian family’s struggles during the Holocaust. When the father and son get separated from the mother, the father uses humor to shield his son from the terrors surrounding them. The film won three Academy Awards. The use of humor in this horrific story allows a new perspective.
The Book Thief
“The Book Thief” presents a different perspective of the Holocaust, as it is about a German family during the Holocaust. Liesel, who lives with a foster family, learns to read and begins stealing books from the mayor’s house. While she is on her own journey through literature, the family is struggling to get by, especially since they have taken a Jewish boy into hiding.
Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Originally Published Jul 23, 2023 12:02PM EDT