|Directed by||Billy Wilder
|Written by||Hanuš Burger|
|Edited by||Billy Wilder (supervisor)|
|Distributed by||United States Department of War|
|Running time||22 minutes|
Death Mills (or Die Todesmühlen) is a 1945 American documentary film directed by Billy Wilder and produced by the United States Department of War. The film was intended for German audiences to educate them about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. For the German version, Die Todesmühlen, Hanus Burger is credited as the writer and director, while Wilder supervised the editing. Wilder is credited with directing the English-language version.
The film opens with a note that the following is "a reminder that behind the curtain of Nazi pageants and parades was millions of men, women and children who were tortured to death - the greatest mass murder in human history," then fades into German civilians at Gardelegen carrying crosses to the local concentration camp.
Most of the film includes footage of the newly liberated camps over a score of stark classical music. The narrator notes that people of all nationalities were found in the camps, including people of all religious or political creeds. There is no mention of the particular fate of Jewish people. The film states that 20 million people were killed and describes many of the familiar aspects of the Holocaust, including the medical experiments and the gas chambers.
The images from the camps are fresh and brutal, with many shots of piles of skeletal corpses, naked skeletal survivors (often supported by fellow prisoners) together with footage of prosperous-looking German citizens being forced to observe their suffering. Some are also forced to carry the corpses to be buried, although most of this work was usually carried out by ex-camp guards (as at Belsen concentration camp).
There are shots of mass graves, as well as of individual burials, as at Hadamar, now known to be a euthanasia or action T4 centre. Some of the footage appears to be of Soviet origin, and includes shots taken at Majdanek death camp which was one of the first camps to be liberated in 1944 by the Russians. There are shots of the crematoria at several camps, as well as the infamous slogans erected at the entrances of most camps, such as Arbeit macht frei.
Perhaps most moving of all are the piles of stolen personal belongings of gassed victims, filmed by the Russians when they liberated Auschwitz, as well as by US troops at Buchenwald. They include piles of clothes, shoes, toys, wedding rings and gold teeth destined for the vaults of the Reichsbank.
- List of Allied propaganda films of World War II
- List of Holocaust films
- The Nuremberg Trials - Soviet film about the Nuremberg trials
- That Justice Be Done - American film about the Nuremberg trials
- The short film Death Mills Todesmuehlen is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Death Mills Todesmuehlen at the Internet Movie Database (English version)
- Todesmühlen, Die at the Internet Movie Database (German version)
- Complete film at US Holocaust Museum
- The Death Mills at AllMovie
- DVD version available from KINO International Corporation